Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TOWER (01/16/20)
TITLE: Gustave's Gift
By Jack Taylor
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“This view humbles me,” he said. “I walk away a changed man every time when I see how Gustave Eiffel silenced his critics by believing in the vision no one else could see.”
The first time I visited the ‘metal rocket’ chosen as the winning design in the 1880 World Fair to mark the one-hundredth’s anniversary of the French Revolution, Pierre and I biked to the bridge near dusk and waited. He made me sit with my back to the tower until the blanket of darkness had wrapped itself around everything. Gently putting his hands over my eyes, he had me turn and then stare into the mesmerizing golden candle shooting into the heavens. The only comparison I had was the Christmas Lighting ceremony I’d seen in New York, but this was more. Perhaps it was the magic of being with Pierre in the place where hearts find each other.
“Didn’t his critics say that this was the tower of Babel all over again?” I was hoping for a chance to talk to him about what it really means to be a changed man.
Pierre’s smile competed with that tower for my attention. “Oui, mon Cherie,” he started. “Many fools said many things and that can only add to our humility.”
“Why do you think they designed it like this?” I asked, testing his knowledge.
Pierre looked away from my eyes and pointed me back to the tower. “Do you see the flexibility and strength of metal, the curvature of the uprights? It’s all mathematically determined to present efficient wind resistance. Sorry, my friend but what you see is not about love but about mathematics.”
“But the tower seems to flow up and out of the ground with the wind pushing it higher.”
He caressed my cheek with his fingers and winked. “You understand the secret of true art,” he said. “When engineers blend 7300 tons of iron into something that inspires the soul then it is worth admitting you are wrong about what can be.”
It took several more visits but one day I dared to ask him the question that snuggled in my soul like a pebble in a shoe. “Pierre,” I asked. “Why are you so focused on being humble and admitting you are wrong about what can be?” I had thought that perhaps he was hinting about our relationship.
He rested his arms on the outside wall of the Pont d’lena and hung his head. “My friend, such an explanation I owe you.” He shuffled his feet and stayed silent for at least a minute. “It was my ancestors who led the protest against the tower. One was a reporter who quoted the opposition of some of the cities leading voices.” He turned and leaned against the barrier. “They called it a tragic street lamp, a belfry skeleton, a deformed gymnastic apparatus, a ridiculous factory chimney, a hole-riddled suppository. And my family member fanned the nonsense into credibility.”
The majesty of the Tower seemed to laugh off the mockery. “I heard two million people came that first year.”
He smiled and took me in his arms. “So, they did. In fact, my great, great, great grandparents met on this very spot to declare their love to be as strong as the tower they saw. From my youth I have come searching for such a love right where I stand.”
“How will you know when you find it?” I hinted.
He released me, took my hand and walked along the sidewalk until we left the bridge. “When I find someone who will rise up on the darkest day and offer strength that will never go away and when I find someone who will light up the nights with passion and dreams that will take my breath away, then I will know that Gustave’s gift to Paris has also become a gift to me.”
I squeezed his hand. “But Pierre, there’s only one who can offer that kind of everlasting love.”
“If only it was you,” he said.
Paris still makes me smile.
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