Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Paris, 1968

Liberty leading the People by Eugène Delacroix

Jean-Pierre ran down the hot streets, his boots clacking on cobblestone beneath him. People were shouting all around him, attracting more and more people as the roar of the crowd grew larger and louder. Panicked, he slipped down an alley way and kept running. The brick walls of Paris folded in around him and isolated him from the chaos out on the streets.

He stumbled to a stop and tried to catch his fleeting breath. His legs felt like jelly and his whole body shook as he stood with his hands on his knees and panted, sucking in muggy air poluted with the anger of a whole nation. He looked around the tiny courtyard he’d wound up in. It was a cool, secluded corner of Paris, full of shade but not emersed in shadow. Jean-Pierre was just thinking to himself that it would be a nice place to come and read when he was interrupted by a loud clang.

A young man, to whom Jean-Pierre was probably a few years junior, stumbled out into the courtyard through a group of garbage cans carrying a brick in his hand. He swore as he flailed about, trying to balance himself. When he noticed Jean-Pierre, looking as startled as an atheist at the pearly gates, the young man hurriedly gathered himself. With a great smile spread over his face, the young man caught his breath and stood up straight.

“Je m’appelle Max!” He declared boldly. “Comment t’appelle?”

“Je…Jean-Pierre!” Jean-Pierre sputtered. Max scrunched up his face, as if he were thinking very hard about something, until he cheerfully said that he liked the name. He then let himself himself fall to the ground, his legs spread out in front of him and a look of content on his face. Jean-Pierre glanced at the brick, still in Max’s hand. The corner was chipped off, a clean break. Jean-Pierre thought for a moment that maybe it had been broken smasing a police barricade. Or perhaps a policeman.

A loud crash echoed down the alley way from the street and Max grinned widely.

“Es tu prêt pour le revolution?”

Jean-Pierre asked him what revolution. Max simply hit his bat against the ground in a big flamboyant gesture. Jean-Pierre looked at him in confusion, waiting for an explanation. Max just kept staring up at the sky. Max said that he had found it too cold that morning and he was glad the sun was finally coming out. He shut his eyes and turned his face up expectantly. After a while he opened one eye and looked around the courtyard. Noticing that a sunbeam had falled on the ground a few feet away from him, he laughed to himself. Then, in a quiet voice that sent a shiver down Jean-Pierre’s spine, he said

“France sera le centre du monde encore.”

When Jean-Pierre asked what he meant, Max explained that nobody wasn’t thinking about France during the Revolution. They had reinvented politics and changed the way people saw thier leaders and they’d do it all again right here.

“Nous, comme, les français?”

“Non.” Said Max as he rose to his feet and looked at Jean-Pierre with a look so jubulant and frightening it was as if the very brith place of chaos was behind his eyes, “Tu et moi.”

With that, Max tossed the brick at Jean-Pierre. It flew across the courtyard, headed straight for Jean-Pierre’s chest. He caught it and stummbled back, lost his balance and fell on his behind. He sqeezed his eyes shut and winced until he became aware of something looming over him. He opened his eyes and looked up into Max’s grinning face, his smile seemingly no longer fitting in his head.

“Ici est ton billet de vote.”

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