Lost in Brussels

I rushed out of the office still hoping not to be late for my class in the gym. I was planning to go to place Chatelaine after to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the Wednesday market and get material for a post in my blog. Just before entering the metro I grabbed a small Milka chocolate with whole hazelnuts to help me go through those 30 min of intense tummy exercises. I was chewing it as the escalator was taking me down when I noticed a boy standing down there in front of me. He was wearing a yellow T-shirt and sporty trousers. He turned back and looked at me. Then again. He started talking to me despite the distance. “I got lost” he said in French.

Now we were down. I asked him what happened. He explained how he was walking ahead and then he turned and his parents and little sister were not there anymore. He didn’t know the phone numbers of anyone in the family. I asked him about his name and age. He was twelve. I was wondering what to do. “Come with me to the gym”, I said. “The guys there speak better French than me and they can help you.” We have missed one train but the next one coming any moment. “They will call the police…” I continued. “The police?” “Yes” “No, I don’t want to go to the police” “But they will find the numbers of your parents…” “No, no, I am scared. I am leaving” he turned back in the direction to the exit and started climbing the stairs. I was standing there and watching at him. “Ok, no need to go to the gym. I will call the police…” I was trying to reach him with my words. ”No, no, I am going, merci, Madame…”

I went back to the platform. I had just missed another train. I was getting really late for my class. I was trying to figure out was his case was. Was he lying to me? Or did he have an intellectual or some other disability? I didn’t have to think much since he appeared again. His brown eyes were looking at me with hesitation. “Ok”, he said. “I will come with you”. “It’s only one stop away from here”.

As we were walking to the gym he was asking me about different things. I was trying to be as articulate in French as possible. “I will wait here”, he said when we reached the club, “I am scared to enter”. I told him I would come back with someone from the staff in a moment. But something made me turn and go back outside. He was not there anymore. That same “something” made me cross the street and take the one next to the opposite building. I saw him turning behind the corner half running. I followed him from distance. The next street was long. He was well ahead of me, walking fast or running. He turned behind the corner again and I decided that it made more sense to face him from the opposite direction as he was making a circle. Once he saw me, he turned back again and started walking fast. I was following him. He looked back at me as he was walking. I made a gesture with open hands which was supposed to mean “what are you doing?” I made another gesture telling him to stop. He did. “What are you doing?” I asked him softly when I reached him. “I am trying to help you and you are disappearing! I have just missed my class. Do you think I can leave you in the street like this? What will you do in such case?” “I am very scared, Madame, I have never lost my parents before”. “There is nothing to be scared about. We will find them. Come with me now”. He didn’t want to enter the building again but promised to stay there. “Please stay. Otherwise the guy will think I am crazy when there is no one here”. He smiled.

The Polish man from the reception was very nice and helpful. He explained to him in good French that we should go to the police and told me where the closest station was. This time the boy agreed. We walked back towards Park Royal. And somewhere on the way he started trusting me. “Thank you for all that you are doing for me, Madame. You are so kind to me”.

He was from Turkish origin. He was telling me how amasingly beautiful Turkey was and asking whether I have been there. Then he said he was going to a special school because it was a bit difficult for him to count. “You don’t need a special school”, I said, “You are very bright”. He shared with me about his mum who had passed away four years ago. The current wife of his father was nice to him. But he was missing his mum…He asked me about my family and status and what I did in life. “Are you young?” he asked. “Well, not very young…” He wanted to know my exact age.

We were trying to find the police station. The policeman in front of one of the state institutions there called his colleagues. One of them accompanied us to the building situated amongst the park. They were just about to close when we appeared. The policeman there was not hugely excited by the prospect of staying longer but did not protest. We entered and he started asking questions. He looked serious and strict and the boy got anxious again. I was trying to reassure him that we are in the right place and the guy would help us find his parents. But they were not in the system. He was calling colleagues in the area where the boy lived. A police car was on the way to take us to his neighbourhood to try to find his address. But then the policeman traced a neighbour and managed to get her on the phone. She called the boy’s father and the policeman talked with him. A few more conversations followed till it became clear that the grandparents were with the metro police and were coming to pick him. The boy and I were chatting as we were waiting for them. “Are you ok now?” I asked him. “I thought I would never find them”, he said and his voice was expressing more than his words. I shared with him the story of my mum who was taken from the street by a gypsy caravan when she was four. And how the police reached them as they were leaving the city.

“I will never forget you, Madame, you were so good to me. Thank you so much for all that you did for me” he was repeating. “There is nothing to thank me about. This is normal. I helped you, other people help me…I will never forget you either”.

Half an hour later, meaning couple of hours after the beginning of my class and one hour after the end of the working time of the police station, they were there. An older couple, thin, small, with some humble gentleness in their faces. The two policemen with them asked the boy and me a few questions. Then we all shook hands. Everyone seemed relieved and happy with the good ending. I walked with the boy and his grandparents. They were speaking vividly Turkish. “Do you speak Turkish, Madame?” the woman asked. I had told them I was Bulgarian. We stopped in front of the same metro station where I had met him. “You are a wonderful boy”, I said, “So nice and smart”. He smiled. Then we took different directions.

The dusk had embraced the city. It was a lovely spring evening. The perfect time to celebrate life with a glass of white wine at Place Chatelaine.

2 thoughts on “Lost in Brussels

  1. I like the subdued crime element in the story. When the boy was running away from you in a circle, I thought for a moment that he was pulling your legs. But apparently, he was just afraid. Women have better tentacles for things like that!

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