Some day in autumn 1990, I heard somebody knocking at the door. When I opened a man was there with a police card asking if he could come in. He was alone. I remember the weather was quite warm and I apologized not having a beer, but I could make him some coffee. He took a sit in the dinning room and explained that he had received my report following a bomb alert in my school. His name was Bruno Ker…c. He was from the Renseignements Généraux.
I was a student in the school of Architecture of Nantes and with a student association, we had created a bar just in the middle of the main hall where students could have coffee, chocolates, pizzas and meet in between classes. I was there having my coffee when an older student engaged the conversation about the Desert Shield Operation in Iraq. He argued that he was against the war and I argued that I was against the invasion of Kuwait or any other country by a belligerent country. He became violent and threatened me. My two buddies had to come in between to stop him from hitting me. A couple of days later, the sirens of the school rang and an announcement in the microphone asked us to leave school. When I arrived to my car, the guy stopped his car behind me and looked at me in silent. He was defiant and laughing. I went to the police station after school and I filed a report.
I was often at the police station at this time since a man had threatened me. I used to care of an alcoholic woman and had mobilized all the stores into helping to get her sober. The baker was one of them and we have become friends. He cared of her when I was at school and I would take the relay when back from school. I cared of her for two years, long enough for the neighborhood to be friends. One day, I heard a noise in the middle of the night. A thief had broken a window to enter the shop of the baker. I called the police, they arrested him and they came to my home with him in order to identify him. He went in prison for two months and soon after, he was seeking revenge. He tried to climb my window at night until the butcher heard a noise and chased him. He came again everyday for eight months, waiting for me after school and following me in the streets. He would stay at night below my window and wait. I was scared but I would not leave so I slept for eight months in a armchair with brooms and red paint around me. I would have pushed him down the window and paint him red for the police to be able to arrest him. I would not have let him hurt me or my cat, enter in my home and damage anything. I would rather have hurt him. I made several police reports and the police never took it seriously. I even though of buying a security gun to keep him away.
When Mr Ker…c knocked at my door and showed me the police card, I felt joy and intense relief. Lastly, somebody would care. He had coffee, cakes and I told him all my stories, then we went outside. The thief followed us as usual since 8 months but after this day, it stopped, I never saw the thief again. Few days after, the Director of my school called me in his office. He lectured me quite briefly to tell me that he had full confidence in this other brutal student and quite certainly made everything to make me uncomfortable. School at this time was quite tuff. First day at school, we were about 1200 students registered for the first year and the first 10 minutes, the Principal asked the students to raise their hands for those who were the child of an architect. All hands went up so he asked again the question. “those who are not the child of an architect, raise your hand“. We were about a dozen and he said. You can leave now because there is no room for you in here.
I was not even supposed to enter this school. I had followed a Bac F12 Arts Appliqués and the school was only accepting bac C, mathematics. I have worked everyday at lunch time with the father of a friend who gave us extra class in mathematics and I negotiated for two hours with the director of my school to at least let me pass the entry exams. I passed the exam and was dispensed in mathematics for one year, then 1.5 years in geometry. All this time not attending maths and geometry was a time I have worked harder on other disciplines but the reality was that I felt bored in this school. The level to pass F12 was way above the level of architecture and I was in the middle of infantile students, 3% only females, a majority of spoiled kids. I had all odds against me and now the Director was mad.
In December 1990, my parents came in Nantes to have Christmas with me, and I had decided I would not celebrate Christmas. The troops of Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to have Christmas while they were giving their lives abroad. As a solidarity with the troops, I did not celebrate Christmas and instead, my parents helped me to install some wall paper. On January 17th, Operation Desert Storm started. The post office organized a program to write for free to the troops. Since I felt quite ostracized an lonely at school, it was not really hard to get committed writing and everyday after school, I would draw on envelops and write a letter to unknown soldiers in the Gulf. This operation finished to isolate me a little bit more, cutting the ties with my very few friends. They were mad at me and I did not care. I could just not live as if nothing was happening. My country was at war, I was stuck to the radio and I was getting prepared to help.
One day, in Spring 1991, I received a letter from a Colonel who has become my best friend until July 1995. I was writing every day, he was responding one or twice a week. Sometimes he would call and not talk on the phone. He would wait until I almost hang-up and then ask few questions about me, how was school, how was France, how was everything. We had a story that we shared together, “The Little Prince” by Saint Exupéry. We have spent some time in this fantasy world.
