The people in the background

By Marisa Orton. Marisa, 18, is a student at the University of Medicine. She lives in Nice, France. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

It must be amusing for angels to look down from the clouds and see us living-making the ostensibly easy effort of waking up in the morning, getting dressed, going to work, drowning in emotions, fighting silently and all alone against the world, in the hope of one day being able to make our way out of the monotony of what our reality has become. Each and every one of us is a story deep enough to disappear eternally into and yet, no matter how hard the best of us try to make a difference, we can’t, because we’re nothing but spectators in Shakespeare’s metaphorical stage. When I first saw this photo, clearly angled around the metallic spectacularism of a little girl facing up to a bull, the statue was all I noticed, until I decided to look a little further. So, today, I am not going to talk to you about how courage and determination can belittle strength and size, but rather about those people in the background: the girl wrapping a scarf around her shoulders to fight the icy wind, the anonymous drivers hidden inside stereotypical FedEx vans, the man looking up at the impressive architecture as if dreaming of those who created it. Here’s to those lives to which we refuse to give credit and to how much they are truly worth.

Left foot. Right foot. He stepped out of the train and into the buzzing crowd, as if he were plunging into the depths of a mighty creature’s stomach. Everyone looked so similar, for they showed nothing, and yet each one of them was hiding a plethora of precious secrets. He might have thought more about the puzzling phenomenon of it all, had he not been in a hurry.

He slipped through the mass of people, trying ever so desperately not to be an obstacle in anyone’s path. Of course, he heard the assorted rumours about the space he occupied in such a confined and busy area, but he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of being right; he kept quietly to the rear of the avalanche of bodies, watching carefully where he put his feet and letting pass those who clearly needed to leave faster than he did.

And that was when he laid eyes on the new statue in Brookshire Square. For a moment, he simply stopped and stared, intrigued by the concept of it and yet surprised by how superficial it seemed. Everything about it seemed based upon a fairytale-a beautiful fantasy in which the heroine stood up for what she believed in and was eternally admired by all for doing so. It was too perfect to be real, from the intricately carved strands of the girl’s hair blowing back in the wind, to the undeniable desire to attack in the bull’s eyes. If the story had been true, would the girl truly have been so fearless? Was the bull really as malicious as his effigy?

Beside him, a girl was holding tight to the notebook pressed against her chest, blocking out the world and everything in it from underneath her furry hood. He could just about see the sparkle in her eyes, as she glanced at both the statue and the world around her. She was a dreamer, he was sure of it- a girl with ideas and thoughts beyond those that could be considered logical in the world they both knew too well. He loved how her eyes seemed to shine with the light of a thousand stories wherever she looked.

It was only when she bent down to lift a little boy onto her shoulders that he noticed the streaks of crimson on her wrists, a constant reminder to herself that no matter how far she flew, it would never be enough to disappear into the world of adventures she could only ever create between the lines of her notebook.

He listened as she talked to her son, as she told him a more beautiful version than he could ever have imagined of the story behind the statue. Her words stood out from the meaningless exchanges all around them, like a myriad of tiny diamonds falling from the sky and shattering into pieces on the ground. Softly, every last letter disappeared into the breeze and faded into a magnificent disappearance, leaving in their wake only the gentle laughter of a little boy enchanted by such tales. 

Across the road, a FedEx driver tossed a glance in the direction of the statue as he leaned out of his open window to finish his sandwich. He smiled, tilted his head to see it in its entirety, and then turned back to his lunchtime meal.

What I find magical about the people in the background is that there is a truth behind each and every one of them. While the photo clearly illustrates how small they are in the large scheme of things-mere beings eternalized only by their unprepared and partial appearance in a photographer’s wide shot-I believe they have much more to offer than a lifeless statue. If they are standing around the statue, looking into the depths of its meaning and their different interpretations of it, it is because they are searching for something they can’t seem to find in themselves. It’s easy to feel courageous standing next to the statue of a girl standing up to a stereotypical danger, yet so much more difficult to find that same courage in the hidden remains of your soul when everything around you is crumbling down.

The first thing she noticed about the man beside the flagpole was not his weight, or his social awkwardness, but the kindness with which he gazed upon his entourage. It was as if he wanted to save those he saw from what was around them, with a measure of caring few people had left in them. Their gazes met for just a second, and yet in that instant she felt less alone, like it might actually matter if she disappeared into nothing one day. She wondered how he found that goodness inside him; with just one smile, he gave her hope, and it was all she could do not to take her little boy’s hand and run and run until they finally reached the world she knew existed somewhere. Even though the two of them knew they would most likely never speak to one another, she smiled back, and for a second she felt like the girl in the statue.

Perhaps what is beautiful about such artwork is not the actual story behind it, or the message it is logically meant to represent, but the way we each interpret it. It is merely a mirror, ready to become whatever the beholder needs it to be. When I look at it, I don’t believe I truly know what I feel, but I am sure of one thing: one day I will find out what part of me smiles when I see that statue, and maybe then I will be on the road to finding out who I truly want to become.

 

3 comments on “The people in the background

  1. Vicky Bryan on

    Well, this is certainly an intriguing and captivating piece of work! It offers a unique perspective and makes the photo richer. I really like this blog entry! I hope it does well!

    Reply

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