Oh 1902, merely two fragments of a decade escaping the degradation of a revolution. For in France, only the good lay down their weapons in salutation, in hopes for a brighter tomorrow. Even screams turn into the echoes of laughter, and songs of joyful children warm the golden sun. If we cry for eternity, we are never rewarded with serenity.
Antoine knew the risks of entering another’s wholesome world. His loving companion, Bertrand, has been a partner through various occasions. Still, challenges rose like the lifting of debris in a terrible gale. We speak of being wholesome, so the continuation of trauma still occurs. Antoine is far from being whole. Right now, he is trembling.
He pores over the remnants of one crushed flower at his foot, perhaps imagining the perceived suspect to resemble a misguided, or otherwise lost relative. As a philosopher, the scents of a garden are nothing to give allowance to, much as making or suppressing an emotion provoked from the yellow of daffodils can be trivialized.
Once, a doctor offered to examine Antoine’s sweat glands. Although it had been a rather peculiar inquiry, Antoine nevertheless conceded. The doctor placed Antoine’s hand under a microscope. While this fascinating invention broadened the scope of the modern era in general, that circular lens that penetrated the unseen, discovered something endemic to him; that his pores are widened! This had given the doctor the realization that Antoine must be susceptible to the slightest of shocks. By the same token, the faintest glimmer of stress could break him out in a beady tantrum.
Within this garden decorated at every corner, above the highest fence, and against the longest crevice, are the many vines, contrasting petals, and intermingling scents, all of which trigger confusion to suddenly set in Antoine’s mind. He neither despises the scenery, nor wishes to leave its merciless display of incandescence. At once, his elongated skull does two turns to the right, and to the left. He calls out his friend’s name. “Bertrand?” But there is no response. No requited echo, nor even God’s right-hand-man giving Antoine the attention he desires.
The smells of ripe grapefruit, and the buzzing of insects shifts his focus towards the sky. The ethereal blue is vast in its harmonies, and should God open his gates as Revelations dictates for Mankind, the blue would mingle with the yellow for white to rain down.
Antoine notices the sun. He longs to take hold of its golden mixture, but Helios is not one to allow that. Through heat and temperament, Antoine becomes the frustrated observer. For the colors which surround his body are near to absolving themselves of wholeness.
A few salty droplets fall from his temples, to the grass at his feet. For now, he hears nothing but the breeze. Carriages in the streets are drawn through the wind by the movement of horses. The cracking of whips has the mares gliding forward. For their strength to wither is a coach’s nightmare.
Where does this garden, which Antoine steadies himself in, keep all its hues and shades? As one may know, this swath of evergreen bushes that are bright in their vermillion, border between the Seine river, and the Rue de Rivoli. No one surrounds this poor figure. No one will view Antoine’s form. He is not observable by the public. There is nothing to view as art, save for the pose in which he captures himself. For if not within view of the public, his presence is surely melded in shadows. Likewise, he may only peek at the occasional gleam of the sun from behind the clouds, yet it is still in view.
It is a day where the clouds have formed their delicate shapes in bulky twists. In shadows, Antoine is left with only himself, hidden in the trees, separated by a black fence. Still, he calls out, “Bertrand?” A man’s name. His friend’s name.
He is stationary, listless as an abandoned feline upon the roadway. The wheels of his mind are turning. In relation to the meager half decade in which his thoughts speed through. Being left alone, Antoine had scrawled something on a loose leaf of paper. Perhaps a poem? No. A mere few thoughts, contrived from some level of boredom, written with trembling hands and a pen that flawed the wintry white paper with a stain. What had he written? It will be recited: “I had dreamed of days belonging to a world where the unknown is comprehended by the known. This is when the black would be seen by the white, the feared would be understood by the fearful. For when the known looks upon the unknown, they fear it.
One who makes things fact would look at a subject as if it were a tree, once a mere seedling. Then, it sprouts into many branches, which results in confusion. What once existed was the unknown, the blackness of night. Then, what was born from it, was the whiteness, which was the known. They both remain, but are impossible to separate completely.
