Boulevard de Denain, Paris

Time to peel the kid gloves and get my fingerprints on this, the story of a number of experiences, one in particular, from my service as a Mormon missionary in France and Belgium, 1980-1982, and then events and realizations peppered through my life as a young father and husband that resulted in my breaking away from religion, derailed, so to speak, not like a train, but rather a chain on a bicycle.

There is a new category on ImNoSaint called “Derailleur” to accommodate these posts and keep them in some chronological and, by virtue of their titles, geographical order. 

Two things. One, this will take awhile.  And two, there is no content here that is faith-promoting – a fair warning. Some of the content was originally written at the cusp of my personal disintegration several years ago, the punctuations of which have since allowed dots to be connected, the narrative of which can be read here.  

The names of those mentioned throughout the series have been changed.                                                                                                                                                                              -e

I was breaking protocol for the first time, having been out a little over a year. The infraction was leaving established mission boundaries, not something I did by choice though.

On second thought, this was the second time I did this, the first being deliberate but not as severe. We toured on a p-day to Strasbourg and crossed the river Rhine to the German side just to say we did it. We took photos for proof to brag on in district and zone meetings.

This second time took me way out of boundaries. I was in Nancy, France, and was transferred to a border town in Northern France, the ville of Tourcoing. The shortest route there via train was through Paris, another mission altogether. I had a layover at Gare Du Nord, a couple of hours if I remember. I left the station and wandered that quartier of Paris down Boulevard de Denain looking for a spot to buy postcards to send with Parisian postmarks back to comrades in Nancy.

I went into a patisserie to ask where I might find some. There was a girl behind the displays, around my age, and I asked her what must have been an inane question since La Gare was just down the street, a tourist point of origin, but she didn’t take it that way. She came out from behind the counter, the two of us the only ones in the store, and she walked to the front door, closed and locked it and told me she had postcards upstairs while she took off her apron.

She was incredible and I was incognito having stashed my badge in my breast pocket. She grabbed my hand and began to lead me up stairs to what I can only now imagine. “I think we have a misunderstanding,” I said, and I unlocked the door went back out into the boulevard.

Imagine being able to tell the story of how I lost my virginity at twenty years-old with a beautiful French girl during a layover in Paris while I was a Mormon missionary. My life would be significantly different.

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