The late morning Parisian air was damp and chilled with mists of early June rains. Gabby wore her short, black raincoat belted firmly around her waist, with a black leather satchel purse thrown over her shoulder and a black umbrella poised over her head. Her long, dark brown hair was pulled into a low ponytail at the nape of her neck and secured with a silk scarf. She stood at the platform of the Metro, waiting for the train to take her back to the central station.
She waited only a few moments, watching the quiet drizzle as the platform filled with commuters. As the train approached, she withdrew her umbrella, folding it back into its compact, lightweight, perfect-for-traveling size, and began edging her way to the front of the crowd.
Gabby situated herself along the far end of the car, leaning up against the wall and holding on to the rail at her side. The faces were all strangers to her, but she enjoyed the solitude. She was always surprised how different Europeans looked from Americans. There was something in the aura and attitude, she thought. Her work trip was to have lasted five days, but she extended her plans and was enjoying the eighth morning. She was enjoying the mini-vacation and the extra time in the City of Lights. That morning she had ventured to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the only place on earth where she could spend time with Oscar Wilde, Isadore Duncan and Jim Morrison all at once. She even left her own lipsticked imprints on Mr. Wildes’ monument.
As the crowd swayed and rolled with the movement of the train, she kept her purse tight against her side. Her attention focused on a small, slight man with dark slicked hair and beady eyes wearing a tan and rumpled trench coat, slowly winding his way through the crowded train. He was nearly uninteresting, except he had a pattern of walking a few feet, stopping next to women for only a few moments and then moving on. There were looks of mild surprise or shock from the women, but he never looked back or made eye contact. She suspected he was capable of mischief.
She watched him fish his way through the crowd, coming to a stop directly in front of her, behind another woman. The brunette glamazon was reading a fashion magazine through her dark, oversized and – considering the inclement weather – completely unnecessary sunglasses. Suddenly the glamazon’s head snapped up and with a scowl looked down over her shoulder at the little man in the trench coat. Turning, she yelled and cursed at him and began swatting at his head, shoulders and face with her magazine. For a moment, confusion consumed the passengers in the train car but then the mood quickly turned as many realized what the little trench-coated man was doing. Jeers and insults of “pig” “pervert” and “hit him harder” filled the air.
As he threw his hands up, feebly attempting to defend himself but with no luck, the crowd jostled and moved to open a little space around the offender and his not-so-helpless victim. Her height gave her advantage in her aim and the magazine found its spot many times over. Finally, a man made his way to the confrontation and asked the woman to stop. He then steered the trench-coated little man to the exit, remaining at his side. The trench-coated man stood quietly, his head down, avoiding eye contact. At the next stop, the little man was pushed out of the car as the doors opened. The glamazon shouted out a final derogatory comment and the passengers chuckled while he disappeared in the crowd on the platform. The doors closed and the train lurched forward again. The passengers quickly forgot the incident, while the glamazon went back to reading her magazine. The train settled into a quiet, rocking state once more.
Gabby remained against the wall of the train smiling to herself, thankful she had not been a target of the man. Her thoughts then turned to the decadent hot chocolate she would order at Angeline’s café, which would warm her and drive out some of the Parisian chill before venturing to the Museé d’Orsay and spending the afternoon with Degas.