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Or would you like to read some stories?
Here you go:
We were done shopping for groceries, and it started getting dark. This twilight around 4.30pm on a rainy day at the end of November. I was carrying two bags filled with food, yet my children insisted on doing a detour through the park. Well, why not. The bags were heavy, I was tired, but I had no desire to argue.
Next to the park entrance was a big crowd. It was Tuesday, Resto du Coeur*. Hundreds of people getting ready to line up in a queue. Old people and lots of refugees. My older son, curious like me, wanted to know what they were doing, why they wouldn’t go home for dinner. He wanted to watch, so we stopped, waiting next to a bush. I put down my bags, thinking about the milk and the yogurts and the fresh fish inside. They should be ok, it was cold enough, they wouldn’t go bad immediately.
All of a sudden I hear a rustling in the bush. Under the branches, hidden, I discover a lobster. I look at him more closely, he’s looking at me. Two black little dots fixating me. I realise he’s still alive.
– Hey, he says with a deep little voice, you know the neighbourhood?
Do I know the neighbourhood? Of course I do! People often ask me this question, because when you’re out walking with children and a dog, they immediately assume you’re from the neighbourhood. But it’s the first time a crustacean is asking me this question.
– You know the Terminus?
– The Terminus?
– The restaurant Terminus.
– Oh yes, of course, it’s not far. It’s in front of Gare du Nord, the train station.
– Ok, can you bring me there?
He wants me to carry him. Poor guy, he’s so thin. I’m hesitating to reach out to him, his pinchers scare me. He puts them down, to reassure me. I lift him up and put him in one of the two bags, the one without the fish, because I’m a bit embarrassed. My children are fascinated by this animal: they don’t care about the crowd, the soup kitchen or the park anymore. Bringing a lobster in front of the station, that’s all that matters now.
Walking up the stairs to Rue d’Alsace, I ask him what he plans on doing at the Terminus.
– My wife’s there. – Excuse-me?
– We got separated in Rungis * two weeks ago. They told me she was sold to the Terminus. I was taken to the Restaurant Procope. This morning I managed to escape from the tank. I swam up the Seine, then the canal Saint-Martin. But coming out of the water, I got lost. I don’t know where I am and I’m exhausted. I just want to join my wife.
I hesitate to express my thoughts, but he understands immediately.
– A lobster doesn’t last in a restaurant, I know. But there’s always hope. I need certainty.
One of my sons wants to pet the lobster: I ask him permission, but he doesn’t respond. All of his attention is focussed on our arrival at the Terminus. We’re five minutes away.
It’s dark, the sidewalks are packed, the light is beautiful. Everyone’s passing by, in a hurry to make it to some destination. And we’re already in front of the vitrine of the restaurant’s seafood. Oysters, crabs, shrimp and two lobsters. Mine, squeezed between a multi-grain bread and bananas, recognises immediately his wife. There she lies, calmly, all red.
– Put me next to her, he says to me.
Therefore, we have to enter the restaurant. Not easy to do it discretely, when your three people plus a stroller, a scooter and two grocery bags. I tell the hostess at the entrance that we’re looking for my wife who’s supposed to be somewhere in the restaurant having an apéro and that we would like to surprise her. Next, I’m pushing my children across this giant brasserie, looking for a mother who certainly won’t be there. Standing next to the seafood display, I pull the lobster out of the bag and place it gently next to his wife, sheltered by a large basket of oysters.
Back outside, my son refuses to go home. We remain stuck to the vitrine, looking at our lobster. He seems calm, sad and relieved at the same time. An employee of the restaurant appears. He inspects the display for a long time. Finally, shaking his head, he grabs my friend and returns to the kitchen.
* Restos du coeur is a French charity organisation which distributes hot meals to those in need.
*) Rungis is the location of the wholesale food market serving the Paris metropolitan area and beyond.
PS: This text was originally written in French. Translation by the author with the help of his lovely wife Elle.
And another one:
TO THE RIGHT
My friend Marc had an accident. On Christmas Eve. He just needed an onion that he was going to buy at the little bodega across the street, then he got hit by a car on his way home, his onion in his hand. It all happened very quickly. Apparently he wasn’t dead right away, just with serious fractures. But a kind homeless person, clearly without any medical training, immediately ran to get a defibrillator as the ones that have been installed in many places in Paris lately. According to the doctors, the pressure of the defibrillator on the fractured ribs caused internal hemorrhaging which eventually led to Marc’s death.
He hadn’t really felt the impact of the car that emerged to his right. Everything went too fast. At one point, Marc felt his soul being ejected and he was floating about 15 meters above his body lying on the ground. He saw a lot of agitation, people running, crying, watching the scene bathed in the blue lights of the ambulance Marc felt a calm and peace that he never thought possible. He saw the driver of the car desperate, in shock. Marc wanted to tell him that it wasn’t serious, that he, Marc, was fine and that everything was going to be all right.
This inner calm, this peace that accepted the world, destiny as it was, could have gone on forever, if there hadn’t been a disturbing buzz on the right. Mark could not find its origin. And suddenly he realized it was a drone. A drone hovering at the same height. Leopold, 14 years old, the son of the neighbors must have received it for Christmas and he was testing it from their balcony.
Face to face with this flying object, Marc looked straight into the camera. He could feel the lens piercing directly into his soul. Marc understood that Leopold had activated a livestream on Instagram. All his friends, the entire internet, because Leopold’s account was in public mode, could witness Marc’s death live. This precious moment that condensed his whole life, his life, destined to arrive at that moment which now was exposed before the eyes of strangers.
Marc couldn’t help wondering how many likes his death was going to generate. And immediately he could see the comments scrolling by next to the livestream:
Dragon2000 wrote: RIP! @Lepold: Who the f… is this? No luck, poor guy.
Teddy14: Too bad, he was cute!
Flo_Bert: Not how I’d like to spend the holidays! Cheer up everyone! Merry Christmas to you all!
Historynerd: Nooo, you all see how the guy is lying there? Looks like a swastika!
And Poppin_Hood replied: OMG, you’re right! #metooanazi!
Marc was trying to disconnect and bathe again in that peace he had felt a few moments ago. But a fear took hold of him. He felt the gaze of this camera fixed on him. He hears the questions (of the entity behind the lens,) of the whole internet: So, did you do all your homework? Were you up to what life asked of you? How about your wife? Was she happy with you? Did you love her? If you had the choice to trade with her: Would you still be ready to die? And your children? Now that you won’t be around anymore? That could have happened anytime! Don’t say you didn’t know! What did you give them during the time you were given? What will they remember about you? Who are your friends? What did you do for them?
In this whirlwind of thoughts and questions, Mark felt himself being carried farther and farther away from the scene of the accident, and the uproar in the street slowly faded out, into absolute silence.
Metooanazi – this hashtag was quickly picked up by twitter and google. Indeed, Mark was lying in the shape of a swastika on the asphalt. A screenshot created a big buzz on extreme right-wing sites. Neofachists of all ages asked to be positioned in the same way the day of their passing. They wanted this to be their last photo published on social networks. It was a virtual corpse pillage that happened with Marc’s body. And yet he had always voted left.