By Laura Lamberti
Do you know those pictures doctors show people in the movies and ask the what they see? It’s always a butterfly but people say the craziest things? It seems weird to think about it this way but actually we deal with something like that every day when we write “…”
No silence is more powerful than the one framed by the three dots; for those three dots hold the courage and the strength to say what you do not dare to say. It’s funny how three dark circles on a paper can mean anything. Yet, I think that their power lays in the fact that I find them to always represent the one thing that in a particular moment occupies my thoughts but which I refuse to face. They are fierce you know, those three dots. They don’t leave you anything to hide behind. They are a mirror for your thoughts. They reflect an image you can’t shy away from, exactly because by saying nothing, they speak every truth, without any pity. As I read the description for this last edition of Le Zadig, and I saw those three dots, I was not confused about what they made me think of, although there probably isn’t a more open subject. A million different possibilities of what to write about, and yet there is only one thing I want to say “…Goodbye Menton…”
Someone asked me last week if I will come back to Menton after MiniCrit. My answer was “…” accompanied by a reproachful look. The three dots can be an end or a beginning, says the description; but to me they are both at the same time. There is something indescribably inebriating about the roaring chants that seemed to have initiated themselves as we walked out of Palais de l’Europe after Arabesque. “Menton est là!” C’est vrai; mais nous? Jusqu’à quand est-ce que nous serons là?
In the welcome message of first e-mail this year’s BDE has sent out in the month of July, I invited the new members of the Oummah Mentoniya to look at this place as our own special island. I don’t know if you ever watched Lost, but if you did then you know what kind of island I’m talking about. You see, what I meant to say, is that this place, our life here are incomprehensible to outsiders, just as the power this place exercises over us, and that’s part of what makes it so special.
Time seems to follow a different course here, for everything can change in one single minute, yet everyone seems to remember everything that happened since they set foot here for the first time. Food seems to taste differently too, but maybe that’s because of the vicinity to the country with the best culinary tradition in the world. And music also sounds different, maybe because of the ever-present tabla in the background.
So when people used to ask me what is life in Menton like, at first, I used to try to explain everything, trying to capture in words the overwhelming feeling of belonging and love this place represents for me, until I understood that there were too many things that could not be explained with words but only with “…”
I could tell someone who asks that Menton is the boulangerie that opens at 4 in the morning, that it’s José who doesn’t smile even if you pay him, that it’s the Open Jams at Bastion and the late night walks through the vieille ville, but would that truly make them understand what it is? “…”
I could tell them that Menton is buckets of water thrown at you in the streets because you make “too much noise”, that it’s the fines at Hardy’s and chez TAJ, that it’s a resting volcano, that it’s that guy that does not seem like the soul of the party and then pulls moves that make everyone stop and stare. But if I did that would they see it the way we do? “…”
I could say that Menton is much more than this, that there is something more behind the cape of smoke and techno that envelopes it; that it is the keffiyehs that we all have somewhere in our room, that it is the flags that we hold up proudly at MiniCrit, that it is the Arak that fogs our minds and puts us to bed (often not our own), and the Turkish coffee and the ITALIAN ONE, that precede every exam. I could explain how our Menton is different from “Menton”, that our Menton is the sigh of relief when Macron won despite the Mentonese population’s support for Le Pen, and the tears the Americans shed when Donald Trump won.
I could tell them how Menton is the feeling of being home although you are away from home, because when you walk through the hallways, whether those of campus or of carrefour, there is always a familiar face. But you see, they would not understand it for they have never felt the relief that we all feel at least once in seeing one of us, someone that maybe we are not close to but know of, when we are lost in an unfortunate adventure. Nor have they felt surprise we feel in discovering something new and intriguingly unknown in the eyes of someone we have run into 1000 times.
I could try to explain that Menton is those friendships that shatter the conception of friendship you have had until that point, that it’s a journey of self-discovery and creation of one’s identity, that it’s the place where you decide to try what you have never tried, do what you have never done, and say things you never thought you’d say, or when you are not able to , just say “…” but they would think I’m exaggerating, and that would be a shame.
I could tell them that Menton is the frustration with the coffee machines in the EE and Lamiss’s warm laughter but they wouldn’t understand because they haven’t lived it. And lastly I could tell them that Menton is an island known and understood only by the shipwrecked who somehow dock here, that it’s a universe reachable only if destiny decides you should, that it’s the most bittersweet memory that many of us will bring with them, but that will not change that they will not close their eyes and lean their head back chuckling lightly every time they hear “Dolce Vita” or “La Loca”, and they will not understand the struggle of finding food on a Sunday afternoon, they will not feel like getting a drink every time someone says the word “soundproof”, and they surely will not feel incapable not to smile every time they hear someone in the street speak Arabic (at least not where I’m from). So at that point isn’t it just better to say “…” and hope that they will have at some point, something as magical as what we had here?
So if you do at some point find words to make people who have never set foot in this parallel universe understand what it is, please start your story with “… C’era una volta…” because we owe it to Menton to attribute it all the magic it represents.
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