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originally written: july 2019
revised: october 2019
But baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
These lyrics came to me while on the bus one day. I don’t remember what prompted them, but I do remember the sunflowers outside staying in my mind as I looked up the meaning of what Leonard was trying to say. I do remember Julia and Claire sitting next to me, living in their own little worlds just a reach away from mine--just a reach away from each others’. I don’t speak the language of the countryside beyond my window, but the message of home is translated clearly when spoken by these two friends of mine.
I remember seeing the Arc de Triomphe one day in Paris. I stood below that marble arch as the hand-sewn stitches in my dress floated in the heat wave. I then remember climbing the spiral staircase, which lives within that stone, to the top. I ascended the last step and above me was only sky. And then I looked out.
The way Napoleon arranged Paris is actually quite genius in a boisterous kind of way. If I knew of a word that combined those two concepts I would have used it. There I stood, atop that arch of victory, staring at the roads that radiated from my gaze. I was at the heart of the city. Not the idealized heart such as the Eiffel Tower or even perhaps the Louvre. Not the symmetric two-dimensional figure that is drawn by crayons and fountain pens just the same. I stood at the real anatomical heart whose physical appearance is easily misconstrued. Whose aortas and ventricles, which are neglected by the human conscience, exist in the most obvious location, which is indicated by a bunch of vessels. The arteries have one mission. The veins worship one god. They all lead to the heart, and there I stood.
And so goes the beat.
When soldiers had to march down the cobblestones of those same arteries that streamed from my eyes, they too had one mission: to emit greatness to the entirety of their nation. I think Napoleon knew that the sound of their boots on the stone would create a heartbeat, keeping France alive while publicizing his love of war.
What’s that word for boisterous ingenuity? I know it’s not love, but what’s that word I’m looking for? You know, the one that brags and orients those who wish to wander. When Napoleon built the Arc de Triomphe, he did it to impose onto the citizens of the land that beared his power. If I knew of a word that opposed the concept of love I would have used it.
Love does not claim victory the way men claim the tops of mountains or moons. Love does not weigh the past over the present, no matter how familiar the past may be. So when I walked the floors I have walked before, I couldn’t help but rejoice for those who hadn’t, and instead of planting a flag, leaving broken rock where I once stood, they set their footprints gently on top of mine. I felt glad to see our footprints intertwined in marks of love. I’m not looking to live alone in these familiar places. All I’m doing is adding more familiarity to my world. In my steps you won’t find mud or dust. Only love and the word that rejoices transformative transcendence. What’s that word? Only love and a hallelujah.