White Bodies

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Hautvoir, Local projects on June 4, 2016 at 7:46 am

When she drove me home, one of the boys from Bangladesh was singing. First, he apologized because he had never sung in public before. Then, he sang and captivated everyone. I would have stayed but the offer of a ride up the hill was too good to turn down.

In the car, the talk was of fatigue. Prior to that, a friend (not given to such things) broke down and cried in my arms because there’s just too much work with too little time and all that work in the hope of getting some funds. Of course no pay accrues in building up the paper files.

Who wants to hear about endless fatigue. About dwindling resources and the arrogance of those for whom  money just is – why don’t the lazy bums get off their ass and earn some? Except it’s not even about the money anymore, only about the arrogance. And truncheons. And dismissive attitudes. Or threats, pure and simple.

How did you imagine France before you came here, I asked the boys in the afternoon workshop. Moving pictures on a TV screen, the Eiffel tower, films and sports, they answered. How do you see France now that you’re here, I asked. They’re a cautious bunch. They said they like it very much.

I read them the recollections of one who made it across the sea over fifty years ago. Who worked all his life in the local tanneries. The racism and contempt he experienced, and the good friends he found too. They listened as if someone was talking about their life.

When I first came across the expression des corps blancs (white bodies) in the boy’s notes, I wasn’t sure what he meant. White bodies, meaning ghosts? Medical staff in white clothes? He meant white people pulling them out of the sea, and how they struck him the way hallucinations do. I suppose over seventy-two hours of tossing in the salty brine would give a hallucinatory quality to any vision encountered outside the shifting and slopping about with others all sick, frightened and despairing.

None of those things apparent at last night’s get-together. They sang, they danced, they joked. They ate, drank, laughed and said nice things about the people helping them out.

This white body  just wishes the fatigue would let up. And the paperwork too. Plus, if the dog would be so kind as to sleep in until six am, I wouldn’t mind.

Allez? Allez, the rain has stopped. A cartoon shows French policemen beating back the flood in Paris, by hitting the water with truncheons and spraying it with tear gas. Might be a less damaging way to work off their frustrations, no?

Fiction – writing down the word, a bit like calling out the dog’s name. Here fiction, here fiction, come on, get back here. Good doggie, come on.


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