I decided to travel. A little trip around Europe could never hurt. I made a pitstop in Madrid, spent a couple of weeks along the beaches in Greece, spent a number of nights exploring Milan, grabbed some legitimate Swiss chocolate from Zurich, and then took the train all the way back north to Paris.
I liked travelling by train. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as fast as taking a couple-hour plane ride, but at least I got to see the sights. Europe was vast, expansive. There was a little bit of everything for the weary traveler. I enjoyed the sea of rolling hills, the sight of the gigantic snow-covered mountains of the alps, learned to enjoy the beautiful farm fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. Europe was old, but in a charming way. There was so much history here that it was almost tangible, breathable.
Paris was by far my favorite place to visit. Old cobble stone streets and brick buildings. The scent of cigarette smoke, stale water of the Seine, and freshly baked pastries mingled together in the air. It was uniquely Parisian, a smell I couldn’t find anywhere else. As I walked down the street, a recently purchased croissant in my hands, I looked about and took in the beauty of the city. The sidewalks were crowded, busy people walking in a hurry to get wherever they needed to be.
I spotted a Metro station and skipped down the steps, tossing a couple of coins into the open guitar case of a busker who was camped out in one of the many narrow underground corridors. The melody of his plucked strings echoed off of the hard walls, bouncing around to create something quite ghostly. The smell of piss and sweat hit my nose the further in I walked. It was a little after noon, so people were packed shoulder to shoulder on the station trying to get to their lunch breaks. A train pulled into the station, wheels squealing angrily against the metal tracks.
I managed to slip into one of the cars and claimed a spot to sit. When I noticed a little old woman leaning heavily on a cane, I stood and offered it to her. She smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she did. Her dark amber eyes reminded me of someone, but I dared not let my mind wander. I was on this trip to forget about her, not reminisce. Once my trip was over, I would return to England with a clear head and once again be ready to work.
“Merci, monsieur,” she croaked.
“De rien,” I answered.
Her face lit up as she took her seat. “Are you a tourist?”
“How could you tell?” I chuckled, bemused.
“You’re too polite,” she giggled, voice a bit hoarse. Listening to her kind of made me feel thirsty. Maybe I’d grab something to drink at my hotel’s café.
“I’m too polite,” I laughed. “I’ve never heard that before.”
“So, what brings you to Paris?”
“Just taking in the sights, ma’am.”
The old woman chuckled. “So, are you here to meet a girl or get away from one?”
I smirked. “Neither, ma’am.”
She snorted. “Ah, to forget one, then. I see how it is.”
My smile fell slightly. “You seem very sure of yourself.”
“I’ve lived in Paris my whole life. I know the look of love in a man’s eyes.”
“It comes with age.”
“You don’t look a day over thirty, ma’am.”
She chortled. “Well, aren’t you a charmer. Tell me, do you think you’ll kiss and make up with this mystery girl? It sure beats being upset with each other.”
I shook my head. “We’re not upset with each other. Circumstances separated us.”
“Ah, a lost love. That’s truly the worst.”
I breathed in slowly, concentrated on the sensation of my lungs burning with the stretch of air. It was a little stuffy in the train car, and the scent of body odor was a little overbearing. I didn’t know why I had to give my seat up for a French and female version of Sherlock Holmes, but what’s done was done.
A voice over the train’s speaker system announced the next station, which was thankfully my stop. I turned and smiled at the woman. “This is me.”
“I hope you get over her,” she said as I turned to exit the car. “You’re a good-looking man. You’ll find another one.”
With a tip of my head and left, stepping out on the busy platform. I mindlessly kicked a crumbled-up ball of paper as I exited the station. As I stepped back out onto the streets of Paris, a refreshing breeze whispered past my ears. Off in the distance, sirens wailed, echoing off the surfaces of tall buildings. The Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and Montmartre were all in the opposite direction closer to the center of Paris. I was headed the other way, further and further away from the city core.