Atlantic Garden:

by | Mar 3, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Le Jardin Atlantique was situated on the roof of the station they had just left and was meant to depict the countryside of the Brittany region of France.

The couple entered the concourse of the Gare du Montparnasse and Nick checked the departure board. To his disappointment, their intended train had been cancelled. There wasn’t another for three hours. 

Suddenly, an idea cut through his gloom. The only previous time he’d been to Montparnasse he’d visited the pocket theatre. This tiny sixty-seater former café at the end of a blind alley was opposite the station. It has hosted some classic French and international plays both old and contemporary. First though, he had to inform his companion.

“I have some bad news and some good news,” he said, turning to her. Nevertheless, she was ahead of him.

“I take it the bad news is our train is cancelled.” Her countenance was serious, momentarily, as he nodded in answer. Then a huge smile split her exquisite features and she clapped enthusiastically. “Now the good news please?” She was precious.

“How about a trip to the theatre?” His task had been made simple by her easy-going attitude. Jena  jumped up and down and his heart melted. She appeared excited at the prospect and set off on one of her mesmerising monologues.

“I visited the theatre twice with my Korean friend when I was in Beijing. It’s interesting how different plays performed in theatres vary from one country to the other. Some focus on politics and current affairs, others focus on old events and empires I think they call it historical fiction?” She stopped and waited for Nick to confirm her statement, like a child in class. His heart was a viscous liquid somewhere in his boots by now. Nick nodded mutely and she continued. “Some contain more comedy, others more tragedy.” Her simple summary of the art of theatre was refreshing. It had an innocence that was opposed to her obvious intellect. Then she reprised the  serious look. “I hate politics, it’s boring and ongoing. I hope you’ll find something unrelated to it, please?” Boring, yes but ongoing? What did she mean? He wanted to delve deeper but was equally compelled to placate his companion.

“Sure Jena, we’ll enjoy it I promise.” Nick replied. This was a massive leap of faith. What were the odds of a tiny theatre showing something suitable to her discerning palate? He did have a rabbit in a hat though. “First I have something else to show you. Would you like to follow me?”

Jenna nodded. He’d succeeded in distracting her with another one of his magic tricks, thanks to this conjurer of a city. Leading her to a seemingly inconspicuous corner of the concourse, Nick noticed a young man dressed in scruffy clothes holding out a baseball cap containing a few coins. He dropped a handful of coins into the hat. The young man looked up, smiled warmly at Jena and said something in Arabic.

However, her reaction wasn’t in keeping with the man’s expression. She took several steps in front of Nick and lowered her head. Nick followed, glancing back at the man whose smile had turned into a sneer.

‘What happened Princess, what did he say?’ Nick was torn between picking the man up by his scruffy collar and comforting Jena. He chose the latter, guiding her to the destination he’d intended. It was a flight of stairs which was signposted First Class Lounge and Garden.

Jena repeated the man’s spiteful comment in Arabic and its translation. ‘“I get these coins, what do you get off him sister?.”’ Hearing her speak Arabic sent electric shocks through his brain. The English translation, however, paralysed it. He turned to address the man but Jena pulled him away. They ascended the steps to the half landing and entered the lounge. The plush surroundings comforted her rather than his initial intention of impressing his companion. He was furious with the man.

Nick poured two complementary filter coffees and grabbed a couple of croissants. He found a soft leather sofa and made her sit, handing her the snack and drink. Their conversation turned to the taboo silent type again, piling pressure on their fragile foundations. The man had kicked away a few carefully placed stones and she was rocking.

After a few moments of quiet contemplation, Nick decided to take the next gamble. They ascended the remaining steps and he guided her through the beautiful Atlantic garden. Le Jardin Atlantique was situated on the roof of the station they had just left and was meant to depict the countryside of the Brittany region of France. As they strolled through the ornamental garden with its pine trees, coastal grasses and themed plots, Nick enthused about the region they would be setting foot in that afternoon.

‘The railway station below us is the gateway to Brittany on the west coast and this garden contains all of the trees and plants that one would find there.’ Meanwhile, he checked the theatre programme on his phone. To his relief, he discovered that one of his favourite travel authors was appearing that evening. Jena appeared to be at peace as she wandered through the gardens like a hummingbird around a flower bed. Eventually, she found the Salle du Silence. Literally translated as the Room of Silence, it was a secluded garden for meditation. She entered and Nick followed.

They left the enchantment of the garden totally relaxed in one another’s company. Nick had succeeded in rebuilding the stones at the expense of his two surprises. They were back to square one. He contemplated how long he could go on taking steps back, especially without addressing the issues as they arose. There was now a massive file of incidents that had marred their otherwise meteoric progress. He wondered if it would catch up with them one day.


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