If we separate the unknown from the known, there is destruction, and love is displaced. Misery will rule the earth once more.”
These were the words, written in shadow, and only given light by the occasional gleam of the sun. Sadness now accompanies Antoine, who throws final glances at this piece of paper with the daunting words written upon it. What could the true meaning be?
To have knowledge of its meaning, one should trust in nature. There is only wisdom to be found from where we came from. The knowledge gained through science cannot surpass that. Antoine is the deceiver of all scientific knowledge, as he resolves to morph it into abstract form. He is immersed in these thoughts, until being interrupted by a disturbance.
Around one of the many corners of this garden, a man approaches. He might have heard Antoine whispering to himself, as a madman would. But this man, who notices Antoine, smiles in a friendly manner. He does not stir from fright, but only moves forward silently, and places his hand on Antoine’s shoulder. Warmth spreads down into the cold embers of this whimpering man’s heart. He turns around, and the sight before him fills his face with glee.
Indeed, Bertrand stands before Antoine, pledging afternoon pleasantries with his salutations, and with a graze of a coarse hand to the cheek. It is merely a gesture of courtesy, for why else, but to impart the memory of friendship within the thickening toil of philosophical musings?
In the next moment, a conversation begins. First, Antoine raises his body, and looks deep into Bertrand’s eyes. He smiles, though somewhat doubtful.
“I assume you have many things to share,” says Bertrand. “You, who takes the walk into these shadows, must have been shivering while unfolding ideas on any sort of paper that may lurk in your pockets. I would like to see it.”
“Certainly,” says Antoine, without any hesitation. That doubt which had been mentioned is washed away, simply from hearing his friend’s voice.
Bertrand eyes the scribbled words in their faintness. Some of the letters are mashed together, but through the glimmers of sunlight that occasionally peeps through the boughs above, he can make out the scrawling. What he reads puts Bertrand into a deepening reverie. He places his first two fingers to his brow, in that familiar subtle gesture of exasperation we all seem to recognize. After, he closes his eyes, and begins to ponder heavily on the reading.
What swirls within his mind should be left untenable. But, as Antoine notices this change in expression, doubt once more replaces the calm serenity that dotted his countenance. He begins to examine his friend’s face, first from the nose, which quivers, then to the ears, which twitch. He looks to the lips, and observes how they purse together before relaxing. In all the moments of friendly companionship; these are the most intense, as one friend dotes on the worth of the other’s state of mind. Is this contemplation the weight that will break the bond? Perhaps shatter the emotion which ties the two together? Release memories through tears? It seems that as Antoine is watching Bertrand, with tension spreading over his features, it might not be too late to react.
“Bertrand! What has happened? You seem to be in shock. How can I aid you? Has what I’ve written disturbed you this much, that it now threatens our friendship? Oh, God! How I wish I had not written that!” He drops to his knees, speaking softly to the heavens.
But, that thud to the soil also caused one of Antoine’s knees to land on Bertrand’s feet. Though it did not pain him, even in the slightest, it seemed to awaken Bertrand from his seemingly comatose sensibility. He calls out, “Ah!” and says to Antoine, “I am merely thinking that you have reached a breaking point in your theory.”
The words spoken nearly break Antoine, who looks up with wide eyes, searching for sincerity in Bertrand’s eyes, which he does capture in its purity. It is like a painting, the ideal self-portrait for the most direct of artists. The hues of the irises against the shadows of his face, along with a smile which seems akin to a cupid in love, lends a glowing majesty to the admirer at his feet.
“Stand up, friend Antoine. We shall go somewhere to discuss this in detail.”
He stands, and says, “I am in your service.”
Bertrand laughs, “I am not your monarch, nor am I your superior of any sort. We are equals, through bonds which no man can express or explain. You, kneeling at my feet, was simply a moment belonging to circumstance. Now, no more talk. Let us go.”
The birds above, and the crickets below, watch as two friends mingle their forms in the growing shadows, to next awaken once more in the light of the afternoon that fades into evening.