Le Papillon

BTSB - Le Papillon Cover

 

Autumn leaves waltz on the melancholic floor while I straighten Veronique’s hat. I give her a kiss on the forehead and tighten my grip on her tiny fingers that always radiate intense heat for the whole world to feel. She responds with a content smile; and off we go, losing ourselves into the crowd of busy eyes that are quietly searching for something unpronounced.

We get through the stamping of the shoes and sit on a grey-painted bench, next to a grey stone wall. The red letters scream, 7 minutes. Just enough time for Veronique to get bored, so I start to gently rock her on my lap, humming a song from my childhood — kilometres of sundried grass, serpentine streams of clear water, and never-ending sunflower fields.

C’était un’ petit’ fille

Qui s’appellait Suzon

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.

My voice suddenly turns cold, out of some strange, unknown longing. I let Veronique sing louder when we get to the second verse. It’s her favourite song, and has been since she learnt to speak. How has it already been four years…

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison;

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

”Maman, I want to see a butterfly, too!” she cries interrupting our singing. Smiling, I tell her that it’s not possible to see one before the spring arrives.

”How long will it take, maman?”

I pause briefly and then go on about how soon it’ll all be green and happy. ”Close your eyes and you’ll see. Let’s go!”

We imagine a cloud of colourful butterflies flying above a verdant meadow; we imagine the first flowers of the spring peeking from the trenches of promesse; we imagine dance steps here and there, bright lipsticks, first touches of the spring sun, final exams, moving ceremonies, excitement on school girls’ faces.

”But maman, when can I see it myself?!”

I force a smile and make empty promises once again. It’s only October, but I’m too afraid myself to admit that it takes about half a year until she can see those oh, so important butterflies.

”Vero, we’ve got to go now, take my hand.”

I’m already rushing toward the metro that would be arriving soon when I realize that the extension of my arm isn’t following me. When I turn around, I see my little girl standing still, weakly pulling my hand toward herself.

”Stop.”

”Vero, what’s wrong now? We’re in a hurry!”

”Non, non, maman, look, on the floor… you could’ve tripped on that paper and hit your head. You’ve said it yourself, you’ve said that we always have to watch where we step.”

I feel guilty, culpable of all these everyday injustices I let happen to my only child, blaming lack of time, tiredness, or hastiness. In the middle of endless quotidian responsibilities and tasks to carry out, I sometimes come to question my motherly abilities.

”My little life guard, you’re right. Thank you.”

She throws a mesmerizing smile and off we hurry, escaping the darkness that’s chasing me and my girl who is loyally following her infallible guardian.

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.

 

Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons.

Someone knocks on my shoulder and I turn around telling Veronique to wait a moment. A ragged stranger grabs my arm and pulls me aside. I become aware of the arriving metro; it’s already shaking the grey ground. I have just the time to open my mouth intending to complain about our hurry, when the man starts to proclaim in a thick Parisian accent:

”Madame, you must listen to me for just a moment! I am sure you have time for this, because my announcement is very important!”

He doesn’t even breathe before he goes on for a few more words, until I interrupt him, rudely, in a way so very unusual of me. When rushing toward the metro that is now slowing down only about a hundred metres away from the platform, I keep thinking about my nature that I’m sure has changed into identical with the busy city people, who don’t care about anyone else surrounding them. They know how to dispirit a childishly enthusiastic tourist, the likes of whom I once served in the countryside. In my past life, I would happily bake them cakes and pies, pour perfectly steamed milk into espresso, and decorate chocolates, with a wide smile complementing my features; but when they would return to the melancholy tango of car lights on buzzing yet depressingly grey streets, they would forget all about the texture of my divine dark chocolate truffles.

There’s the crowd again, swirling and moving toward the metro. I fake a smile once more, preparing to take Veronique on her first metro trip to a whole new part of Paris. ”Vero, are you ready for an adventure?”

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons.

Suddenly, there is no answer.

Everything is fine, I must be overreacting, I tell myself — the girl stood next to me a second ago, I’m being paranoid, surely she just wandered a few feet away from me, and now all these people are just covering her tiny figure; she’s so easy to lose if you let her hand go for a single second… It really is about seconds.

The seconds I wandered around the metro station felt like hours. When it finally struck my mind, the one thing no one should ever have to experience, which eventually ended up being the truth, everything went silent.

Like in a movie, people start to scream here and there, pointing toward the metro tunnel, staring and marvelling. It felt like a disgrace — as if there wasn’t enough pain to get through in the accident itself. From that day on, I started to dislike people.

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

I make my way through the crowd of faceless Parisians now in disarray, to see what is going on.

There lies an angel on the rails, and she is smiling; her smile is cruel and beautiful. A left foot’s shoe has flown metres away and a right arm bent unnaturally. I stare at this sight without any understanding, thinking that the angel looks relieved, happy even.

But it’s not spring yet.

