Paris Adventure 2: Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

08/10/2012 13:33

All I expected was to spend a pleasant evening drinking wine with my roommate under the Eiffel Tower. All I have is a guilty feeling of failure after having to choose between responsibility and humanity. All I need now is a cup of strong coffee to put my thoughts on paper and settle for the conclusion that I have done all I could.

Being a girl in Paris, you find it normal when a complete stranger approaches you in the street and starts talking to you. It sounds like an easy way of getting a cup of coffee for free, but actually I do not know a single girl who would willingly put herself into such a precarious situation. Trust me, real life is not a movie with a handsome guy falling in love with you at first sight; real life is about experiencing adventure and still acting responsibly.


When I and my roommate sat down on the grass under the flashing lights of Eiffel Tower and fought off the first tiresome cheap-jack selling miniature Eiffel Towers, we did not know what was going to happen. We were making up our own lyrics to go with a melody of one of the oldest No Name songs. We were going to record the song for our friend who had got angry when we reached our meeting point with a one-hour delay. We wanted to tell him that our carpet had got stuck in the door, that we could not open it, that our neighbour who saw us for the first time in his life just refused to believe that we were living next door, that since we had no corkscrew and could not find a single bottle of wine with a screw cap, we needed to walk through the whole shopping mall to find something suitable for the picnic, that we missed the RER connection and had to wait ten minutes for the next one and that we just forgot to get off at the right station. There were simply too many misadventures. We agreed that the best way to apologize would be to send him a song. And there we were, sitting on newspapers we had taken from metro, under the most horrible monster of the world, but excited over the way of pleasing our dear touchy friend. We did not have a clue that the guy sitting next to us with a bottle of beer in his hand was listening to us and that he actually understood all the crap we were singing. Another cheap-jack came, but left without selling a single cigarette pack.  When the third one approached to try his luck with a bottle of Champagne, the guy next to us asked us in a Slavic language, which I did not recognize at first hearing, where we were from. It was the guy who taught me my lesson – embodiment of irresponsibility and all the things that did not come out well, and still it was the very person who made me feel more alive than anyone else in the past few weeks.  


Let me sum it up briefly: we met a Ukrainian boy who came from Poland to Italy with a false passport, and spent there half a year with no work. Then he flew to Britain where his plan with the false Polish passport did not work out exactly as he wanted and got deported to France. And there he was. Sitting on the grass in the most romantic city in the world, with quite a considerable number of bottles of beer in his rucksack, eavesdropping on two Slovak girls singing fake lyrics to a melody he did not know and endlessly fighting off guys who were trying to sell them something for much more than they would be willing to pay. This is still not the most shocking part of the story.


Roland was illegally working in a reputable company so that he could get at least the minimum wage. He had got no passport, no documents, no friends, no calling credit in his mobile phone and no place to spend the night. It seemed to me that all he had was his venturesome spirit and his dreams. His plan was to earn enough to fly to New York and meet his five half-siblings. He wanted a better life because the Ukrainian one was “chujovy.” But for the night, it would be enough to have a place to “mieškať”.


As he was telling us his story, I pictured my flat, my warm blanket and soft mattress. The picture transformed into a feeling that caught me unprepared. I felt I had to act like a human to the man who was trying to stay human despite all the hardships he had to face. The guilty feeling that overwhelmed me was unbearable. I waged an inner struggle with myself: should I be open to adventure or try to be safe at all costs? In my head I heard the echo of my hundred-times repeated oath not to be too impulsive, too generous and too excited in making immediate decisions which only lead to disillusion, regret and quite expectably – problems.  A series of snapshots of possible scenarios flashed before my eyes: I having his first-hand experience. I lying on the grass and watching stars. I lying with eyes wide open with him sleeping on mezzanine over my head. I falling asleep and he stealing my money. I falling asleep and he getting cold outside. I being responsible and I being human.


I am falling asleep now, determined to help him. I am falling asleep with a belief that he understands how the world works today. Nice people suffer because everyone is afraid to help them. The trust in foreigners and wanderers is broken. I must admit it. No one would ever let me in his house if I were under the Eiffel Tower with no place to spend the night. I am as suspicious as the rest of the world. The world itself has taught me to be that way. Only the world itself can teach me that there is always a way, where there is will.



Zuzana Rajčáková



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