I met a girl five years ago on a train to Paris and she told me she was running away. I asked her why, and she said she didn't know why—just that she had lots of things in her life that would justify her escape.
She held a cup of coffee in her left hand and periodically, she'd inhale the steady steam and sigh. I think she caught me staring at her once when her nostrils were on the plastic lid, so she explained that the smell of caffeine kept her heartstrings alive.
Her eyes were forever open, as if she never stopped to blink because she was afraid she'd miss something, and the sun sat on her eyelashes like birds on a wire because she told me she didn't know how to cry.
She had a habit of dropping things, and the third time she stooped below the table to pick something up, she screamed and hit her turquoise beret against the desk and spilled the sugar out of my tea. She apologized like a little kid, with her bottom lip sticking out ever so slightly, and said she screamed out of delight because she loved my ankle tattoo.
She told me that when she turned eighteen, she tattooed a map of the world on her shoulder blades and when she saw it in the mirror for the first time she whispered, "Is it really that small?"
We pulled an all-nighter together as we swapped stories like lovers swap spit and when I suggested that we might as well turn the light on because we could hardly see, she refused because she said that the best voices had no faces to accompany them.
Despite her forwardness, she was elusive; her words were tinged with something-I-cannot-name and when a breeze caught her hair, a ripple of cactus nectar broke free.
I was halfway through my question about her family and their well-being when I was interrupted by a slew of French that indicated our arrival. She hurriedly changed the subject as she procured a Polaroid camera from the canvas backpack on her lap—she followed this motion by quickly snapping a picture of me and then, of herself.
As she was fanning the prints, I inquired after any means of communication that we could have after this journey but she swatted that notion away, smiling as she shook her head. "I thought you knew me better than that," she laughed.
The poorly concealed disappointment on my face apparently stunned her, and her voice was silk as she entangled me in her parting words. "Here, take this," she slid one of the photos towards my ribcage and pointed, "now you have a picture of me and I have a picture of you. One day, we are going to meet again, and we may not remember any of this. But promise me, you'll carry this photo with you as long as you can, and I will do the same. And who knows? Maybe we'll be intuitive enough to find each other again. It’ll be like hide and seek," her eyes sparkled. "except the whole world is our playground."
Five years later, I still have not found her but I haven't given up on looking. I’ve been everywhere: London, Rome, Budapest, Thailand, but there hasn't been a girl who carries the scent of desert dunes in her hair.
Five years later, I’m at the ticket counter purchasing an overnight stay on a train that's Paris-bound. There’s a girl in line behind me, whose hair is cropped to the skull. As I wheel my luggage towards the platform, I hear her lean into the ticket booth and tell the attendant she's planning on running away.