The heavy weight of emptiness, begging down a billboard inciting at recycling and staying fit

April 21st, 2013, 6pm

Cash registers take a break, iron curtains will stay shut. The drizzle has stopped and like every Monday morning groups of tourist squint at the lifeless fashion outlets. They don’t notice the motionless figure that seems to sniff the bitumen; down on his knees and elbows, bum pointed to the sky, too low to spot the reflection of passers-by in the film of water lining the pavement. Must have worked hard to find that servile posture that breaks his back; an innovation to avoid dreaded eye contact thus yielding more copper coins.

He’s oblivious to Paris shopping hours, no such concept existed in the country he left, dressed in a medieval outfit betraying the broken dream of a 21st century outcast; he holds high an empty coffee stained plastic cup, one of the many non-recyclable goods that litter Boulevard Saint Michel after the week-end.

A few metres away on Place de la Sorbonne a photo exhibition commemorates riots. Four decades ago wuthering crowds stormed the Boulvevard, shattering shop windows, lambasting consumerism and demanding freedom of speech. Perched on barricades erected from felled trees and burnt cars, they chanted their praise for comrades Karl and Mao.

Should today’s visitors turn their heads, they would have a glimpse of a man of burden; bent under the weight of emptiness in the shadow of a buzzing electric billboard humming its sense of satisfaction; every twenty seconds a different advert rolls in: join a fitness programme, keep the dream alive, go green. Red is dead.

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Tom Frozart

PhD in Information science, coaching engineers in hi flying industries worldwide. Former head of scientific team in Antarctica. Author of short stories, Skive Magazine (Sydney)

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