A Drizzly Day at the Musée d’Orsay
by Kevin Nicholas Gavit
chapter 1. Sunrise in Paris is a beautiful sight. It’s never too busy with people or traffic as most Parisians are either still sleeping or just getting ready to go out and start their days. If you are lucky enough to find yourself welcoming the new day, take a walk on a bridge crossing the Seine and watch as the sun slowly ascends above the old world Paris skyline. However, on a more average day, the sky will be filled with clouds and locating the source of light in the sky will be impossible. On these days, just because the sky is full of dark clouds does not mean rain. They simply tease you with the chance of precipitation. Carrying an umbrella on your person year round is always the best course.
5 October, 9:15am: the grey clouds loitering over Paris make the day seem close to an end with an eerie darkness. The clouds have been strong at preventing the sun from making an appearance and for good measure, a light mist of rain has started. It’s such a light dusting that those stuck in it debate to either use their umbrella or not. In front of the entrance to the Musée d’Orsay, a line has already formed. Unfortunately, the glass awning of the entrance to the museum is tall enough to be ineffective to water coming down at any angle.
A tall skinny man in his late 40’s, wearing a members only jacket with a touch of grey at his temples is seen pacing in line. His accent identifies him as British, and his annoyance explains that he is a tour guide. His group consists of 25 people, 15 are high school students, 5 are teachers and the other 5 are retirees. All are american, adding more annoyance for the tour guide. He keeps saying to himself, but loud enough for anyone in a 50 foot radius to hear “When are they going to open the damn doors, it’s cold and raining.” His grievances have no effect on the staff of the museum as they wait until 9:30am to open the museum for all. Once in the door, the real hassle begins as the tour group all must purchase tickets, individually, and although the Euro is not too difficult to understand, spending money for Americans always seems to be painful. The tour guide hovers over each ticket counter to see who requires his help, in this, he is making himself crazy with anxiety. Although the ticket counter experience seemed an eternity, it only took about 5 minutes total. The tour guide grabs English maps of the museum and hands one to everyone in the group. He reminds them that they have a schedule to keep and to meet back at the entrance no later than 12pm. He himself has visited this museum more than 100 times and no longer has any interest in seeing the art. He grabs a newspaper from his bag, and sits at a small bench near the front to read alone. As he read he did not notice the older woman covered in a rain poncho slowly making her way towards the elevator.
chapter 2. The older woman, who looked to be near 100 years old, although moving slowly, did not seem to have much trouble. She was only about five feet, four inches tall, with white hair recently professionally done. She was wearing a blue dress of heavy material to keep her warm, all enclosed by the translucent rain poncho. A young girl, already weary from the day, escaped from her mother’s grip and ran in to the middle of the hall to look up at the magnificent ceiling. The arches, the glass being gently kissed by the rain, bringing in a minimal amount of natural light, made the girl want to know how it was created. In a building full of priceless artwork, this young child had only eyes for the architecture. The older woman raised her head and smiled at the girl’s rebellion and her interest & awe in the ceiling. The woman didn’t need to watch her step as she had made this journey many times before. The building seemed to not only remember this woman, but embrace her as an old friend. Usually the woman would take the stairs up to her destination, a very time-consuming act. Due to the rain, she knew the elevator was the safest option for her, as the many tourist and spectators would bring in water on their shoes. She got in to the lift and gently placed her hand as against the side to help keep her balance. A few more people got in to the elevator as well, and it made its ascension to the top floor. As the doors opened up, the woman slowly made her way out and stopped a few feet outside of the lift. She stared in wonder at the beautiful clock that she had come to see. She seemed to float towards the clock as the beauty of the structure, mixed with the breathtaking view appeared to have cast a spell on her. A few teenagers were taking selfies in front of the clock, but she wouldn’t be held back. She gently squeezed in between the kids and made herself comfortable. Luckily enough, this act made the kids decide to head over to the food court, leaving her at peace with the clock. Standing there, looking over Paris, she experienced so many emotions in such a short time. A few years started to run down her eyes, but she was smiling. A young man in his thirties walked over to take in the view as well. Standing beside her, he couldn’t help to notice the tears, so he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to her. She hadn’t noticed the young man until this act, and she refocused on the present, while temporarily setting aside her memories. “Merci beaucoup, monsieur.” She said to him hesitantly taking the handkerchief. “Da rien, madame.” He said to her in. As he tried to find the French words to ask if she was alright, she gently laughed and asked if he was an American. He apologized for his French and she started to explain that she always comes to the museum on the anniversary of her wedding proposal.
