Mythologies

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All text and dialogue is translated from French.

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Daniel had first glimpsed Andrée at the beginning of the occupation, when it was still all about students. She had stood on the steps of the Sorbonne, that great institution of French Enlightenment, and hollered through a megaphone that the French Enlightenment was full of shit, and that they would rise up and smash the imperialist state. Daniel had been captivated by her image, her dusky skin and short hair. At first he thought that she was a striking image of the revolution. Later, he realized that he was just in love with Andrée.

It had been a month of unimaginable success. Another student occupation had turned into a joyous riot that shut down all of Paris. The city itself had been transformed. The cobblestones beneath their feet had been ripped up to use as improvised weapons. Cars in the street were as likely to be set on fire as used to get anywhere. Nobody went to work. Every day there was a new protest, and every night a new riot.

The walls bore graffiti and hand-stenciled posters instead of advertising. The slogans were written with the exhilarating freedom of a child home sick from school. “Never work”, “boredom is always counter-revolutionary”, “under the paving stones, the beach”. They were against Vietnam, capitalism, against communism, against work, against everything.

And all Daniel could think of was Andrée.

It was easy to see her all the time. He had joined her gropuscule, a small political party containing the usual re-arrangement of ideological words. Laborer’s Revolutionary Front, or something along those lines. Their publications were angrier and more dogmatic than Daniel liked, but he didn’t want to be seen as a moderate.

If he had hoped the infatuation would pass, he was wrong. The more he saw Andrée speak to her peers, the more he was fascinated by both the contours of her cheekbones and the purity of her rage. When she talked about the need for violence against all aspects of bourgeois society, Daniel found himself nodding along, even though the implications scared him. He never spoke up in the meetings, and had yet to say a word to her directly.

In part, he was intimidated by her. In part, he was intimidated by her boyfriend. Luc was a Maoist who dressed in leather jackets and spoke in a deep voice about the need for collective agriculture. It was said that he was the top student in his class, a genius of political economy. At protests, he was the first to throw rocks, and the skin around his eyes was perpetually red from the effects of pepper spray. He was a tall, handsome man with a thick beard. When he kissed Andrée after the meetings, Daniel wanted to die.

Two weeks into May, boredom had started to set in. The televisions showed nothing but static, the radio played nothing but propaganda. All of the shops were closed. Most people passed the time by having sex. Daniel heard men chuckle and boast about how girls were so easy in this time of revolution. The graffiti began to echo them: “Take your desires for reality”, “I came in the cobblestones”, “The more I make revolution, the more I want to make love”. Daniel just sunk further into despair.

It was a sweltering Wednesday when Daniel decided to finally talk to Andrée. He didn’t expect that she would leave Luc for him — after all, who would? But if nothing else, he could at least be around her as a friend when this was all over. If it would ever be over.

The air around the university was still sooty, the result of a fire two nights before that jubilant students had started and not known how to put out. They had felt confident on that day, having seen the workers turn out in the streets for the first time. These were the real levers of revolution, at least according to Andrée and Luc. They couldn’t lose with the workers on their side. Of course, as Luc would add, the point of the revolution was to break down the categories that had separated ordinary people for so long, so that people would no longer be defined as worker or student, left or right, male or female, but simply as human. Daniel had wondered at that last dyad. Perhaps it was simply a boast about the barriers that had long been broken between him and Andrée. That had ruined Daniel’s mood.

He strolled into the lecture hall that their gropuscule had repurposed as a headquarters. Litter had started piling up in the aisles and under the seats. Daniel thought about raising the state of the university in the group’s discussions. It seemed churlish to talk about stink when they were trying to overthrow capitalism, and stop its endless imperial wars that killed millions. But knowing the context didn’t stop him from smelling it.

Who was he kidding? He wouldn’t speak up about anything.

There were a few dozen students in the hall that day, and two refinery workers who had showed up on Monday and sat in the back with gaunt expressions and a few days’ stubble. Andrée and Luc were, as usual, sitting on the lecturer’s desk kağıthane escort at the front, having easily taken on the pedagogical role. Yesterday they had been cheery, talking about how de Gaulle would fall within a month. Today, however, they wore scowls on their face.

