I never thought the language I spoke would be used against me at any moment in my life, and yet here I stand in a train station with my twin sister looking at me, waiting for me to say and do something. The natives walk past us, hopping the bars to catch their ride without even paying. I stare at the back of a French woman in front of me in her ticket booth waiting for her to turn around. It’s the first time I don’t have the solution to a problem. I am lost in confusion.
“What should we do?” asks my sister, with a cold look and open arms, her hands glaring at me. I am two minutes older, but she has always been pegged by others as the older one. However, I have been the one to step up as the leader my entire life when it comes to our relationship and this trip was no different.
I stood there thinking to myself, allowing these lifelong rumors I’ve only heard in history class sink in as truthful facts. France was our last stop on this European tour we had started over a week ago. The Notre Dame was not as climatic in size as I had imagined and seen in the infamous Disney movie I grew up with. Even the hunchback tale was squashed as merely a myth by our tour guide. My face had a disappointing look upon it, as she simply laughed at the inquiry. The romantic Seine River was more like an eerie, murky loch where party kids gathered in the late hours of the day to decorate the brick walls with art you would never find in the elegant Louvre Museum. Crowds ruined any opportunity to have that perfect moment to reflect atop the Eiffel Tower with them pushing for a glance themselves.
With all these memories to ponder, it was no surprise that we would be confronted with another hardship. “Can we have two tickets for the train,” I asked the lady with eye shadow and heavy, bold lipstick that morning. So terribly heavy it seems because she stared back without moving her lips to utter a word. She seemed repulsed as she looked us up and down. I took my sister’s euros along with mine and held them up for her to see, pointing at the bus schedule overhead with a nod. Not only was English not as universal as I had thought, but body language was not either apparently. She turned her back to us without a second thought, eventually leaving her post. That’s where we found ourselves torn. Do we stay there, or walk back to the hotel, embarrassed and defeated?
Just as we were questioning the possibility of joining in the French tradition of jumping the bars to catch the train, a man walked into the ticket booth. He glanced in our direction and headed over. It seems that the lady let someone who spoke English know that we needed something. “Can we buy two tickets for the train, please?” I asked with a hopeful inflection at the end. “Sure,” the gentleman replied. We each slid in our euros and took our tickets, walked through the bars without guilt and climbed the stairs to the right and waited for the next train to the city.
The words my sister spoke next were not a shock to me at all. “Why do they still treat us like that?” she asked. I half expected that, and deep down I hoped it was rhetorical, but she kept looking at me, again, awaiting my answer. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I always heard that the French hated us, but I don’t understand how they can ignore another human being who has done nothing personally to them. I never went to war with her.” The train pulled up just then, and nothing more was said. Silence we knew was accepted universally.