From Dallas Doctor’s collection of short stories “How to Organize and Orgy & Other Stories” (Pages 1-2):
The Girl on the Pay Phone
at the Musée d’Orsay
By Dallas Doctor
“But Mom, it’s so boring over here. There’s nothing to do in Paris.”
Jerry stopped walking and looked around. There was a girl, probably in her late-teens, on the pay phone, probably long distance.
“No Mom, there are no cute clothes in the shops. I’ve looked. Everything here is for old boring people.”
Jerry’d been navigating the corridor between the men’s and women’s restrooms in the lowest level of the Musée d’Orsay. He just happened to be passing by the row of pay phones.
“And the food here is terrible. I hate it here. I want to come home.”
Jerry was flabbergasted. He stopped and pretended to read the emergency evacuation plan posted on the wall. He hoped she’d say something else.
“I never have any fun when I go out … … No, they’re not my friends … … That doesn’t make them my friends … … They speak French behind my back … … they only speak English when they know I can hear them … … I hate them; they’re always trying to include me in everything; like yesterday, they tried to take me to some catacombs and today it’s this boring old museum.”
Jerry couldn’t believe his ears. “Kids these days,” he thought to himself, “what do they know? She’s inside one of the greatest museums in the world and can’t find anything interesting. These kids? They don’t recognize the wonders all around them. They have no idea what they’re missing.”
“No Mom, there’s nothing to do here … … But Mom? … … The semester just started … … I’ll die if you make me stay … … I can’t do it … … I’ll die … … I want to come home … … I’ll die if I stay here … … You don’t care about me …”
Jerry’d heard enough. He shook his head and walked away. “What a waste,” he thought to himself, “she’s blind to the beauty all around her. What a shame.”
Jerry told me a few days later there was a news item about an American student who committed suicide at the Sorbonne. Jerry searched the papers for a photo of the girl, but they all ran the same old picture; it was a school portrait from her senior year in high school and Jerry couldn’t tell if it was the same girl or not.
Jerry told me he’s wondered a lot about that girl over the last 25-years. Was she the spoiled brat he’d assumed her to be? Or was she suffering from something the rest of us couldn’t see? Jerry told me he wishes he knew what happened to her. She would be in her early-40s now.
Jerry said his memory of the girl on the pay phone makes him wonder what he missed that day in the museum. He said whenever he visits the Musée d’Orsay, he always makes it a point to pause in the lower corridor where the pay phones used to be. But they’re not there anymore. They’re all gone.
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