“Comrades,” Andrée said. “We have been betrayed.”

Daniel checked over his shoulder. Were the police about to come bursting through the doors? They couldn’t — that was what the barricades were set up to prevent. As it turned out, the betrayal was a little more distant. Luc cleared his throat and spoke. “I’m sure you’ve heard this by now, but Dany has been expelled from France. But that is not the betrayal — we expected this from the state. No, what is worse is that our so-called comrades in the PCF and CGT have said they will not protest this blatant capitulation to the right.”

“They’re Moscow’s puppets,” said a hirsute anarchist in the front row. “This is just like Barcelona!” He had a habit of comparing current events to the Spanish Civil War at least once a day.

“Occident must be pleased,” said a dark-haired girl who was known throughout the left as one of the most ferocious anti-fascists.

“There will be a march today,” said Andrée. “UNEF is putting it together, but I think it’s important for more radical groups such as us to participate. The government must know that we are united.”

The meeting went on, with more mundane details of the mobilization and the occasional theoretical debate rolling onwards. Daniel remembered his vow to himself to speak up, but suddenly found as if he had nothing to say. No, it wasn’t like that — it was as if language was suddenly failing him, had been severed from his mouth.

So this was to be another day where Andrée noticed him as nothing more than a face in the crowd. But how long would she be here? If the revolution succeeded, she and Luc would surely be moving on to bigger and better things. And if it failed… well, they would all have much bigger problems. Prison, for the lucky ones, but Daniel had seen the way that the cops looked at Andrée, an Algerian girl who spat in their faces, and knew they would vent their rage onto her if they could. His window, in other words, was rapidly closing, and this may have been why he found his voice.

“Should we be doing this?”

The rest of the room turned to look at Daniel, including the rather tedious man who he had interrupted. Andrée cocked her head, obviously surprised by his interjection.

Daniel wasn’t sure how to follow up, but had absorbed enough of the rhetoric of the movement to babble on. “I mean, the revolution is about more than one person, right? Making the protest all about Dany just kind of furthers the idea that he’s our leader.”

“Not to mention he’s a petit-bourgeois adventurist,” interjected the bearded anarchist.

Luc smirked. “I understand your feelings, comrade. But it is important to maintain our relations with other parts of the resistance. Now is the time for action, but not the time for purism.”

“I think Daniel has a point,” said Andrée. Hearing her say his name made Daniel’s heart jump up into his throat. He was shocked that she even knew his name. “We must maintain a consistent line. Perhaps we join the march, but include some of our old signs about broader issues.”

After half a minute’s silence, Daniel realized that everyone was waiting for him to reply. “Um, that sounds good. I just, uh, want to make sure we’re consistent.”

Andrée nodded. “Thank you for your input, comrade.”

Daniel almost fainted.

As was typical with the daytime marches, there was the atmosphere of a gentle party. Groups of all sizes sang songs, carried banners, and enjoyed the spring warmth. The dug-up streets made for awkward walking, but there was always someone to grab your arm if you slipped. The police watched, but did not advance on them. As long as the sun was up, there was a kind of truce, albeit one that was broken every once in a while

Today’s protest was for the sake of Dany Cohn-Bendit, the West German student radical who had become the face of the movement. In truth, Daniel didn’t like him. Daniel had gone by “Dany” to all his friends before this year, and felt as if his nickname had been stolen by this upstart. Andrée didn’t seem to like Dany either. She had always smirked a bit when someone brought him up, and sometimes muttered something about him being an infantile anarchist who did not understand the class dimensions of the situation. But that sarcastic tone had been gone today, and she was chanting just as loud as anyone else about his exile. Daniel found himself doing the same.

The most popular chant was “We were all German Jews”. When he heard it at first, Daniel felt disgust. Surely this crowd of students couldn’t be comparing their experience to the Holocaust? It took a minute before he realized the other meaning: that Dany was a German Jew, that kartal escort bayan the radio announcers kept trying to paint him as some outside agitator despite the fact that he spoke better French than them, and that if France could not contain Dany then they would no longer be French. Better to adopt the identity of history’s victims, its refuse, to follow them down into the grave. Daniel had been raised by strictly Catholic parents who would have been aghast at basically all of his behaviour for the past month. But he shouted that he, too, was a German Jew.

