Following my own prompts and sharing of resources for writers, it’s time to put own a short of my own. I need to practice my own story telling. I wrote a short piece for today. This may turn into a longer story in the future. My inspiration was the new novel that I started this weekend by Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik. His approach is different than my own so I wrote an introduction to my own story in Paris.
Eun Ae stood on the platform of the Gard Du Nord as the moon streamed through the glass roof in the twilight and the clock clicked backward for her, for us. She was a girl again in that busy station with the sound of the trains leaving their platforms, surrounded by the footsteps of those coming and going. Suitcase wheels rolled on the gray concrete, determined to reach their destination in desperation. Like her, those new to travel overpacked and stretching the lining of those boxes as far as they would pull.
She was in the very spot that my grandmother stood and waited for the young chauffeur’s son to bring her suitcase. She said his smile was too wide as he looked through the crowd to find her. Her eyes warmed as she drifted away into sounds of the train station.
“We traveled in the same car for an entire day, and he pretended to read the same newspaper over and over again. Every once in a while, I caught him looking at me through the window. Our eyes would meet and then look away. I pretended to be the girl my mother and father always wanted, privileged and above him. In reality, I was just surprised that my parents came in person to fetch me from boarding school in Switzerland.” Her eyes smiled and she patted my hand. “Oh.” She let out a grin, a memory of her own. “We were going to spend a month in Paris together, during my birthday month.” Her eyes went into her tea cup before she spoke again. “I wish you were there. Not now, but back then. Here.”
Her tired hand and thin skin handed me a worn leather journal. “I was about your age. Now, it’s your turn. I’m too old to go back to meet that young man again. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.” Her eyes went down to the journal. “The letter he wrote is inside.” Her hand reached out to mine. “Don’t wait. You must make your own memories.” Her lipstick smiled delicately again. “We had one summer together. Just one but it’s something that I would never regret. Those times are the kind that you should have in your life my little plum.”
“Halmoni! Grandma, you said you wouldn’t call me that anymore.” Her nose wrinkled. Her grandmother called her that since she was 5 because of her pink round cheeks.
“I know.” Her eyes smiled again. “You are a woman now. Go to Paris. Forget about that loser and do all the things I wanted to do, and did while you’re there!”
Her lips couldn’t help but blush and giggle. She tried so hard to use all the words and phrases of her friends. Like any Korean Grandmother, she always said what was on her mind, unfiltered. If she thought you gained a few pounds over the winter, she told you. But she loved her for all those reasons. Seeing her grow more frail every year, broke my heart.
“Now, don’t tell me know. I bought these tickets for you. I want you take my journal, photos, and letters and tell me about how the places changed since I’ve been there.” Her small fingers squeezed mine. “And most of all Eun-ya. Go there, get lost, and don’t wait for some man to make you happy. Your mother would tell you that most of the time they make you anything but happy but we still love them anyway. Find out who you are. Sometimes, going on someone else’s journey will help you find your own path in life.”
She knew the eyes of my grandmother had more secrets that she told me. She never explained why she sat under the moonlight on April Fools Day and finished a bottle of wine from some small restaurant in Paris. The owner sent her a bottle every year from his vineyard. Mother never knew either. No one said anything to her and didn’t bother to wake her up the next morning. She looked at her Halmoni and felt like the most special girl in the world again. How many times had she understood, when her mother hadn’t. It was like they were born the same person. Maybe that’s why she bought her the tickets.
“I was like you once. Lost. But Christophe helped me understand what I really wanted out of life.” She looked over her cup. “I remember, I stood there in the crowd of travelers. All of them seemed to know where they were going, except for me. Then, I looked up and there he was. His brown eyes met mine and I felt his smile all the way to my toes. I never really saw him until that moment.” When she smiled up again, she looked like that young woman in the train station again. “Go, Eun-ya. Stand there and listen for me. Maybe you will find what you’re looking for.”
Her lips smiled slowly as I let out a breath. “1, 2, 3 -“. Her eyes opened at the arriving train. She waited and her heart dipped a little. No Christophe waited for me. “Oh, Halmoni! Why did you have to fill me with your stories.”
She was about to turn away when she heard his voice in my right ear.
“Good morning. And what adventure are you on for your grandmother today?”
Her head lifted up at his big brown eyes and a curly halo of light brown. Those eyes. She couldn’t remember a time when she stared into chestnut colored hot chocolate. He even smelled light chocolate. Who smells like that? The morning light turned them caramel and she started to feel like a girl instead of a woman. Her toes curled in her shoes. Why didn’t she wear the kind of shoes that he photographed for his magazines? She laughed at the absurd thought and the corners of his mouth turned up in a way that made something else curl inside.
“Something amusing?” He elongated his vowels. He must have spent a lot of time in Paris.
Her head turned at the sight of the neighbor she caught peeping at her through her windows with his long range camera. Instead of being angry she turned, stared right through the lens, and blew him a soft kiss. One wink and she was back to her guide book. A smile smile formed over her lips when his laughter echoed through the stone courtyard.
“Not at all my peeping Tom.” She shook my head and turned back to the trains. “It sounds silly but I thought – no.” She looked down at the gray concrete again.
“You thought someone would be waiting for you?” His voice was like a rich chocolate too.
“I guess my grandmother told me too many stories, but he wasn’t waiting for me on train today.”
“Your eyes didn’t meet through the crowd, and you walked away together – happily ever after.” His eyes softened as they moved back and forth with hers.
“No.” She couldn’t look away. “A man named Christophe isn’t here for me but – you are.” Her head tilted. “How about a walk to that cafe again? I’m suddenly craving a hot chocolate for breakfast.”
The corner of his lip lifted and those brown eyes smiled in the sunlight. “Okay, but you need to tell me more about your grandmother and this journey that she sent you on.”
Her chest lifted as she took his arm. “Okay. Maybe you can help me with the other places in her journal?”
She tried not to smile too widely. Before they turned together she took one last look at the platform. She saw a man run off the train to embrace a woman in a green dress waiting for him. Her legs paused. She tugged on his arm and took one snap with her own camera.
Her eyes met his again. “That one is for my grandmother.”
“Good.” His eyes looked like he didn’t want to look away. She couldn’t look away as he squeezed her arm and took her hand in his.
Then, they both turned and walked out of the station together.
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