I jump down not noticing the tears falling down my cheeks. ”Oh my God, she’s breathing, what are you all looking at, the angel is breathing and she’s happy, she’s enjoying the spring sun, she’s smiling, can’t you see…”

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

Slowly, my senses begin to work again, and a clear comprehension strikes my mind. My bones start to ache, my lungs shut down. I can’t hear any noise of breathing, the body next to me is ice-cold, the smile is gone.

Suddenly, I am being dragged away from the last scene of her I ever get to witness again. I lift my head and notice a painted butterfly on the concrete wall behind her.

It’s smiling.

Another Year Over

Jesper 2

Another year over… Or, well, I guess this hasn’t been just another year, for better or worse. I’d be remiss not to discuss some of the more negative things that have happened this year, specifically in terms of the coverage and response to said events. Take, for instance, the terrorist attacks in Paris. Clearly, it was a horrific event that affected a lot of us, but there was also a weird insurgence of so-called “tragedy hipsterism,” where some criticized others for mourning the Paris attacks while ignoring similar attacks in places like Beirut. Certainly, there is a point to be made regarding how western-centric our perspective might be, but there’s a way to address that, and this was not it. Instead, a “holier-than-thou” outlook was adopted, and grief-shaming was suddenly a new way to prove how much of a better person you are than others.

And on the subject of perspective, or lack there of, there was the rise of Donald Trump and his misuse of the term “political correctness.” Suddenly, people were allowed to say anything they wanted to, but if you called them out on their bullshit, they could hide behind their “you’re being too politically correct and so are afraid to tell the truth” counter-argument. A lot of people seem to forget that “freedom of speech” does not mean “freedom from repercussions,” so if you say something racist or problematic, you can be criticized for it without anyone invading your right to free speech.

The point I’m trying to make is that we’ve lost a sense of perspective. Rather than evaluating a situation, everything seems to follow the “offense is the best defense” school of thought. The tragedy hipsters would rather attack people with needless self-righteousness just as Donald Trump shamelessly attacks a whole group of people for the actions of a few.

Now more than ever, we need to pay attention to what we say. There are those who say things that should absolutely be ridiculed, yet still manage to be an incredibly dangerous influence. Others might have good intentions, but the way they bring them across is ridiculous. Some are applauded just for speaking, even when what they say is complete nonsense (i.e. Kanye West). Words are incredibly powerful tools, and can be misused tragically. Just look at the word choices the American media makes while covering different attacks: Muslim murderers are all terrorists, while white American murderers are just tragically “mentally ill.” Underestimating this power is incredibly dangerous, and I think Donald Trump is an excellent example of someone who was initially laughed off yet is now proving how volatile a situation can become through the use of speech alone. That’s one of the biggest lessons to come out of 2015, in my opinion.

I know that this has been a downer of a note, especially right before the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be. 2015 is almost over but 2016 can be better. My hope is that we start taking racism and prejudice more seriously, using our voices to fight back against those who spread hate and terror, whether that be ISIS or Trump. Get out there and make your voice be heard, but don’t forget to pick your battles wisely either. Rather than ridiculing people who are grieving, we should be ridiculing the disgusting statements made by people attempting to capitalize on these tragedies to serve their own racist or narcissistic needs. I know that this isn’t new information to any of you, and I don’t mean to sound like a speaker on a high horse. It’s just that these are things that I think have defined 2015, and we need to remember them lest we repeat them.

For now, be grateful for what you have, and be kind to those around you, because you don’t know what their own story might be. In the spirit of the season, I hope that you find the time to relax and recharge. Remember what is precious to you, and what is worth living for. We’ll fight for them in 2016.

We hope you’ll find time this holiday season to relax with this latest issue of BTSB. Right off the bat, you’ll find a few presents for you to unwrap, including Inka’s gift of underused words that you’ll hopefully find to be mellifluous (did I use that right, Inka?). Also, for your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled a list of seasonal songs that are favorites of the BTSB staff. But wait, there’s more! Emma is back to share yet another recipe, this time with a Christmassy-flavor. And, of course, the usual goodness that you find in a regular BTSB issue is all here, complete with some surprises! Milla uses this forum to talk bravely about openness, while Elizabeth shares her love of death metal. As the end of the year is often a time to reflect, we also have reviews of all sorts: Emma reviews a play, I review Star Wars: The Force Awakens (from the perspective of someone that actually isn’t all that into Star Wars), and Christian returns to BTSB to share his review of the Curt Kobain documentary, Montage of Heck. We also have a beautifully written guest piece from Helena Anttila that makes us hopeful she’ll write more for us in the near future. In addition, we have Eve showing us that words aren’t the only way to express yourself, talking about the influence of Instagram. And while you’re thinking about pictures, why not check out Laura’s seasonal snapshots? Yes, that’s another Christmas gift for you! Surprise! 

I fear that I’m becoming a bit of a flibbertigibbet now, so I’ll end this note wishing you all a peaceful and relaxing holiday, as well as a happy new year. BTSB will be back in 2016, better than sliced bread could ever be!

All the best,

Jesper Simola
Editor-in-Chief