You are sitting on the train, getting further from Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle and closer to Paris with each passing moment. Your hands are digging, at first nonchalantly, into the various pockets of your trusty carry-on bag, the Red Oxx Gator. With each passing pocket, crevice and compartment that turns up nothing of relevance, your motions become more rushed, more frantic.
Your eyes dart around the train car as your hands work furiously. Everyone is calm. Some are looking out the window, others are speaking in respectfully hushed tones. Even the train itself is speaking in a respectfully hushed tone, a stark contrast to the trains back in New York City.
You press your back up against the chair and look up at the ceiling. Your mind cycles through your whole departure. The keys to the apartment had been in a white envelope, mailed from Vacation in Paris. You remember almost every moment of packing except for the one you need to remember. What happened to that white envelope?
The train pulls into the Châtelet-Les-Halles station.
Your surroundings are swirling with activity around you. Everything is blurry and irrelevant except for the pay phone you spot a short distance away. You rush up to it and try to translate the directions. Fidgeting around with the buttons you try to place a call. It seems the only way you can make a call is with a chip-based credit card, a feature not available for most US credit cards.
You race to another payphone to see that it works the same way. You walk briskly over to a vendor and try to explain it to him. He points at the pay phone. The train station is not going to be your saviour.
You head towards your apartment in the 3rd Arrondissement, or district. You find the building, climb the stairs and head up to find the wooden door awaiting your arrival. You knock, knowing the probabilities are against you that anyone, a cleaner or otherwise, is inside. The knock goes unreturned.
You drop your bags again, and fish through them. The key must be in here somewhere.
You are now downstairs in a small dry cleaning shop run by a Chinese family. You start to explain your plight to the old, withered man behind the counter. He stops you blurting out in French. He does not understand. You act out the problem. You run to the door, point to the keyhole, point to the sky, point to the keyhole and make a slice across your neck. You make a shrug motion. He must think you are beyond mad. He might be right.
He sends you on your way but you don’t leave. You spot his phone and point at it. You point at yourself, pleading to use it. After some time, he finally breaks down and pushes it across the counter.
Your contact answers and you describe the issue.
“Ahh, yes, but that will be an 50 Euro charge to have the key delivered,” she announces. He will be by in 30 minutes.
An hour and a half passes by and you are pushing your bags into your apartment.
An inauspicious beginning; nothing some French butter and bread couldn’t fix.
You drop your bags in your apartment back home. Pull open the wood drawer in the kitchen. The white envelope.
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