It’s still light at 8 pm. The day stretches out its limbs like a person half asleep, tenderly, placidly, and languorously. Sylvia is the first one to arrive. She’s already stationed on the sidewalk in front of number 20, her hand repeatedly tidying away the same lock of hair, her feet stamping on the ground…
The former tattoo artist is nervous.
What if nobody likes it? Of course, they’ve already seen a few preparatory sketches but nothing specific. Above all, they have no way of imagining her latest additions. Was she right to give them a surprise like this? They have trusted her completely. She takes an anxious look at the white tarpaulin covering the entire façade and lays out a few plates and glasses on the garden table she has just set up. “Are you celebrating ‘Neighbors’ day’ already?” asks a passerby as he grabs a peanut. “In a way,” answers Sylvia.
Yves Arnoux appears in the frame of the street door, one hand carrying an impossible number of bottles, the other stretched towards his wife to guide her steps through the last remnants of the construction site. The Korvan’s follow with their children. Then Sylvia sees Erwan’s silhouette appear accompanied by Franck’s ginger hair. On the other side of the street, Mona and Hanane arrive together. They’d met at the café a few minutes earlier. Nobody knows, but Hanane, the company director, the rational go-getter, believes in the stars. And increasingly so! Especially when faced with important milestones in her professional life. “I’m a little bit like your personal consultancy,” joked Mona once.
– Not quite, replied the startup entrepreneur. Your forecasts are much more reliable. You told me about an important business trip to Berlin two weeks ago. I’m going there this evening.
Jeanne pulls down the shutter of her shop and goes to complete the group of neighbors. A construction worker walks up to Sylvia and asks: “Can we begin?” She nods her head.
A few minutes later,
a first part of
the tarpaulin falls back,
folding itself away upon the scaffolding.
The residents of the building recognize Sylvia’s elegant style, the downstrokes and upstrokes forming spirals and plant-like ramifications. Another section of white tarpaulin falls away. The lines of the decor spread up from the floral motifs of the street door, rising to frame several windows of the façade, accompanied by the sound of applause. A large square of canvas still covers the right-hand side. Sylvia nervously crosses her fingers. This is the most delicate part, the most personal, too. The tarpaulin remains stuck for a few seconds, and then begins to fall away gradually, laboriously.
A first silhouette appears, and then another. Each individual is accurately rendered, and extremely realistic. At last, the fresco is completely visible. Like the group standing on the sidewalk, a group of ten people are drawn upon the façade. It’s impossible not to recognize who they are. “But…? It’s us!” suddenly cries out young Zoé Korvan, breaking the surprised silence. The neighbors burst out laughing. The silhouette of Mona, dressed in red, Hanane and her motorcycle helmet, Martin Korvan in a hurry, Erwan surrounded by musical notes, and even two mysterious men in raincoats that bring a smile to Franck’s lips… everyone is there. Without forgetting Mrs. Arnoux with her cat, leaning against the shoulder of her husband… who describes to her what she cannot see, everyone’s position and place in the drawing.
“Is the iron grille still there
with its spiral decorations?”
Helene asks her husband,
a slight note of worry in her voice.
answers Yves, squeezing his wife’s
– I made sure of it. We’ve simply repainted the door.
The old woman nods, reassured and satisfied. For a few seconds, she is lost in her memories. The door and its wrought iron motifs are the last things she saw of the building before she gradually lost her sight. She thinks back to her arrival at No. 20, in the 1970s, the bright colors of the cars in the street, the golden pikes on the railings of the public garden on the other side of the street. These were the last flashes of light she can remember before her life became engulfed in fog, and then in darkness. If she can still touch the iron patterns every morning, then the darkness hasn’t won, not entirely.
– It seems that you have produced a wonderful fresco, says Hélène Arnoux as she takes Sylvia’s arm. We are all heroes now, thanks to you!
– Not ‘thanks to me.’ I didn’t invent anything; everyone played their role, says the artist. You, for example, understood the meaning of what we could only see. It’s a good definition of the future or of audacity.
“20 Audacity Street:
that would be a fine address, too.”
The night falls. Yves Arnoux opens the first bottles. In his pocket, he feels the sheet of paper containing the speech he’d prepared for the occasion but he glances towards the new façade and prefers to remain silent.
“Everything has been said,” he thinks. A little further down the sidewalk, Martin Korvan smiles at him and raises his glass in a toast to him, with (at last!) a full glass and not a cup of coffee. They drink to the future and, more particularly, to No. 20. Erwan, for his part, has made up his mind; it’s now or never! He moves towards Hanane, hoping for a little more intimate and personal conversation but the young woman dives into a taxi without seeing him. “Everything changes so that everything can stay the same,” the young man thinks to himself, resigned to his fate, without noticing the amused smile on Sylvia’s face.
A few hours later, the city falls back into sleep, sinking into those calm and secret hours when each façade seems to shield its own private mysteries. When the lights from passing cars bathe No. 20 in a sudden blaze of light, it’s a whole story that leaps out from the shadows, a tale of companionship, commitment, and creativity. A light in a window on the second floor switches on. Erwan goes back to his apartment, sits down in front of his computer and checks twice that he has unplugged his speakers. He then places his headphones over his ears and clicks on the “Play” button.