I had a professor tell me that I shouldn’t start a story with waking up. However, I had another prof say that you had to know the rules to break them. Maybe he meant that I needed to learn the rules but I take it to mean that if I know them I can break them. That is really all inconsequential, I mention it only because I am just now waking up in Paris. No big deal right? I mean millions of people wake up in Paris every single day; or maybe they “se réveiller” or something to that affect. The thing is, I do not remember how I got here, in Paris.
For my professor’s sake, we’ll say the story began yesterday sometime, instead of just now as I wake up. I was definitely at a funeral in Alabaster, AL yesterday afternoon. The only thing that might make this situation more bizarre is if the funeral was mine. It was not, though, this isn’t one of those types of stories. It was the funeral of a friend from college. We ran cross-country together. I usually finished right behind him but we trained together every day. I pull my phone from my front pocket to look for clues. I have 3 missed calls but no messages or texts. It’s already close to 1:00 p.m. There are guys I ran with in college in some pictures, along with some girls I would have like to run with. One girl in particular reminds me of the France topic, Michelle. From the Beatles song, we would sing “Michelle, my belle. Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble, Très bien ensemble.” That was how we started talking about Steven always wanting to go to France and we joked about going right after the funeral but… I cannot remember.
“Run with me, through all cities” blast from my phone. The caller ID is blocked but I am in search of answers so I pick up.
“Alex? You’re okay?”
“I think so. Who is this?”
Then another voice chimes in “and Michelle! Where are you?”
“Well according to this Eiffel tower I can see, Id have to guess Paris?
“Don’t play! Michelle responds.
Mark adds, “Right. We all are in Paris.”
“Who’s we all? And I’m not entirely sure how I got wherever I am. I can see the tower pretty well though.”
“Let’s meet at the tower and go from there. If you hear from anyone else tell them the same.”
“But who” – doodoodoop. I look down at my phone. Call Failed. Shit, guess I should start walking or do I need a cab? After walking for 10 minutes and not making any progress, I hail a cab.
During the ride I sort through the rest of my pockets. I have Euros? Least I won’t have to use my credit card, which I find that I cannot find. I do have my passport with another clue, a stamp from yesterday. The only other thing in my pockets is the funeral program. On the back it has some French sentences, what appears to be a n address and a phone number. The cab drops me off and I can make out a group of three people. Someone is with Mark and Michelle. But who? It’s Jessica!
Now Jessica was one of the reasons that I originally started running. Prior to college, we had gone to high school together, she was on the team and I decided to give cross-country a go. The feelings I felt for her were beyond that of a crush, though unrequited, it was most certainly love. We went terribly deep with the friends zone as she was usually in a serious relationship. The few times that she wasn’t coincided with a hook-up with some random girl, whose name I cannot even recall.
“Alex!” she cries as she runs the rest of the way between us. She hugs me tightly. “I’m glad you are okay.”
“Same” I say which is enough but I go on and clarify, “I mean not same that I’m okay but that you are, or both really.”
“Guys!!” Mark interrupts, “we need to get moving!”
“We’ll tell you on the way.”
Inside the cab, safe now I suppose. Michelle starts, “we are entirely sure where the others are and haven’t been able to get a hold of them either” Mark continues, “they are most likely not together”. Jessica begins to continue, “ and”
I interject, “Wait! Wait. Wait a minute, who are the others and how did we get here, why can’t I remember?”
Recognizing the cluster of the three of them trying to relay the tale harmoniously, Mark tells the story. “Here is the short version: We were all drinking, except for Liz and Brian, they combined with Drew are the others. Anyways, we were all telling stories of old cross-country trips and the shenanigans that went on in that bus. Then Reggie’s parents, Doris and Walter approached us with an envelope. It was sealed and address to the Vikings CC. They said he had put it together in the hospital last week and was for our eyes only. We opened it and found seven tickets to Paris from Atlanta, one for each of us. Since we all had taken the time off work anyways, we drove to Atlanta and got on the flight. You and Drew got sick on the flight. And immediately after landing at 8:30 this morning y’all went to the airport infirmary. Michelle, Jessica and myself went on to the hotel, where we are headed now. We split up Liz and Jess because they speak French. We thought Liz and Brian stayed with you and Drew. Which is why we thought we’d find they were with you.”
Michelle chimed in, “ what DO you remember?”
“I do remember the funeral and wait!” I reach into my pocket and pull out the program with the phone number, “then there is this.”