Art by Farnaz Nasiriamini
Waiting for Simone
A short story by Farnaz Nasiriamini
I am running through the Frankfurt Central Station. The loudspeakers announce: “Your attention please. Your attention please.” I had a hunch what this would mean. “Due to unforeseeable construction work, the TGV 9560 to Paris will delayed by a minimum of 40 minutes. We are sorry for any inconveniences this may cause. Please stay in the area for further announcements.” In the middle of the waiting hall, I stop immediately. My back hurts, my hands are sweaty. I put down my backpack and the poster I had prepared for the demonstration I’ve just come from.
This morning, I was late as always. I hadn’t found the time for packing my bag, so I hurriedly grabbed some of my favorite clothes and threw them into my backpack. The night before, I had been on the phone with Chloé and Daniela until very late. We were all very excited. This would be our first reunion weekend, and we were to come together in Paris, the place we met all a year ago during our Erasmus semester. Daniela had already landed in Paris by plane from Barcelona this morning. Chloé was planning to take the train from Marseille and I am supposed to arrive in a few hours.
I was planning to catch an earlier train this morning, but there was a demonstration in Frankfurt on women’s rights to legalize abortions, and I was insisting on marching along. So, I postponed my departure to evening. This may sound odd but demonstrating is a bit of a passion of mine. I feed of the energy that is spreading around, suddenly I don’t feel alone in my cause anymore. And my favourite part – for every new demonstration, I prepare a new poster.
“What quote will you use for your poster this time? ‘My Body, My Choice’ Es-tu un ou une Simone Veil?”, Chloé asked when I told the girls I would attend the demonstration before traveling to Paris. Simone Veil – I knew I had heard the name before, but the French politician’s influence was still obscure to me. Yet Chloé was already talking in awe about her. “In 1974, it was Veil who got abortions legalized in France and she pushed the vote through a male-dominated National Assembly. That’s really impressive.” “Mai oui, j’aspire d’être comme Veil,” I agreed.
Travelers with their bags, suitcases, strollers, in wheelchairs and with backpacks hurry past me. I finally pick up my backpack again, shoulder it and grab the poster. What to do with the time. Maybe I’ll get a coffee. I check my smartphone to see if there is a good coffee place nearby. Breaking news pops up. My heart is beaming. “Parliament elects Ursula von der Leyen as first female Commission President”.
Immediately, I start thinking of Simone Veil again. Chloé had kept on going, telling us more and more amazing feats about her. Veil, who was a lawyer, had switched from French politics to the EU level politics in 1979 when she became the first female President of the European Parliament. Back then though, she was the leader of an institution that was not taken very seriously. That changed quickly though. The institutional power of the EU was quickly recognized. Unfortunately, after Simone Veil, no other woman has occupied the position of leadership that she held. Until today, 14 men and only one woman, Nicole Fontaine, had followed in her position of responsibility. Daniela had googled that. “I assume positions of power are probably still given out in their ‘men only’ clubs…”, she said cynically. “While women, if not occupied with family duties, need to return home in the evening, taking care of the children and failing to progress professionally. There is always that glass ceiling for women everywhere”, Chloé added. An issue Simone Veil too had to fight for in her marriage with her husband Antoine. He insisted she should not return to work after she gave birth to their third child.
While wandering around and thinking about Simone Veil, I had forgotten to look for a good coffee shop. I sigh, and just join a line for a small kiosk. They will probably have coffee too, hopefully a good one. I check the time for the delay. 30 more minutes until the TGV departs. It will only take around four hours to Paris. When I was in Berlin two weeks ago and visited my brother, the journey from Frankfurt took to Berlin took five hours. Travelling to Paris from Frankfurt is faster than travelling to Berlin. I smirk at the thought. Anyway, with the delay today, it will take about the same time.
As I wait in line, I study the headlines of the newspapers on the newspaper rack next to me. “Will Spain Follow Europe’s Right-Wing Populist Trend?” Again, I have to think about our phone call. Daniela and I were interested in Simone Veils life history and Chloé was proud to tell us more about her. While listening to Chloé, I started drawing my poster for the demonstration.
“Simone Veil had just graduated from high school when the Nazis caught her and dragged her to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. She survived eight months there, then had to endure the death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen. When the British freed her in 1945, she returned to France. Yet nobody wanted to hear about her experience, Auschwitz and the meaning of the tattooed number 78651 on her upper arm.” As a Holocaust-survivor, Simone Veil had personally experienced the damage nationalism can do and was driven by the idea of reconciliation and a common peace project in Europe, the European Union.
“Why do you know so much about Veil?” Daniela asked. “She is very popular in France”, Chloé said. “Also, I read her biography”, she sheepishly admitted and laughed. “Just imagine. She had survived but was supposed to remain silent. She was an ‘unwanted eyewitness’ of the Nazi cruelty. You know, I admire her because her life’s work reminds us that the EU’s values and traditions cannot be taken for granted”, Chloé raves about Veil.
“You’re right”, I interjected while I painted with red pen a big S on the poster. “100 years ago, our great-grandparents were still enemies and fought against each other in war. Can you imagine that? Today, we are friends across national borders. We can simply get on the plane or the train and see each other, as though there were no borders.”
“The young lady, please”. I quickly hurry to the counter. “A coffee, please”. “With milk and sugar?” the shop assistant asks. I nod and hand him a five-euro bill. “Here is your change”. I reach for the two-euro coin, while I try balancing the poster and the paper cup with my other hand. I promised Chloé to bring her the poster, it would be a pity if it had coffee stains all over it.
I look at the of the coin before I put the coin in my pocket. There is the silhouette of a man with a beard. On the side it says: “S * l * o * v * e * n * i * a”. There are only four countries in the EU that have a woman on their coin. While walking back to platform 18, I wonder how long it will take to have an equal amount of women’s silhouettes to be printed on a coin. Maybe Simone Veil would be a good candidate.
Artist: Farnaz Nasiriamini
Artwork Title: Waiting for Simone
Waiting for Simone is a short story by author Farnaz Nasiriamini inspied by the life-story of Simone Veil.
Farnaz runs a blog called Alpha Error. According to Farnaz, ‘I encountered the alpha error, also known as type 1 error, in my statistics lecture. It describes a statistical mistake, for example when a person is sick when in reality they are healthy or when a person is convicted as guilty when in reality they are innocent.
The alpha error shows that we should be critical of our assumptions and should question them again and again, especially in times of #fakenews! That deserves a blog name!’.
About the Artist
Farnaz Nasiriamini is a freelance journalist and author, with Iranian/German heritage. She is interested in socio-political issues that she deals with both journalistically and artistically.
She has a keen interest in telling stories and playing with words. For Farnaz, the essentials are often between the lines. Words are a powerful tool, they shape us every day and she wants to use them to tell stories that inspire reflection and action. Farnaz is interested in law and society, anti-discriminaiton and political communications.
She has a BA in Sociology, Politics and Economics from Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen and American University Washington DC and has studied law at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen and University of Konstanz. She is the recipient of a number of awards including the Young Literature Forum Hessen-Thuringia award which she has received in 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the OVAG Youth Literature Prize. In addition to writing, Farnaz runs creative writing workshops for schools and workshops in countering hate speech online and in political communications.
Link to Biography: https://alphafehler.com/