Monday, August 23, 2010
I'm not sure when I first happened upon Sarah Hina's blog, but I do remember being captivated by her poetry and by the sheer loveliness of her language. Sarah is, in my opinion, one of the most talented ‘pure’ writers I’ve yet met in the blogosphere. Sarah recently had her first novel published, Plum Blossoms in Paris, and I immediately snagged myself a copy. I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but it won’t be long, and I’ll review it when I’m finished. In the meantime, however, for the first time ever on Razored Zen, we have a guest blogger for the day. Please welcome…Sarah Hina, with “For Whom the Bell Tolls”!
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
His feet stepped over Point Zero, the origin of all measured distances in France.
He walked past the chattering tourists and pigeons. He walked with his back straight and head tilted down, as if the layers of this isle’s history were an archaeological wind to tunnel through.
He walked through the entrance of Notre Dame, ignoring the saints and virgins, and found the stairway leading to the south bell tower.
He stepped over a rope line.
He climbed higher.
He stopped when he mounted the top of the stairs. When he saw what he came for. The lonely bass bell, sequestered from its four siblings in the north tower.
A man with a blue cape stood beside it.
I looked at the sweaty American and reached for my phone. Security was third on speed dial. And I had a luncheon to attend.
“Monsieur,” I said. “You are not permitted.”
I noticed his eyes. Leaden, like a soldier’s. Bearing the shadows of battles yet to be fought.
The cell phone stayed in my pocket.
“Are you the one?” he asked. “The keeper of the bells?”
“Yes, I am Monsieur Fontaine, the chief sacristan,” I finally said.
The man stretched out a hand to lean on the bell. For support, I could see. Emmanuel did not budge. His clapper alone weighed 1,000 pounds. Gone were the days of striking hammers, and the romantic piffle of Quasimodo’s rope swinging. Everything ran to a computer’s atomic precision.
With my finger on the button.
“I need for you to ring this bell,” the man said.
“Monsieur, the bourdon is rarely rung by itself, except to mark the deaths of great and distinguished men, like a pope or archbishop. I am afraid you ask the impossible.” I cleared my throat. “And now you really must—”
“I know why it’s rung,” he said, more quietly. Urgently. “As you say. To mark the deaths of great people.”
I caught his subtle distinction and nearly reached for my phone again. This American seemed prepared to lecture me on his tour-book interpretation of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
Well. If equality were his aim, then Death would sound constantly throughout the city. Even the tourist parts.
And I would never see lunch.
But instead of a speech, the man looked down at his feet.
So I did, too.
He did not wear shoes. Or, if he did, they were not visible beneath a pair of yellow hospital booties that were speckled red. The afternoon sun bathed their trauma in a soft, opal light.
Blood like wet paint.
“Monsieur,” I murmured, taking a step forward. “I am very—”
He waved me off.
“This . . . she . . . I didn’t know where to . . . ”
“I need to feel." He inhaled sharply. “That someone. Is listening. That someone. Acknowledges it.” He tried to smile at me, but his face could not suffer it.
I closed my eyes.
I was not a man who looked outside my own reality. Or cared to, in truth. But sometimes, when working the towers, it felt like the cathedral breathed. Like she sighed over the wingspan of her centuries. For all she had been forced to see. During these moments, the bells’ clanging could almost remind me of a bloodletting. An exorcism.
If one believed in such things.
I opened my eyes.
He walked down the stairs. Over the rope line.
And down again.
He walked from the cathedral, and past the tourists and pigeons, snapping up their photos and breadcrumbs.
He walked because he was afraid to stop. Afraid. He might never stop. The river was right there. A bridge above it.
A solitary note clanged.
He stopped walking.
Everyone—tourists, Frenchmen, stone martyrs—offered him a drink from their silence. All listening, instead of talking. Feeling, instead of looking. Connected, for a brief reverberation, by the atomic weight of thirteen metric tons, swinging.
His feet had halted on Point Zero. The origin of all measured distance.
His back hunched.
--- the end ---
Synopsis for Plum Blossoms in Paris:
Post-grad neuroscience student Daisy Lockhart has never been short on brains, but after her longtime boyfriend dumps her through e-mail, she is short on dreams. Alone for the first time in six years, Daisy allows herself to finally be an individual instead of half of a couple. On a mission towards self-discovery, new adventures, and healing her wounded soul, Daisy travels to Paris. Upon her arrival, she meets Mathieu, a mysterious intellectual with a carefree spirit, and Daisy begins to experience the passion and the fulfillment she craves. Daisy's tense battle between possible love and her newly found freedom forces her to decide what she really wants.