I Think His Name Was Remi…


Or it was something like that. He was nearly bald although i think on purpose yet he couldn’t have been more than 24. He had a navy blazer on with those black capped dance like shoes that serious performers wear and yet I learned that he doesn’t dance at all.


He rattled on in French until he realized mine was more than rusty. A boyish face with a twinkle in his eye he held up his joint, close to the end of its use. He continues to speak in french because frankly he had no other choice. Somehow he thought I might be a good choice to access another joint. How wrong was his “read” and yet that was so not why the universe threw is together for that 20 minutes in time at the Bonne nouveau subway stop in Paris at close to 1 am in the morning on a Tuesday night in June.

We began to decipher language, why he chose the words he did and why such am emphasis on his joint. I asked him why he smoked, how often and what it brought him. The latter took three attempts in my broken French and yet third time lucky.

While he agreed it made him sleep better and brought more serenity, he acknowledged it was a way to deal with a troubled life.

I asked him to explain exactly what he meant and he went on to explain how difficult it was to live in France, and what he needed to be and exude to french society and how he never felt he could be what they needed him to be.

He looked french enough to me and he even acknowledged that he was born here but I soon learn that his father was Algerian and his mother was Czech and he felt an affinity to no one….or no-thing, except perhaps the burnt down hashish in his hand.

He asked a guy to translate a word or two once (vent/wind was one of them) but for the most part we were getting by and saying what we needed to say.

He understood sentiment and passion and from that place he told me how much music meant to him and why. The why explanation was beautiful as he didn’t use any word – his fingers, the timing and the energy went from eyes to heart and back again and as a fellow artist and musician I inherently understood.

He tried to justify pot as a higher escape alternative to alcohol and yet while I understood part of his logic, I retorted back that it was a short (court) term fix regardless and would never bring him the serenity he so deeply yearned for.

I asked about his dreams which were different and yet the same answer as the question I posed about his passions. Making people happy through music was a constant theme.

I didn’t want to lecture for who am I to argue about short term pleasures and gains to bring one through a day. After all, don’t we all have our own unique distinctions about what’s right and wrong, serving and not serving, useful or not, growth or unraveling in our lives?

Even if we don’t admit it, we so do feel and have all of those justifications.

On that note and reflection, the 8 train to Creteil pulled up on the track, which I knew was the last train of the night.

Remi who so didn’t look like a Remi with his warm, inviting and artistic smile called to me and said what was your name again? I said my name clearly but unlike I so often do, I left out the name of my website although I’m not quite sure. Did I see him as a piece of cherished art I didn’t want to share or perhaps because I did, I couldn’t bring myself to unveil a personal detail or two?

As I looked at his innocent and yet so eager to learn face through the window of the train as the doors began to shut, I felt as if our exchange was not quite done.

Why wasn’t he getting on the train I thought as it was the track for the 8 line only and I was told from my friend at dinner only 30 minutes prior that it was the last one. Was he homeless, merely hitting people up for another joint, desperate for conversation and connection or ???

Goodbye Remi I felt that I had called out and as I said it because I felt fairly sure it was the name he had given me, I shouted loudly as the doors were closing – what was your name again?

That smile.

A moment in time on a summer night in Paris when encounters like this one can change people’s destinies in a short intervals of 15 minutes or an hour or five ….. or not.

Photo credit: UrbaLife Signs.blogspot.com.