Mind On The Run
“The Busker Under The Bridge”
By Anthony Kovatch, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia Division
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(All the characters and events are fictional but the places are very real, and so is the music.)
Busk: To play music or perform entertainment in a public place USUALLY for donations.
The Pont des Arts footbridge crosses the Seine River in the heart of Paris and offers a grand view of both the Louvre and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Covering the grillwork of the railings of this bridge are the so-called “locks of love.” Tradition has it that those wishing for a love affair that will be locked in for a lifetime (not just a mistress relationship — there are other bridges for this) can purchase a padlock from a vendor at the entrance to the bridge, inscribe their initials and terms of endearment on the body of the lock, and attach it to the railing where it shall remain forever. This is because the key is flung into the Seine — never to be retrieved from the bottom of the river.
So, it was not by happenstance but by firm intention that Giovanni, a 30-year-old accordionist, and Camille, his longtime sweetheart and vocal accompaniment, chose the Locks of Love Bridge on which to perform that morning during their first trip to the “City of Lights” together. I say “together” because he had been to Paris before at an age when he could have had no conscious recollection.
Not having obtained a busking license, the two were apprehensive about perceived solicitation (lest they be fined), so Giovanni kept his accordion case closed and his beret atop his head. Plus, there was formidable competition on the bridge that morning, as well as several wary members of the Parisian police patrol on their motorbikes. However, and most importantly, Giovanni was not busking for donations that morning — but for redemption (though, he himself was not aware of this).
After about 20 minutes of inspired performing by the pair, a young Parisian lad of about 5 years abashedly ran awkwardly to Giovanni from the small applauding crowd (mostly of tourists) and nervously stuffed a euro into his pants pocket.
“Merci, merci!” the couple beamed with great surprise (albeit with some underlying guilt and trepidation — no license). The little lad, whose name was Pascal, raced back to his parents in the crowd like the Hunchback was chasing him, trying to hide his smile from the onlookers; however, his gesture elicited an ovation.
Giovanni and Camille finally left the bridge quite happy, but emotionally spent from over an hour of work, and sat down for an inexpensive lunch at an outdoor café in the shadow of Notre Dame.
“You know, Camille, I swear that I have been on that bridge in the past. This morning was like déjà vu,” said a perplexed Giovanni.
“Maybe your parents took you there when you were so little you cannot remember,” reasoned Camille.
“I strongly doubt it,” he countered. “I am sure they would have told me all about it. They kept no secrets — from me or from anyone else. Anyway, let’s buy a lock and become part of the craze!”
“Great idea — we can never forget this day! It was real!” she exclaimed, and they were off.
Actually, there were secrets that were not known to Giovanni. He had previously been in Paris as an unborn child; he had not been on the bridge, but under it, riding in a tour boat in his mother’s womb.
“We are now riding under the famous Locks of Love Bridge” announced the tour guide in French. “According to legend any wish made by lovers as they pass under the bridge will be granted.”
“Make a silent wish, both of you!” urged a long-time friend of Giovanni’s mother and father, who had attended their wedding earlier that day. They had been married expeditiously because the groom was leaving soon for a tour of duty in Iraq.
“I am wishing for a safe and speedy return for you,” spoke up Giovanni’s mother.
“Me too,” said the father with a pause subtle enough to instill some doubt. They both looked downward and appeared too solemn for the occasion. Because they both were lying.
The husband had actually volunteered for a tour of duty and was wishing that he would die in combat. At that time he had an overwhelming premonition (born purely of fear of the unknown) that he, like his father and older brother before him, was in the grip of early schizophrenia. He was indeed experiencing lapses of memory and of awareness, but these would prove to be transient. However, at that point in time he wanted (whatever the cost to himself) to spare his loved one a life of shared misery; he knew she was devoted.
Unknown to her husband and the rest of the world, the wife was 3 months pregnant — but her new spouse was not the father. An untimely, unintentional affair had produced the bitter dilemma. She was wishing to miscarry the illegitimate baby so as not to have to conceal this mistake from her husband for the remainder of their lives. She knew he was devoted.
The bridge mercifully failed to grant the misguided wishes of the two lying newlyweds — but it did indeed grant that of the unborn future accordionist who, through all this, was listening intently to its buskers above. Even then, the bridge knew he would be devoted. And although all three were unaware at the time, the future would unfold as they truly would have wished. The family of three remained “hopelessly devoted” to each other and never buckled under the weight of too much love. Nobody “drowned in love’s debris.”
But back to the present. Giovanni and Camille purchased a padlock with the coin they had been given by the little Parisian lad Pascal. However, when they took it to the site of planned attachment to the grillwork, a droning crowd had gathered to witness the collapse of the railing due to the weight of too many locks. The event instantly became international news and all the locks had to be removed with iron cutters and discarded in order to preserve the bridge.
“Just our luck!” laughed the two buskers. So Camille simply tossed the key of the lock into the Seine like thousands before them; Giovanni stored the lock in his accordion case — and in the deep recesses of his heart. Redemption had been accomplished, and the young busker had achieved his heart’s desire. And as to what was lacking in his memory and wrong with his past, with Camille at his side it did not make a bit of difference.
(Music: “Reconstellation Waltz” by Tony Kovatch on YouTube.)
(Photos: Anthony Kovatch, M.D.)
More “Mind On The Run” essays by Dr. Kovatch here.