mercredi, août 10, 2005

Faces and Fesses* on M° Ligne 1

No one really talks on the Paris metro, except of course, the tourists. They anxiously stare at the line map until you'd think the thing would start fading from being looked at too much. They obsessively count, over and over, how many stations they have to go until their desired stop.


Then there are the ones who pile on in little groups, and the minute they are inside, a woman in shorts and tennis shoes will nervously ask,


I love that one, because, what's the big deal? If you miss it, just get off and ride back in the opposite direction. It's as if this newfangled idea of mechanical public transport is a big bad godless invention that we just don't quite trust enough to do what it says it's going to. Can't trust those Frenchies too much, ya know, they surrendered to the Germans in a heartbeat. So let's just check that line map again and see if it hasn't changed around on us, while we had our backs turned, those turncoats.

In general, the unspoken (literally) rule is that you must read something, or at the very least stare at your shoes, or those of others around you. Or stare out the window.

I prefer staring at the people. I've always had this problem - looking at people too much - and in school it used to get my honky ass in trouble.

"What the hell you starin' at? You need to go to da eye doctor?!"

I think the French equivalent of this, which I always imagine being uttered by an agressive teenage girl, is,

"Tu veux ma photo? Ca durera plus longtemps!"**

Thankfully, no one has said this to me yet, but I'm waiting to get it one of these days.

I just can't help it. I love faces. I fantasize about being a really good photographer and asking different people to pose for me. I want to capture them and look at them for hours. I want to keep their faces for myself.

In college, I had two whole walls entirely covered in faces I had found in magazines, interspersed with personal photos of me, my mother, my father, my cat, and the requisite Eiffel Tower. I remember especially loving a strawberry blonde model named Marie-Sophie Wilson who I thought looked like my mother when she was young.

I really loved the one with the statue. I was a touch melodramatic at the time. And really, really fucking cold.

When I was an exchange student in Paris long ago, there was a phenomenon of "les frotteurs", the men who would use the packed metro as an excuse to rub up against you from behind. I had thought it had gone out of style, but alas, no. Just the other morning, I caught a totally innocuous looking businessman in Coca-Cola bottle thick glasses looking at me on the platform. I tend to play dumb and ignore it, unless of course he is a hot businessman, in which case the ride to work is peppered with furtive glances and lightning quick smiles. But Jean Coca, as I'll call him, boarded the same car I did, and stood by me, holding on to the pole like the rest of us fanned out like a starfish from its center. I had my back to him and was reading my book when the train departed, and he used the movement to rub his finger ever so lightly over my butt. I calmly moved away from him to face him, continuing to read. He turned his face away and looked out the window, keeping that position until I got off.

I don't know why this doesn't piss me off more, but it just doesn't. I don't actively want my ass rubbed by strangers on my way to work, like some kind of good luck talisman, but I just don't think it's all that much of an insult. I kind of understand, actually. In the way that I want to own other people's faces, he wanted to touch my butt. So did Patrick Bruel, but that's another story for another day.

So in addition to staring at people and imagining myself to have some photographic talent that I most decidedly do not, I also entertain myself by pretending I am a casting director for a French period film. I imagine the young boy with the apple cheeks and bee stung lips in an 18th century royal valet costume, complete with tights, and I know, just know, that he's perfect for the role. Or I imagine the girl with piercing blue eyes and dark lashes in a peasant costume, sleeves rolled up and breasts pushed up in a fetching decolleté. I picture the pasty older man in a Louis XV wig, and the plump older woman scolding chickens in a dirt courtyard.

I think I watched way too many historical drama mini-series on A&E.

* fesses = butt cheeks (don't we have a better word for that?)

** "Do you want my photograph? It'll last longer!"

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