• Colette Bobenrieth

Eyes on the City: "Diving In"

Updated: 4 days ago

NOTE: WORK OF FICTION


As you step out of the crowded wagon, you feel it right away. It is in the air, a kind of electricity. It radiates everywhere, as if every passer-by was the pole of an alkaline battery. It is more acute than a mere atmosphere : you feel it like a real sensation, a shiver, running its claws down your spine. Both stressful and exciting. You have the impression to be a high-liner sent on the cable without harness : you are unsafe, but oddly confident – in fact, your location is nothing but the usual.

You know it in here.

You walk on this platform everyday, commuting from home to work like million others. The sanitary mask on your face, pressing against your skin at every inhale, makes no difference.

The cold air breezing around your trench makes you curl up in your woollen scarf. The train station is fuller than usual, silhouettes darkening your sight – it is no wonder, given which day we are. Yet, it is not only the density of the crowd that is tingling you.

Scratching bare your nervous system, you feel pressure awakening your instincts. Human pressure. You realize that the tension and power stored in those around you could reach out to you, seize you. You shiver.


The hall of Union Station seems brighter, wider than the usual. The multitude of travellers criss crossing paths around you does not make you dizzy nor upset you. Unexpectedly, you feel soothed, almost overflown. As you have to slow down your walking pace due to those stopped ahead of you, the feeling of immersion increases. The people around are so many that they delimit your horizons, surrounding you with coats, necks and backpacks…


The unfolding of your day comes back to your mind : out of the station, to your office, on the chair behind your counter. As you move towards the entrance, becoming one with the current, you roll your eyes. You are never going to make it on time – you already hear the complaints of your superior.


Still, looking up, your heart starts to ponder. You are suddenly amazed at the curved, bright, carved ceiling so far above you, that no one else seems to notice. That newly revealed height unwinds your mind, its empty space granting you new perspectives. You feel like you opened your eyes truly for the first time.


The grandeur of the building hits you without warning, the millions having stood where you stand, running, gracefully walking in elongated strides or hurriedly passing by. You are coming here since a good while, nonetheless it now feels all different. The same, but different.


You step outside in the cold.


There is suddenly a connection, a bound between you and what, who is around you, across time and identities. You do not care who is next to you, why they are here. They are with you, under the cold and grey Wednesday morning sky, and that is enough.


You feel the condensed force of the crowd. You are reunited in this place, you owe this place : you are all American. Power to you people. You are many and you are mighty, together.


As the gathering pursues its march onwards, you abandon yourself to the stream. The crowd is too numerous – even if you wanted it, you could hardly get away. But you don’t want it. You desire seeing what you – you all – are capable of. What you could do. What it could change. You are amazed at the steadiness in motion and dedication in gesture around you. You want to know more, experience more. The human tide stretches out wide in front and on your sides, claiming back the space of this city in which every square meter would be too expensive for you to afford.


A sense of kinship, of compassion flows in your heart as you recognize the tired eyes and clothing brands of your neighbours. You have been there, you know how they feel : invisible. Endless commuters. As chants begin to resonate behind you, you raise your head trying to grasp a sight at where you are heading.


The park is less green now than on worldwide famous pictures, yet you recognize it. How could you not ? It is all so grand, famous stones standing strong and proud since hundreds of years. Here is the centre of your nation.


Stepping on the grass – you are too many to fit on pathways – you look at the immense, immaculate building reflecting the faint January sun. It means everything to you, murmurs to your soul the song of freedom.


This place is where your laws were forged, where what you believe right became right. You remember marches for women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights movement or against the Vietnam War occurring here, and you smile. A woman with greyish curls returns you your grin and it melts your heart.


Suddenly, it skips a beat. Where is her facial mask ?


You stand in shock as the rally slows down in front of the building, hymns getting blended into other chants, boards being raised. You finally understand the words written and uttered around, and your chest tightens. In an instant, you do not belong anymore. Your first thought is to get out. Away.

We are on January the sixth, 2021, and this is the Capitol.


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