She informed him that in 1938, her then boyfriend proposed marriage to her at this very spot. She went in to further details about the Nazi Occupation shortly after and how it took him away from her to fight in the war. She told the young man that she was never the type to be told what to do and how she decided to join the French Resistance. If the man she loved was going to fight, she would too. Every time she was going to stop talking about her life, the young man begged for more. In 1943, she and a girlfriend were walking home along the Seine after work. The two ladies were approached by two drunk Nazi officers who started to grab their wrist. Her girlfriend said no, and the officer slapped her knocking her to the ground. Then a gunshot was heard and the officer sank to the ground. The other officer, turned to look at the woman standing beside him holding a small gun. As he started to bark German at her, the woman laying on the ground grabbed the handgun from her purse and shot him as well. Both officers were now dead on the ground. The two ladies collected themselves, looked around to ensure nobody had witnessed this event and made their way to their apartment. The older woman then pointed to a spot across the Seine and said “that is where the bodies were découvert the following morning. The young man was enraptured by her stories, he couldn’t believe she had actually been an active member of the French Resistance. He told her how much he admired her for all she had done, she was a true heroine, and asked if she had ever written these stories down. She sighed and told him that she did not consider herself a hero. She was just glad that she made it through that night alive. “My husband finally came home from the war and we decided to only focus on a positive future. We wanted our children to live happy lives, so neither of us spoke much of the war.” She took her eyes off of the young man for a moment, and looked out of the window again. The drizzle outside had turned in to a rain and the drops were collecting and streaming down the window. She continued on, saying “my husband and I would come here every year on the anniversary of the proposal and never say much, we would just hold each other while gazing out the window. After he died, I now come her to remember all of the good times we had together.” The young man now had tears in his eyes, and the older woman laughed gently and handed him his handkerchief. He started to laugh as well and they both smiled. Saying goodbye to her and wishing her a nice day, he headed down the hallway. She looked out the window one last time, said a few loving words in French to her husband and turned towards the elevator.
chapter 3. The rain was falling harder now, and soaking everything it touched. A young man was sipping on a Starbucks cup walking down the street when it started and he darted towards the museum entrance. This young man was 34 years old, 5 foot, 8 inches tall, slender, wearing jeans and a hoodie. He was Vietnamese with jet black medium length hair, a chiseled jaw and the most gorgeous dark eyes you have ever seen. He was glad to be out of the rain, but he had a deep expression of sadness on his handsome face. He walked in to the museum, threw his cup in the receptacle and purchased a ticket. Although he hadn’t planned on going anywhere specific today, the weather made the decision for him. He walked around the museum, without much enthusiasm or direction. He walked in and out of rooms just barely racing his head to notice the art work. Just by chance he looked up nonchalantly and his eyes were fixed to a drawing. It was the work of Leon Spilliaert entitled Portrait of the artist by himself. The young man looked at this piece and felt he could relate to the melancholy essence of the portrait. He approached closer to the drawing, and started to as absorb every aspect of the piece.
A minute later he was brought back by a tap on his shoulder. It was an American family, with an overweight dad, overweight mom and three overly loud kids. The dad said, “CAN YOU TAKE OUR PICTURE?” in a loud voice while imitating the process of taking a photograph. The young man startled by such an abrasive request, had to fully gain his consciousness, before saying “yes.” The family gathered together and all shouted “CHEESE” at the young man. He snapped the photo and handed it back to the father. “THANK YOU VERY MUCH.” was all the father shouted and then as they walked away he said to his wife, “you think the way those Orientals take pictures of everything, he could of at least took a better shot of us.” The young man overhearing this, just looked at the drawing again.
As he stood there studying the piece a class of high school Parisians walked in the room. Two guys who seemed to be the toughest in the group walked over to him and told him, in French that he and all his Chinese people need to leave France and never come back. He had experienced this kind of prejudice before. Most Asian people living in Paris are automatically thought to be Chinese and looked down upon. Those who aren’t Chinese have to explain the ancestry to hopefully gain a minimal acceptance. Those who are Chinese have to defend themselves explaining their work, their family, their school….justifying their right to be there. Our young man has dealt with this all of his life. He was born and raised in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, he has never been to Asia. He told the two students in perfect French to fuck off or he’ll get their instructor involved. Knowing how strict school instructors are, the two jerks quietly submitted and rejoined their group. Although this was a mini-win for the young man, the fact remained that he was asian in a white world. He decided to leave the portrait, hearing the rain come thundering down knew he couldn’t leave yet. He decided to keep wandering around hoping another piece would captivate his emotions like the first.
***This is still a draft, I will update more over the next few weeks***