After leaving the story hanging for many months, I’m finally ready – compelled – to tell the story of the wild nights my little traveling band of students, sister-in-law, Kitty, and friend Kim (mostly friend Kim and moi) had in Gay Paree on our EF Tour in 2009.
I hinted at what was to come in the post called “People Are Strange,” so if some things seem repetitive, forgive me, please. I mentioned that we accidentally lost a 12-year-old with a heart condition after her mother went in search of some goth lovebirds from their group of Texans who decided to disappear in the deliciously seedy area around Le Moulin Rouge.
That’s near Montmartre, where John and I are soon headed for our 10th anniversary, which is one reason it’s on my mind.
Kids are pretty much all the same in how quickly they’ll fold if their friends are in danger – after the honeybuns missed roll call and their sponsors were mildly panicked (tour guide Kathy must have been, too, though she always seemed unflappable), it was no time before the rest of the Texas teens snitched them out.
They’d planned to run away in Paris. Oops. Their sponsors had other plans and said they’d comb the area until they found them. We should take our tired selves back to the suburbs, to our very nice but oddly out of the way hotel. All the mother of the young girl asked was that we take care of her daughter.
Of course, of course, I assured her and did all but hold her hand.
Let me interrupt to add that, a while back, while looking through photos from the trip, I noticed the future disappearance artists in the corner of a photo of our Little Rock group that Kim had taken. I’ve wavered on posting it, but what the hell.
Anyway, we left en masse as it was getting dark and arrived at the packed-to-the-stretching-point Metro station. Kathy explained that getting on board would be tricky, with the lateness and the crowds, and that no matter what, we MUST STAY TOGETHER. When the car doors open, leap, she stressed. If you hesitate, all is lost.
We were ready. I had the little girl right beside me and had been coaching her, as she seemed mildly freaked out, about sticking with me and moving quickly. The train screeched to a stop, and the group leaped into the car as I said, “Now,” and jumped, too. I turned around to see the doors close, with the child still on the platform, eyes wide and beginning to fill with tears.
“KATHY!” we all screamed. “We lost her!”
As we all began forming retrieval plans/thinking what we’d say to her mother, Kathy told us to GO TO THE HOTEL – she’d hop off the car, run to a bridge across the track, go back the other direction, and, if the fates were with us, find the little girl still frozen to the spot.
She was. Kathy brought her back safely. Even though the Texans had been the bane of our trip, that night we joined hands and sang “We Are the World.” Well, no, but some of us were never so relieved to see a kid we didn’t know.
At some point in the night the sponsors returned, runaways in tow. Don’t remember details, don’t know if the police were involved.
But I do know the wild night Kim and I shared will have to wait a bit longer. Computer’s being clunky and I’m cooking dinner.