Le Hammam

8 02 2015

La Marais

La Marais

As I left the Paris Hammam there was one young man who drew my attention. He was of dark skin. Black. There was no doubt in my mind he was of African descent. He reminded me of my co-worker from the Grand Canyon…Mamadiou.

I did not speak to this young man as I dressed and gathered my belongings from the locker. He muttered something and I glanced over my left shoulder, but said nothing as I turned. It was at this time that I noticed a young build attached to a head with patches of gray hair coming in. This was not Mamadiou.

The Hammam had been an experience like none other. There were countless attractive, well built men, most in the prime of their lives. No one spoke, but everyone judged.

This was my last night in Paris before catching the Euro Star back to London.

The Hammam was not open 24 hours and they refused my American debit card, but the sympatheic front desk clerk directed me to the bank across Sebastionpol. There, he said, I would be able to withdraw cash, Euros of course. I diligently proceeded across le rue, to get cash, feeling slightly shameful as the guys in the que behind me chuckled at my confusion. What happened next was, dare I say, one of those moments.

As I withdrew my money from the French bank, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned around to find a teenage boy crouching behind a column in the lobby of the bank. I Immediately turned back to the ATM, completed my transaction — swiftly I might add — and took the cash and left. I let the boy, and his friend (another teenager) know in no uncertain terms what they were doing was suspect.

On the street, I approached the nearest men outside of the bank, strangers, but I felt compelled to let them know of the boys’ mischief in the bank.

“Those are Roma,” said one of the men. We know them as gypises. “They try to trick you,” the man said.

He then told me this was quite common in Paris. His friend, a Frenchman, agreed with laughter no less. I told both men if the Roma boys were intent on robbing me they would be greeted with a quick and forceful kick. I then demonstrated this kick to the men. The fat Frenchman found this to be especially funny. Much to my dismay, the other one asked for money. At this request I realized they were street people.

I scoffed and marched back across Sebastionpol to the Hammam, peeking inside the bank to see the Roma boys still hiding behind that column in the lobby. I paid the front desk clerk 15 euros and he gave me a small towel and locker number. I needed to relax after what just transpired. Had I been robbed, I would have been embarrassed, disgraced and humiliated. Unfortunately, there were just too many people at this Hammam to properly relax.

Adonis like figures waited for open spaces in the tubs and sauna. The sauna was especially cavernous. I worried of getting lost and unable to get out before shrinking down to nothing amid the steam. My confidence and self esteem were at all time lows inside this Paris Hammam. The feeling of guilt again sweeping into my psyche.

I walked all the way back to the hostel that night on the cold streets of Paris. My research into the strange subculture of Parisan men complete.

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