They jostled onto the train that had arrived with a clankering commotion at the station. The vaulted tiled ceiling of the underground station swirled with the sound of metal, tannoy announcements and tourist hubbub. The train had emptied somewhat, spilling out its human cargo which shuffled towards the luminous sortie signs, the basic words even foreigners understood, ingrained from childhood French lessons and the trappings of travel. They were able to get seats as the train pulled away and snaked into the belly of the city, passing tunnels and bones of the long forgotten.
The seats were as hard as wood, worn down from millions of asses thankful of somewhere to rest for the short journeys between stations. They were heading down towards Saint-Marcel and thankful too to be getting away from the crush and pull of the touristy hot-spots. They watched the other passengers engrossed in smart phones, conversations and anxieties of potentially going the wrong direction. Passengers on life’s train of happenstance.
Opposite them sat a lady, listening to her headphones and glancing off into the train. Looking, but searching for nothing. Her brown hair fell around her face, framing her like a motionless portrait typical of those seen meters above in the many museums dotting the city. She sat motionless, listening to her music as the train swayed and hummed down the line. The only movement was a collection of tears that suddenly began to build and breach, trickling down her face. They watched as she tilted her head down, blinking away the collection of tears and emotions that had appeared. One of them jabbed the other in the side, bringing attention to the scene before them in case it was not being seen or felt for the degree that it was. He reached inside his pocket and took out a tissue, hoping it was clean. The crinkles indicated it had been with him all the day, but looked devoid of anything unpleasant.
He reached across and gently touched her arm. She looked up, surprised. “Are you okay?” he asked, hoping his eye’s spoke to a level beyond the language required. She nodded and mumbled words of appreciation, taking the tissue and dabbing her eyes. A small smile appearing at the corner of her mouth, her eyes shaking away an embarrassment that wasn’t necessary.
She looked above her finding the line map, a tiny yellow light indicated they were at Bastille. The train usually emptied a lot here, and she glanced around seeing those exiting and the people awaiting to board. Her hand found the phone in her pocket and she skipped the track on her music. The new song crashed in, her mind was suddenly taken elsewhere as her heart skipped and beat and the chaos around her ebbed away. It had never been ‘their song’, but it was always one that had reminded her of them. The lyrics so seemingly fitting for what they had, what had burrowed inside of her and warmed her soul. She did not notice the two guys sit down opposite her, the limited space between where their knees nearly met. She was off elsewhere, hearing laughter and smelling that someone on her bed-sheets.
The train jerked, and though she stayed in her memory, it shifted; along with the train. It had all crumbled, corroded only yesterday. Smashed liked a teetering tea cup on the edge of a kitchen counter. She could understand things not working right now, she could even acknowledge the arguing. But those had been usual relationship problems. To be told you were no longer needed, that you were no longer welcome in their life. That was what had hurt. She could deal with the packing up of possession and the moving on. Going into work the next day as routine propelled her forward. But she could not take the hurt that had ignited within, perhaps lying dormant for the inevitable. That she was never the one, she could no longer make them happy. All that she had to offer, came up short. All those reasons she had told herself why she was inadequate rang out to be real in a horrible realisation of truth. A view she had shielded her eyes from, like looking at the sun. It had swallowed her, submerged her in a grey that clung to her like oil.
Putting on her work clothes, combing her brown hair. Seeing the day instead of cowering in her bed like she wanted. The feeling of detachment and lack lay upon her, making her feel that no one really cared about her in this world. If she turned up to work, or not; nothing really mattered in a way. The tears welled and broke forth, streaming down her cheek in a warm river. She had forgotten she was on the metro. Her mother would have been ashamed to see her show such emotion in public, but she did not realise. Too consumed in grief and self-piety that she found herself deep beneath the streets of Paris on a Metro train that ran all day, every day. Until she felt something nudge her arm, softly yet foreign. She looked up surprised to see a small tissue and concerned smiles greet her. She nodded a thanks and was able to cough up “Merci, je vais bien.” She smiled slightly, knowing it was true.
The grey was still within her, but in that moment a tiny part had turned to white.