La Rentrée

The métro is no longer standing room only. The windows are no longer cracked open above the baseball caps worn on the tall Red Sox fans. My head, no longer crammed into a hairy Greek’s armpit displaying his support for the Olympics on a sweat-drenched T-shirt. Finally, the tourists have returned to Hamburger Helmut and Duncan Donuts, while the Parisians return to Paris. Women, rich and poor, choose to stand on the métro so that they can show off their summer tans, painted toenails and designer sandals–open toe, but acceptable for fall. Some of them are dark from their six-week vacances in Italy, while the others applied tanning solution that comes in a spray can and carry fake Italian bags. I sit in the vacant seats with no tan or toenails to show off, as I did not visit Turino, or even Tijuana while I was in LA for four days. It is the first week of September, marking the return to Paris—or rentrée—for most Parisians from their four to six week paid vacations. In France, simply everyone goes on vacances. “Where are you going for vacances?” “ When are you leaving for vacances?” Vacances, vacances, vacances. And those of us who are not Parisian, but long-term visitors employed by Americans and merely tolerated by the French, received the typical American long weekend–unpaid, traveling no farther than London, where I spent more money on indigestion medication than my actual meals. I returned to Paris on Wednesday, via the Euro Star, the high-speed train that connects London and Paris through the Chunnel. To much disappointment, my dreams of the larges aquarium in the world were dashed: one cannot see any fish or other sea life, as the train goes under the water. Traveling for my first time, coach, I admit I was nervous, but calmed a bit when I saw that was to have a row of two seats all to myself. However, rather than sit in his own seat, the tall dark French man dressed all in black and cowboy boots, chose to pile his pear-shaped luggage on his seat and sit next to me. “And who are you supposed to be?” I wondered. An hour and a half later, I’d developed a Charlie horse in my right calf from lack of movement. I was too paranoid to even cross my legs for fear that I would brush my knee against Dark Vader. I felt a little better for myself when I spotted the Abercrombie and Fitch model wearing the blue trucker hat across the aisle. He had settled for a nap, relieved to have four seats all to himself. That was, until a family of three surrounded him. For the time I sat paralyzed in my seat, he was involuntarily the fourth member of a family engrossed in a heated argument in Chinese. It could always be worse. And who were the men in the flannel shirts permitted to wander the train drunk? At least I felt safer next to Vader, who with a click of a button on the remote control I was certain he had in his jean pocket, could probably evaporate them in to infinity. As the drunk men cat-called, I kept my nose buried in my book. I was on the part where the New York model purchases a $50,000 black pearl necklace at auction, and is nervous about telling her husband because she thinks he might be upset with her extravagant purchase–in the last chapter, she spent $40,000 on clothes in Milan. The drunk men grew more and more sloppy, I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. Yes. Even the Crazies are returning from vacances. Instead of counting sheep, I attempted to calculate the percentage of passengers in my car that were crazy. “One Crazy, two Crazy, three Crazy, four! Five Crazy, six Crazy, run for the door!” After completing this, I moved onto the entire train. I was fast asleep when I got to car nine. I awoke when Dark Vader stood up to check on what I thought was a mighty sword made of solid gold encrusted with gems, but turned out to be a long metal pole with a small yellow flag attached to the top. This is my chance, I thought. I escaped quickly to the food car, passing a mother and daughter plotting their route from the train station to their hotel in Paris while pronouncing “Gare de Lyon” as “Querre da Lion.” My right leg was still asleep. I tried pounding it into the floor, but I still couldn’t feel it. I fell into the lap of the 16-year-old Italian boy listening to his iPod. I don’t think my father at the age of fifty had as much hair on his chest as this kid had. But then again, my father didn’t wear blue lycra shirts with the top four buttons on strike. I want an iPod. The Italian smelled of apple cider cologne and winked at me as I regained my balance and continue onwards. I transferred my weight to my good foot and supported my right side by grabbing at the tops of the seats as I pass. This seemed like a good idea, but when I accidentally tugged on the senior citizen from Idaho’s hair (on her name tag was “Clarrisee, Idaho, Nice to meet you!”) and she let out a scream, I thought, what have I done? I let go. But she wouldn’t stop screaming. Naturally. I had taken her hair with me. I was practically at the passage leading to the food car when I noticed the copper-colored hair extension in my right hand. “So sorry…so terribly–just so sorry..” I mumbled my apologies over and over as I hobbled back to her seat and handed her the extension. The last time I held a clump of hair this big–not attached to a head, was when I “accidentally” ripped the hamster-like fur ball from the Supermodel’s head in that Hot Yoga class. But this woman shouldn’t have been wearing it in the first place. It isn’t as if she’s bald. It was just one of those clip-on ponytail things that girls with short hair wear to cocktail parties. Myke’s mom wore one to the celebratory dinner after our college graduation. In the middle of dessert Mike announced, “Isn’t my mom’s fake hair fabulous!” The menu in the food car is somewhat…
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