The United Nations of Room 219
The Moroccan Girl is looking for a permanent room in the city because she studies mathematics at a local university. She is in town from Lyon where she rents a room with two French students one of whom is smelly and has lots of sex in the shower with boys, probably because the boys also think she is smelly. (Her own words.) The Canadian Girl is taking a gap year and will spend it teaching French children at a primary school in the south of France. She is from Manitoba and also believes that Chicago is “Canada Lite.” Her alarm sound is ducks quacking. The American Girl is not a girl at all. She is a grown woman and she is the most indefinite of the three. She is silly and makes them laugh. She smuggles wine and food into the room–highly illegal. On Day One she has no idea when she will depart Room 219 nor where she will go. Everyone chats, fidgets with their belongings, and gets comfy. They are happy together.
The two French Women arrive giggling like schoolgirls and smelling like hotel lobby toilettes. Morocco is at school and made the mistake of storing her belongings. France 1 steals her lower bunk by the window. France 2 takes the upper bunk. They are happy together…and completely oblivious of the rest of Room 219’s inhabitants. France 1 walks back and forth to the shower several times and between each one becomes progressively more naked. She is bold and carefree. No one admires her, but we could in theory, more so if she were dressed. Canada is carrying on like a good tourist and Morocco like a good student. America is sleeping in, going for long walks, and finding “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” particularly apropos.
The first and only South Korean Girl arrives. Bad news: she is sick. Too much London Town; where her hostel barely had running water and served rocks for breakfast. Canada departs. France departs. Morocco becomes increasingly stressed about not finding a rented room. Morocco takes Canada’s bed. America is in the same bed. She is the Alpha and as such leaves her stuff and funk all over her area. To balance this territorialism, America offers food, drink… soul food to the other nations of Room 219. They accept. The French-Moroccan Woman arrives. She speaks Arabic and French. She is also looking for a local rental. She takes the bed by the window. All nations chat, fidget with belongings, get more comfy. They are happy.
The United Nations of Room 219 goes to breakfast together. America and South Korea don’t speak French or Arabic so the conversation is in English. Drink coffee, eat croissant, and have laughs. Morocco leaves at 0900. Her class begins at 0900. Morocco is feeling carefree this morning and takes an orange from the breakfast bar and puts it in her bag. This is strictly forbidden so America makes an issue of it, to the entire cafeteria, “Contraband! Get her!” Morocco is mortified and laughing hysterically. All laugh at the ridiculous sign on the wall that reads “Do Not Take Food Out of This Room.” South Korea spends most of the day in bed. France Morocco looks at apartments. America walks around rather aimlessly, has a beer, and wonders what to do. The Two South Korean Women arrive after light’s out. They install themselves in the two available top bunks. They go into the bathroom and lock the door. Two hours and 38 minutes later after much giggling, snorting, spitting, coughing, chatting, splashing, swatting, and douching, they emerge. In the darkness it’s assumed by all that they are the two cleanest denizens of Room 219 (and probably the entirety of Paris).
The two newest arrivals are up and out early. The rest of Room 219 put on wetsuits and get ready for breakfast. The fear of stepping on a glob of mucus, putting a foot in the puddle of water of unknown origin, menaces all. Although South Korea has a majority in Room 219, there is a generational divide, and Our South Korea, lover of French biscuits and Harry Potter, sticks with Us. We go to breakfast together and avoid the newbies. We are officially and shamelessly a click. Morocco comes into breakfast in a huff because she has been displaced from Room 219. Her reservation ran out and her bunk will be given to another traveler. America jumps into action, “I’ll go speak to the front desk staff about this. South Korea, you speak with The Others and find out how long they are staying.” France Morocco notes, “You are managing.” “Yes, I am a Manager. I manage.” Morocco has to run to school. America assures Morocco that her belongings are safe and that everything will work out. Morocco arrives in the evening knocking on the door. The United Nations of Room 219 decides Morocco will crash on the couch in the room–breaking all the rules. In addition, America procured an extra breakfast ticket thereby ensuring that Morocco will have a place to sleep and food. “Not on my watch,” says America, to herself. In the meantime, The Taiwan Girl arrives. France Morocco assures everyone she is nice. The rest of us do not see her arrive. She is stealth. South Korea 2 & 3 come in after light’s out again, unpack and repack 17 bags of French shoes, hats, and purses, and douse the bathroom, again. America decides it is time to move on and sets her sights on the south of France and The Sea. America itches for space, a hamburger, Netflix and chill. America will exchange kinship and love for freedom. Always.
The United Nations of Room 219 share our last meal. The four of us, Sima, Lila, Suki, and GNA, take selfies and exchange email addresses. We make fun of Suki for smuggling more food. She is a perfect little hamster! We laugh and laugh. We are immediately nostalgic about every minute detail we recall–the smelly French Nudists, the fetid indoor swimming pool, all the rule breaking. We kiss and hug, declare our enduring good will. We promise to stay in touch, visit, meet again. And all four of us, America, South Korea, Morocco and France Morocco cry. In the middle of the cafeteria, and onto our precious French croissants, we cry together because we are in love. We cry because life is love and love is living. Violà.