I met him at the Métro at Saint-Denis, and I thought I would ride with him forever. It was something about the slope of his nose, the wiry turn of his glasses and his hands, those bright white hands: I could have held them interminably. I got on three seats behind him, so that all I could see was the dark, feathery hair on the back of his head, and his neck. Ithink the whole of Paris must have passed me by but I didn't look once at all that, all the blond-haired Joes and blue-eyed Marys, just kept my eyes fixed on the nape of his neck and oh my, those beautiful hands.
We hit the tracks, stop after stop, driven further and further by the startling redness of it all, the passion, the exhilaration. Inside the train, senses weren't just crash and bang and light any longer, but so real that I could feel them against my fingertips. So sharp that they cleaved through my skin and brushed against the rawness of my open heart. The rustle of paper grazed me; I felt every roughened crevice of my seat; as he adjusted his glasses, the light fell on his face and it felt like kaleidoscopic orange and gold. Inside the subway the world had become real, it had grounded me and I felt everything. Outside, rain hit the top of the subway station and cafe lights struggled against the bleak greyness of evening.
He got off at Drancy-Avenir. Outside the doors he was swallowed into the pinks and greens and yellows, the chatter and the flicker of street lanterns. The city took him from me. The doors shut behind him and the subway turned to nothing; my palm hit the window and flushed not red but grey; when I screamed for him to come back it made smoke, not diamonds; nothing would smash; no matter how hard I hit with all the scarlet and mahogany of my grief the window wouldn't smash. And he never looked round.
I went back to Saint-Denis every day; I took the train. Paris had swallowed me too, into the mindlessness of the commute, the bustle of a city of so much unconsumed beauty. Every day I watched the ghost him get up from his seat at Drancy-Avenir, and then I rode home. Something told me not to get off there, so I never did. I sat in my seat three seats behind where he had been and I felt the ride against my limbs like cold water.
It was a year before I saw him again on the line, and this time he got on at Drancy-Avenir. He looked different, and I only recognised him because I could see the redness again and the subway bloomed into Eden at his touch. This time he painted my heart with green and blue and at every stop, as the tram slowed and stopped with the metre of a throbbing heart, the colours crescendoed into heaviness. Every hair on the back of his head felt familiar; it was like falling into the golden warmth of a nest that had been made for me and the twigs and branches tied around my ankles and held me to the earth like it was home.
I knew he was going to get off at Saint-Denis and every stop became the beating of a clock, the moans of the bell tower at Notre Dame. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and scream and scream and scream but I knew he wouldn't be able to hear me, he was with the city now and I was with nobody at all. But I knew if I stopped loving him I'd have to leave the subway and the city and the whole damned world, because there was nothing to hold me down any longer except my beating heart on the tracks and the sharpness of the air on the Métro, so I let the pain take me instead, an intense symphony of grief and loss and fruitlessness and helplessness.
I like to think it was selfish of him to leave me there with one hundred empty seats and a broken spirit, but he never felt the colours like I did, never traced the stave from red to green to blue to gold. In the end, it was always just me crying out against the world and wishing that someone could see it like I did, a whirlwind of different hues and sounds, a constant everything that he gave me like a disease, only to leave me with it and without him. He made me feel and he walked out of that door without knowing the blackness of it was going to crush me.
The bright lights and music of Paris blossomed against the windows of the subway at Saint-Denis, and inside I tried to hold my body in one piece as my heart exploded into a million shards inside my chest.