I am typically aboard the metro during rush hour. When it is crowded, when faces mix and mash together to become one. Bodies no longer agents for specific companies but bodies lumped together forming an impersonal mass. In such moments there is nothing better to do than to turn inwards and listen to music while you stare forward into the blankness that is your small chosen corner of the wall of the metro car.
Yet, today I changed my habit. I took the metro in the middle of the afternoon. I had just finished reading a newspaper – A NOUS PARIS, a free, weekly distributed near the entrances of each station – when a man came in the car at the Louvre – Rivoli station.
We were just a few passengers, so I could see him quite well. He walked on and took a stance in the middle where he took hold of the central metal bar.
He must have been between 50 and 60, and he wore a pair of green velvet trousers, a white t-shirt with a picture on it, and a green vest. His head was crowned with a large cowboy hat. His back wore the weight of a middle-sized sack. American, I said to myself.
I continued looking at him and was marked by how old fashioned he seemed, for both the 21st century and Paris.
But this feeling was followed by an intense surge of tenderness because I noticed that his old clothes defined something for him, and I began to understand that visiting Paris for him in “his threads” was the whole deal for him.
I imagined him picking through his wardrobe, finding his best vest, cleaning his shirts, ironing his trousers, all to leave his small suburban city with his heart beating fast at the thought of a date, with Paris.
He face searched the panels, looking for his stop, and so I could not full take him in. I was a privateer of his profile.
Once he assured himself that he was indeed headed in the right direction, he turned his head towards me, and our eyes met. He smiled, and I remained for 3 seconds my hard Parisian self until I could not resist any longer. I smiled back. He had beautiful blue eyes délavés.
I got off at the next station. And so it seemed our smiles were a kind of « goodbye » and « good luck » before leaving.
I do hope that he will have a good time in Paris and that he will go back home with nice memories. As for me, the rest of the day was cold and rainy, but this stranger’s blue, smiling eyes and green silhouette warmed my heart as I walked home along my city’s damps streets.