I walk through the arch of the Invalides,
a complex of buildings in Paris that houses aspects of the military history of France,
including the tomb of Napoleon.
History seeps towards me from all sides –
from the empty moat surrounding the buildings, to the iron cannons,
the arches, the cobblestones, the numerous statues.
I enter the corridor at the left,
which though dark, offers light at its end.
I reemerge into the sunlight and a lush green garden.
I enter the military hospital where a friend of mine is staying,
recovering from a knee injury. We spend a few hours together.
My friend was one of the ‘demoiselles de Gaulle’,
a group of women who followed the general during World War II.
They landed in Normandy shortly after D-Day,
where they served as intermediaries between the Allies and the civil population.
They arrived at battle sites to take care of the soldiers
and the organization of life after the fighting had passed.
Out of her window, the golden dome
of the Chapel of Saint Louis des Invalides glistens in the sunlight.
We are here, in this place of kings, soldiers and historical events,
talking casually and laughing.
History surrounds us and embraces us.
Our afternoon resonates in a context
that extends beyond us.