Poles in the street / 15 August 2007
The three Poles sat on their make-shift furniture, old cushions and mattresses, the drizzle wetting everything. The closer I got, the greasier they looked; the wet adding to their stickiness. Their dreams of making money evaporated long ago with the alcohol that oozes out of their skin in smelly sweat. On the ground a plastic Tupper to collect the centimes passers-by leave for their daily dose of France’s fermented grapes. Pigeon crap had fallen on one of the wet mattresses on the sidewalk against the wall of the old stone hospital building. The soaked sleeping bags were also littered with whitish-green droppings. If ever misery had an expression, this is it.
August 15, Assumption, is my favorite day of the year to be in the French capital. The city is so empty. Those who had not taken their month long holiday in August leave the city for a prolonged week end at the beach or in the country. You can walk across Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile at high noon without fear of being run over. But the emptiness of the city makes visible mountains of those society has cast to the sidelines.
To my surprise, the three said nothing as I walked by. One balding man with long stringy blondish hair merely waved an open hand, palm up, down towards the plastic container. I saw the hand. I saw the plastic Tupper. I saw the brown coins. I did not look at his eyes.