The march progressed slowly, oozing through the streets of Paris like a thick syrup. They moved at the speed of the slowest among them, with the inevitability of history. The sun beat overhead until their bodies were dewy with sweat, but they kept walking. They walked until they reached the National Assembly, where the politicians had frantically assembled to try to figure out a response to the so-called crisis.

Another chant went up. “We are all aliens.” It didn’t have quite the transgressive charge that the last one had, but it rang true. They had, after all, turned Paris into a different country. It was a more savage one, without television or the postal service or well-stocked shops, but it was also one without work or school and, where the barricades held, without cops. And they had, perhaps, become something alien and monstrous themselves. The police were cowering, desperate to protect the politicians. The students had become their enemy, and it felt exhilarating.

Daniel stood just a few feet from Andrée. Luc was nowhere in sight. For a moment he stood transfixed at Andrée belting out “We are all aliens”, watching the shiver of air travel up her dusky sweat-slick, neck. And then he started chanting at the top of his lungs.

The protest dissipated by the time the sun set. They had caught glimpses of a couple politicians leaving — Chirac, and a man that might have been Mitterand — and booed lustily, which seemed to satisfy the crowd. It was the time when Daniel would normally have retreated to his cramped student apartment for a night of fruitless reading of Marx and more engaged reading of whatever cheap detective novels he could get his hands on. His decidedly bourgeois roommate had left and headed to the countryside to stay with his family until classes restarted, so Daniel had faced quite a few lonely nights.

Today, however, Andrée had tapped him on the shoulder. The small touch had almost made Daniel jump onto a roof. “Comrade,” she had said, with an undeniable smile on her face. “We’re planning an action tonight. Do you want to join us?”

Daniel nodded dumbly.

“Great!” said Andrée. “Come on, we’re heading back to the school to eat and get ready.” And just like that, Daniel was in there group. Had it been this easy the whole time?

There was a group of about seven of them — Andrée, Luc, the dark-haired girl (whose name was apparently Sylvie), the bearded anarchist (Piotr, although that may have been an alias), and two other men who were just as quiet as Daniel. The core group told jokes and talked about people Daniel didn’t know. Sylvie complained about annoying calls from her parents, and Luc agreed. They could have been mistaken for any other group of college-age friends relaxing after a tough day of classes.

“Were you an activist before May, Daniel?” said Luc, looking back at him as they walked.

It took Daniel a moment to answer, he was so startled. It felt alien to actually be a part of these peoples’ conversation. “N-no. I don’t even feel like an activist now, to be honest.”

He thought it sounded pathetic, but Luc chuckled and nodded. “That’s good to hear! This is a moment when people can be radicalized. Myself, I spent years as an academic, acting as if my critical essays on Adam Smith would overturn the world order. But being out on the street feels so much better.” And he turned back to kiss Andrée.

When he watched the kiss, Daniel waited for his usual feeling of envy and despair. But it never came. Instead, he felt something that he couldn’t quite define. He felt… well, hungry.

Of course he felt hungry. He hadn’t eaten since the morning.

The walk back must have taken less time than the long march towards the National Assembly, but it felt much longer. In the crisp air of early night, Daniel wished that he could take the excitement he was feeling and extend it for weeks, months. There were nine days and ten nights left in May — why did this month have to be so short?

When they reached the campus, the group quickly drifted towards one of the occupied dormitories. In the windows, the flags of Algeria and Palestine hung alongside the hammer and sickle and the red and black of the anarchists. The only flag that was nowhere in sight was the tricolor.

“Veronica and her group will be making dinner again tonight,” said Andrée. “It’s our job kurtköy escort bayan to show up and not stink like pigs.”

“Pasta again?” said Piotr, his nose crinkling.

“Supplies are low,” said Andrée. It was something that was uncomfortable to admit: their revolution had been running on whatever they could grab from supermarket shelves, and there weren’t exactly any grocery trucks coming into the Latin Quarter in the last couple of days. Luc had mentioned something about reaching out to farmers, but Daniel didn’t think anything had come of it.

