The Demarcation Line

Last week I went down to the Archaeology Society–a five-minute walk from my house. I became a member, and the lady librarian that I befriended last time said that in the 2017 journal, my name will be placed alongside those of the other esteemed archaeologists. Two little old French ladies came in and I was introduced as “l’archaeologiste des menhirs.” That’s my new official title, o.k.? The two ladies sat in the armchairs by the tall windows and pulled some ancient letters out of a file and began reading them aloud to each other. I want to read some ancient letters, even if they are in French. I sat at the table poring over the book of megaliths and taking photos of the pages I liked with my iPad while a guy in the corner grappled with an ornery copy machine. Then the librarian gave me a stack of old photos to look at. One which was particularly sentimental was taken in the 1950s of an annual footrace through my town by all the French veterans, all in their old-style shorts and t-shirts, smiling and poised at the starting line in sepia. Such happiness after all those years of sadness.

An hour earlier, I had been with two English girlfriends in their living room watching a French docudrama about a small town in France under the Occupation–the three of us watching in silence, trying to understand together what had happened here in these streets, our new streets. One English girlfriend asked me to find the Line of Demarcation which separated Occupied from Non-Occupied France; so the librarian lady asked another man who found a book about the line in the Vienne for me.

And now I ride my bike through the woods on this old railway which once carried soldiers and prisoners and mothers and children escaping and sons and lovers and which was once a political line–my left foot free, my right foot bound in chains.

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