By Abigail M., age 15
We took the train from Caen to Paris. As the train acquired an increasing detritus of passengers, more and more people accumulated in the cramped compartments. I felt sorry for the poor souls forced to stand during the bumpy, jolting ride, clinging for onto the edges of occupied seats. After my guilt became unbearable, I offered my seat to the Young Woman sitting uncomfortably on my arm rest. She refused at first, protesting softly in French. Her petite facial features were dwarfed by a disgustingly enormous pair of sunglasses. She soon realized that I didn’t speak French and sat down. Most likely she dreaded a prolonged non-vocal/multilingual argument, as did I. “Merci, merci,” she repeated.
And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how to say ‘you’re welcome’.
I stood in the aisle for the remainder of the trip. Occasionally I bumped shoulders with the Stranger standing next to me, he offering an apologetic grunt and I nodding stoically, too jet-lagged to care. The table in front of us was inhabited by a pair of Businessmen chattering excitedly and fiddling with their smart phones. I could almost see the euro signs in their eyes.
To the left of the older one was a greasy lump of a Man, probably in his early 20s. He reeked of body odor and was reading some sort of poroagraphic comicbook. Cartoon priests molested cartoon choir boys in what I guess might’ve been a humorous manner if I could read French. Across from him was an Old Woman. She wore a scarf on her graying head and a scowl on her massive, French lips. Her face was contorted into an expression of exaggerated displeasure as
she frowned at the Man reading his comics.
I stared out the window and listened to Linkin Park for the next hour or so.
Arriving finally at the station, the Young Woman placed a manicured hand on my Slipknot sweatshirt and thanked me a last time. Again, I kicked myself, wishing I could say ‘no problem’.