Daniel really should have split off from the group and gone back to his own dormitory, where he could have showered in relative peace, but he instinctively followed the group in. Like all the dorms, it was by now a mess, with beer bottles and extinguished roaches in every stairwell. Andrée and the others paid it no mind. They headed right for the group showers in the middle of the floor. Daniel became increasingly tense.

He expected them to take turns, or at least for the men and women to go separately. But as soon as they stepped into the moist changing room, Sylvie began pulling her shirt over her head. Piotr slid his pants down and kicked them into a corner. Daniel’s eyes bulged. “Are we, uh, all going together.”

“Of course,” said Piotr, as he removed his underpants. “Unless you are still influenced by bourgeois notions of propriety?” Daniel tried to avoid looking at his dick, even if that urge was bourgeois.

“It’s quicker,” said Andrée, removing her shirt. “And uses less water.”

It was then that Daniel realized he was about to see Andrée naked. It was a fantasy that would have been unimaginable to him this morning. Then again, a few years ago men and women being together in the same dorm was unimaginable. In the age of protest, fantasy became reality very quickly.

She pulled down her pants and removed her underwear with militant efficiency. Andrée showed no discomfort, but also didn’t make it into a show. It was as if she was alone. She was facing away from Daniel, but he still got a good look at her ass and a glimpse of her dark pussy lips. Hell, even looking at her bare back, that great expanse of her dusky brown skin he loved so much, was enough to get him semi-erect. But before he could gawk further, Andrée was briskly walking into the showers.

It was then that Daniel realized he was the only one who was still fully closed, and that the others were giving him a bit of the side-eye for it. Sylvie was the only one who looked a little self-conscious. She had no reason to feel bad about her body. She was a classical French beauty, with long dark hair, a slim waist, and small but perky breasts topped with ribbon-pink nipples. But even though Daniel had a much better view of her nakedness than he had of Andrée’s, it interested him less. It was like a picture he had seen a thousand times, compared to something exciting and new.

Daniel eventually got out of his clothes, although he somehow managed to struggle with his belt for what felt like forever. It was then that he realized not only would he see the others naked, but they would see him naked as well. He, with his scrawny body, the constellation of freckles across his back, and what he was sure was a below-average dick. He would be lucky if Andrée didn’t laugh.

But everyone seemed to stop paying attention once he was as naked as them. Sylvie and Piotr turned and headed into the showers. Daniel gulped and joined them.

The water was too hot, the pressure too high, and there was no soap, but that was the furthest thing from Daniel’s mind. He tried to ignore the fact that he was standing a few feet away from a naked Andrée. This proved difficult. He turned his head in order to not get a stream of water in his eye, and caught a glimpse of Andrée’s breasts. He couldn’t look away.

Her breasts were everything Daniel imagined they’d be: firm and round, about the size of oranges, the same light brown colour as her skin, with darker nipples and areolae. She was running her hands over her body, scrubbing away the dirt and sweat, and Daniel imagined his own hands touching her just like that, but lingering on her breasts, on her hips, between her legs, in the thatch of dark hair he could just barely see.

Then Andrée shifted, and Andrée realized that Luc stood between her and him. Literally, as well as figuratively. As she took a step back, Daniel’s gaze fell on her boyfriend. For the first time, he realized what Andrée saw in Luc. He seemed chubby with clothes on, but here in the shower Daniel could see that it was mostly muscle — not exaggerated, arrogant muscle, but the thick arms and chest of a worker. Daniel wondered how an academic had acquired this body. And his cock hung down large and heavy.

Daniel realized that he was erect, and frantically angled his body away from the others. It was no use. They would realize that he was a pervert. He felt someone clap him on the shoulder, and braced himself. But it was just Andrée, with a mischievous look on her face Daniel had never seen before. “Nice cock.” And then she left, swishing her hips as she went back to the changing room.

“Don’t worry about that,” said Luc, entirely too loud. “Andrée likes to tease men sometimes. And if you want to take care of that after we’re done, well, everyone here will understand.”

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