My leg was improving a little each day. There was still one smooth piece of steel as big as a dime behind the patella. It was left there to remind me of November 11. Who could forget getting hit on the last day of the war? But I could walk for hours now with no pain, and I knew I'd have to walk to get from the North Station to the hotel. The taxis weren't running yet on that side of the Seine, and even if they were, I couldn't afford one.
But I would be there! On my own in Paris – fresh in from Le Havre. There were at least 50 or 60 novels in my head, any one of which would make me famous. All I needed was a quiet place to write and friends to talk to. Yes talk ... real talk, something other than the bull shit in the hospital ward. I would be in the company of lions now, not sheep.
I could feel the rush of adrenalin as the train slowed down. My senses were more acute than they'd ever been. There was a girl sitting in the window seat next to me and I couldn't help making some inane remark about getting to Paris before dark. She was nice enough not to ignore me, although I'm sure she was well aware I had been looking past her face at the window for the last half hour. But it was Paris after all – a few short months after the war – and I was in uniform.
Now, in the growing dark, her face was reflected in the train window, through which I could see Paris passing by; one image superimposed over the other. It was a moment I shall remember forever. In all its simplicity it seemed to be a metaphor of the last four years. I made a mental note to include this moment on the first page – of the first novel.
She was met at the station by a man my age, a well-dressed civilian untouched by the dirty work of war. They walked arm in arm to a Citroen parked at the curb. I didn't want to make assumptions. I didn't want to spoil the moment that had just past. You don't see a metaphor every day.