I remember the first time I took this metro. I had been up for over twenty four hours and had just arrived in this city. My bags were heavy. My French was worse, much worse. A man helped me with my bags and I thanked him in English. I got lost trying to find my apartment for the first time. I told myself I should have looked at the map on the metro.
There are a lot of people on the metro today. I have spent a lot of time on public transportation systems in places like Paris, London, Montreal, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia. It is because I like to live sustainably but mainly because I truly despise driving. When I lived in DC, while riding the metro, a man from Morocco told me about how he had been let down on the ‘American dream.’ No one on the train knows I am American. They just know I’m a woman with a reusable grocery bag on a train in Marseille, who paid one euro-fifty to just ride the metro like everyone else, thank you very much. I have always felt comfort in the anonymity of a train.
When I’m on the metro, people tend to make small talk. I generally hate the business of small talk, but in the metro, it’s usually quick and concise and to the point. But I’m attempting to grasp the language, so I try to accept any and all sorts of conversational interaction. However, this is not a day for small talk. It has been raining and the clouds have seemed to seep into the bones of the people and the mood is solemn along the metro. Even though I’ve been here for nearly three months, I still glance at the metro map. No matter how long I’ve been living in a city, I always glance at the map for reassurance. Everyone always tells me how lucky I am to be living in my neighborhood. It’s true, my neighborhood is fun, quirky and warm, and wonderful, and I smile to myself. But sometimes at night, I think about the other neighborhoods and my guilty conscience tugs at me.
So far, I have travelled many places, but I think I will stay here a bit longer. I like it here, even though my mouth stumbles clumsily over the language, and sometimes I ache for home, but mainly I like the way of things here. The way of the sun and the mountains. I like watching the way the people move along the sidewalks and the feeling of the way that the metro welcomes me in.
I look at the window. I see my reflection. I close my eyes.