Saturday, October 29, 2011
A few weeks ago at my gym I mentioned to the guy who works at the front desk, (I'll call him D), that I'd be away on vacation. "Where are you going?" D, who is a tall, handsome man from another country, asked me and I said Paris. Then he asked if I could bring something back for him. "Just a little souvenir," he said. "A small Eiffel Tower."
"Of course," I told him and off I went on my vacation. D and I have a kind of friendship that revolves around the gym and the fact that I speak his language. We have joked together. I saw that he wanted me to bring him this and I set out to do it.
As you can imagine in Paris there are thousands of little Eiffel Tower souvenirs sold on every corner, yet I set about my task in a serious way. Whenever I came to a souvenir shop or the bookstalls along the Seine, I searched for an Eiffel Tower for D. I rejected keychains and holograms. In the end I landed on just what he asked me. A small, two-inch tall tower.
It was about a week after my return that I managed to get to the gym. D was there, but I'd forgotten to bring the tower. "I'll bring it tomorrow," I told him and his face lit up. "You remembered," he said.
The next day I did bring it by. I put it on the counter in front of him and again his fact lit up. He turned it in his hands. He liked it he told me. Something occurred to me at that moment so I asked him if he collected souvenirs like this. "Yes," he told me, "whenever someone tells him they are going away, I ask them to bring me back something small. I have a collection..."
Then he went on, "You see," he said, "I cannot travel. I can leave the country but I cannot return." He explained to me then his visa issues, that he had been waiting for a long time for them to be resolved. That he has been living in this limbo for a while. "So I like to have these souvenirs to make me think about the places where I haven't been."
I had just returned from a glorious week away while D only traveled by looking at the souvenirs that graced his dining room table and of the journeys he took in that the world in miniature he had created for himself.