At the beginning I wrote letters, and then I wrote full copybooks. He would answer with some poems, some chocolates and some drawings. He never complained about my orthography. He always was encouraging and pushing me to find myself the path that I hadn’t found in the school of architecture. Since age 3, I had been trying to be a parachutist and he asked me why not? I don’t know what had stopped me before. I was shy, not very happy, not very proud of myself. Too fat, too ugly, too big legs, too young also, people were getting confused with my small voice. I was learning a profession and was not so sure about it, my teachers said that I was made for architecture. I passed my certificates with parachutisme and that was a real big breath, seeing higher, seeing farther, feeling freedom. He was proud of me, being a parachutist too. I used to call him Captain and I was a little fantasy soldier. When I returned from Indonesia after four months trip alone, he said that I over passed him, that this field experience had made me grown up. He was proud to be in my secrets, growing a woman with him by my side.
Still after two years of this exclusive friendship I moved school to Paris where I attended 3 schools at the same time, the School of Architecture, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the INALCO Langues’O. I also had a job with Eurodisney at night to pay for the school and for my books. The struggle living in Paris reminded me constantly of my age, my social condition, my status and this friendship started to make me sad. By the time, he had retired and moved South of France. We were friends without coffees, without spontaneous movies or restaurants. He would only come few days for a conference and meet for a lunch. We had a movie once. Sometimes we would have a breakfast. We would walk long hours and talk, but there was never another day when I could choose myself the time or the place. He was never there as a friend when I would have needed a friend and I have been trying to put some distance. Some time in 1993, he asked to meet my mother, and she has been pushing me to stay friend. When I travelled to Indonesia, he showed me an immense support by calling her and giving her his phone. I have opened my wings because he was there and from shy, he made me confident but this friendship was also a prison, something all around me that would not let me go.
When he returned from Kuwait in 1991, he was promoted to general at the school of war in Paris until his retirement in 1993. While in Paris, he gave some of my drawings to the Musée des Invalides and he used one drawing for all his conferences. This drawing has been shown in France, in New-York, on all his conferences and during the war, he told me that copies of all my drawings were spread to the troops. They would wait my drawings and my letters in the desert showing some support from France.
When Jacques Chirac arrived in power on May 7, 1995, he swore revange for his friend Saddam Hussein. I passed my graduation in Architecture on June 12, 1995. Two weeks later, I went back to Paris and was threaten the first time after a day in the Library of Musée de l’Homme. About a week later, it happened again and I knew that something was happening. I wrote it to the General who did not respond immediately. It is only after the terrorist attack in the metro that I saw him. Later on August 9, 1995, he wrote:
You are in the attic that you love. Paris, its noise and its fury are far away. Talk to the cat, open the treasure chest. Look at the Loire … Tell me when I can see you.
I read your letters, all your letters. You must find calm, in the books you love, in the plans of your dreams and your realities.
I believe that you have worked too much, too strained … now you have to be gentle with you and cradle you. And you will gently tell me everything you have to say.
You have so many journeys still ahead of you, so many important things to do, so many wonders to discover.
You know that I am here, next to you, to protect you.
You must have confidence.
I decided to never respond again, never see him again and stay away from him. I felt guilt for having known that something would happen and not being able to prevent anything. I felt that he was aware of something, that his attitude when we last met was telling me something. He talked of the Dreyfus affair, he brought me to the Montparnasse cemetery and told me how nice it was. I felt that he had renounced to something and having to choose between me dead or live, he would have preferred me dead rather than married. I left Paris, stayed with my parents for a while, then packed my car to go South of France in Nîmes. I wanted to forget and got some training. I just wanted to stay alive.
Still, the young woman who had drawn cartoons had existed once and the troops had known it. I have become “an example” of the misery life can be. Persecution, juridical harassment, accidents, explosions, death, people falling around me. But the little soldier did not want to die. I have practiced my self defense. I have also distanced myself from the events, taking each attack as an attack to which nothing is personal. It is a vendetta, it is really a vendetta but all this has nothing to do about me. It has to do with some powers warning some other powers. I was a pawn and only a pawn in a game where my duty was to survive. I do survive and will continue to survive. I swore myself to never die silent.