The smell of exhaust

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I step onto the platform and breathe deep. The air is thick with millions of tiny water droplets. I can feel the hair on my head dampen immediately and begin to curl. It’s chilly. The kind of cold that cuts you to the bone. The kind of cold you feel when you’re tired, when you haven’t had enough sleep, and your body is telling you to be quiet.

I breathe deeply again. The smell of exhaust and oil fills my lungs, and I know that I am filling them with the pollution that shouldn’t be inside my body. It shouldn’t be anywhere. Except I can’t help but enjoy the smell. With each breath, I feel closer to childhood, closer to the first time I stepped onto a platform or out into the city of London. My heart feels lighter.

After an exhausting holding process in the Dallas airport and a bumpy flight, a delayed train, and a rebooking process that had my heart racing and my veins pulsing in my temples, I am ready to be on my way to our final destination.

Every minute that has trickled by has been filled with tension. The phone call with Ben’s parents had me counting seconds. The longer the call, the more money we’d have to pay for international calling on this burner phone we had purchased for the trip. Sitting in the train station, watching as the wait time for our new train ride to Cannes ticks ever upwards I am wishing I had something substantial in my belly.

I remember, being pulled out of the stupor of jetlag, that I am in Paris. I am in France. I may be sitting in the train station, huddled together with my newly minted husband, clutching our bags ever tighter to us as military men walk around with scary-looking machine guns and fierce (yet slightly bored) looks on their faces, as every person who walks by seems to be leering at us until I realize they have no interest in us or our belongings at all, I am in Paris.

The train arrives, finally, and we struggle up the stairs and into, what we think is, the correct car, dragging our bags up with such effort that someone finally yanks one of mine up the stairs and puts it onto the luggage rack. I am embarrassed but grateful. We find our seats, and I breathe a sigh of relief, settling down for the long ride south. And as we pull away from the station, I am happy. And I am hungry.

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