Paris is not an easy city to live in. Stuffed to the brim with roughly 14 million inhabitants including the surrounding suburbs, it is easy to go unnoticed, hidden in a mass of silent minds and blind faces.
It is not easy to remain smiley and open hearted during rush hour public transport trips. Surrounded by unhappy workers, each one in his self-imposed world where avoiding interaction with others is the norm, I find myself hiding behind my headphones and a book, safely protected by my invisible armour.
I avoid looking around in case I accidentally catch the eye of some unsuspecting commuter, or some weirdo who will take it as a sign and stalk me all the way home. The appropriate behaviour on the metro is to walk briskly and blindly, ignoring the countless homeless men with hands held out and anyone else who approaches (they might want something from you!).
However, every now and again, a little ray of consciousness manages to shine through. This evening, getting off the metro, I realised that I had dropped my scarf in the metro that was 2 seconds away from closing its doors. Quickly accepting my loss, I continued up the stairs. Reaching the top, I heard a ‘bonsoir’ behind me and looked into the face of a stranger whose hand held out my lost scarf. He then quickly turned around and ran back down the stairs to catch the next metro.
Recovering from my complete amazement, I recognised the stranger as the young man sitting opposite me in the train, whom I was avoiding making eye contact with. I realised that he had intentionally gotten off his train to return my scarf even though it wasn’t his stop.
Once in a while, a simple act like this one crashes into me leaving cracks in my armour, allowing a brief moment of consciousness to seep through.