They are easy to spot on my morning commute: middle-aged, unkempt, too-warmly dressed, often wearing a scowl and a two-day beard. They stand in the middle of the train and repeat the same speech as the day before, starting with an insistent "mesdames et messieurs" and finishing with a plea for some change, a cigarette, or a ticket restaurant meal check. I remain in my seat with my eyes firmly planted on a page of my book, uncomfortable, and when they pass by with their hand outstretched, I do nothing.
Today there was a man I hadn't seen before. In an almost emotionless voice, he talked of his family, how they were in the street without any help, and how he had a three-month-old baby.
I would have tuned him out like I always do, but I couldn't shake those last words. I've been told often enough that such stories are scams, and I know that there is a chance that in three months' time I'll see the same man repeating the same line about a three-month-old baby. But a persistent voice in my head made me open my purse and take out a two Euro coin: What if it were true?
I see everything differently now that le Petit is in my life. Everyone's baby is linked to my baby, and so many more of the world's open wounds are visible to me now.
When the man passed by me, I quickly dropped the coin into his hand without looking up. He was holding a picture of his family, proof for skeptics like myself, but I didn't even glance at it.
Much later, as the train pulled up to my station, I thought what I wanted to say, if I had had the nerve.
I would have asked the baby's name.