About a year ago Marie first met Sophie. She was pretty, blond, well-built and troubled. She went to the same college as Grégoire who was in love with her. Sophie looked like someone who would do drugs and run away from home. Marie was happy because Grégoire was and she did not interefere with them just as she does not interfere Charlotte when she retires to her bedroom at four or five in the afternoon.
She was just about to go to bed when Odile knocked on her door to tell Marie that Sophie had run away from her home in Belgium and they were looking for her. She did not like Odile who had a tendancy to lie and exagerate. Odile also spoke horribly of her parents who had difficulty understanding her, yet she still relied on them for money etc. Marie reacted cooly saying that she would deal with it in the morning. She spoke to Grégoire the next day and found out that she had fled from her house and that she wanted to live with them and work in Paris. Marie found out she was fifteen and so suggested that she rang her parents to tell them that she is allright as they must be worried although she only would if Grégoire wanted her to. Grégoire told Marie to ask Sophie and also that it was not the first time she had run away from home. He also spoke of how rich her parents were, having Picasso's paintings in the toilets. Marie took this with a pinch of salt seeing as Grégoire had never set foot in her house.
She found Sophie asleep with her arm over her face as if to protect herself. Marie was concerned that she was going to sleep with Grégoire who was seventeen. She wondered if he was mature enough but disregarded this as old fashioned prejudice and principles. She had spoken to him the evening before about the responsabilities involved and he had assured her that they would not conceive. Sophie was not surprised to see Marie who was feeling embarassed because she felt responsible for Grégoire, as if to calm her Sophie said that she had spent a good night with him. Marie felt much closer to her for saying this. Marie exaplined that her parents would be worried about her, Sophie says that he will only blame her for his bad heart as always, saying it is like blackmail with him. Her mother has not spoken to her for some months. Her nineteen year old sister lives in Sweden and is very happy there and her father wants her to do the same when she is sixteen but not before. Her father is in his sixties and her mother is thirty nine and is beautiful but does not want to bring her up. She is much too young for her father and has 'friends'. Her father is terrified that she will leave him and so blames Sophie if she ever gets flustered, and then gets on at her for giving him heart problems. When she returned to college he rented her a studio in Geneva where she stayed with a friend. She smoked hash getting into trouble with the police and so her father put her in a boarding home where she should be staying now. She got her papers and passport from the house of the headmistress and went on her scooter to the border and from there took the train.
Marie had permission to telephone her father but he was German and did not speak French. She had to speak in English. Marie explained to him that she had arrived last night and that she was okay but nervous, and she suggested that she stayed until the end of the week. The father said that that was up to the headmistress, which Marie found a little odd. She gave her details and put the phone down only to realise that she had given her home details when she was at the office. She got home as soon as possible for the phone to ring ten minutes later. It was militant sounding german woman. Marie believing it was the mother said that Sophie was well but it was the headmistress and she pinned the responsability for Sophie on Marie as she had welcomed her in. She also revelaed that the Belgian police were looking for her and her parents had given up rights to her. Marie argued that when somone comes knocking at your door at nine at night you give them a bed, but the woman said that this was a moralistic consideration not a legal one and that she should be on the next train to Brussels. Marie was furious with Sophie and her not telling her that the police were after her. Sophie explained that it was because she was smoking drugs that the police arrested her and her father did not want any more trouble and so gave up his rights to the police.
Because of the metro strike the roads were blocked and so since Sebastien was taking the plane early tommorow she was put on a plane from Orly to Brussels at the same time. She telephoned Sophie's father to explain. He had changed his tone saying that it was her fault and got her to pay. Until then Sophie was the centre of attention with the children telling them all about her rich family. When she arrived she wrote a letter telling how she had been searched for drugs at the airport by the police, her father watching dreading that something would be found. She was put in a correction centre and felt as thoguh no-one loved her, even Grégoire. Marie comments how Sophie is a book in herself, looking for love.
According to Marie, when you are a teenager you want to live quickly and in the now, yet to achieve what you want you have to study long and hard. Even with a diploma, you are not guaranteed a job. Nearly half of France is below twenty five, five hundred and fifty thousands young people each year become available on the employment market. Some dream of leaving the country to find paradise where there are less people, usually they end up doing drugs. She believes that the middle class usually have given up drugs at this stage, knowing that the descent into addiction is rapid, now it is the working class who do drugs. The scary thing is that the middle class did drugs out of curiosity, however the working class are driven by despair. They can revert to begging, stealing and doing anything for anyone to get their fix. She sees the dealers as exploiting their customers who are like slaves to them.
Marie puts forward two points; Why not sell weed legally like alcohol? and why doesn't the government buy up the poppy fields of Asia Minor [the former name for the area around Turkey]. She then goes on to surmise that is it that all the rich coutries do not have enough money to help countries that produce opium to find another type of agriculture? She believes that despite what the governments say, they really are not concerned.
Marie believes that Jean-François (a Dalton) a prisoner of Belgium realises that he is conforming with a system that he hates and is humiliated by it. She does not like speaking to Jean-François because she does not really understand him despite the fact that he came around often. He lives in a different area and so she has not seen him in the last year. He is very thin and quite tall with long wavy blond hair and round iron rimmed glasses. He is the brains of the group and will be seventeen at Christmas. There are four Daltons, Jean-François, Yves, Bertrand and Dody. Two months ago Marie banned the group from her door as she found their prescence nauseating. She expressed that she likes to return home to friends of her children who are stimulating to talk to, idea changing and help pass the time, however they had narrow minds and shallow vocabulary and they bored her. They were like the people she had to work with, mired in an moronic existance that doesn't interest her. They left without saying aything, and by and large the reaction of the others was positive. Grégoire saying that he was on the verge of hitting one of them anyway, Charlotte however, being indifferent.
Yves was the one that Marie liked the most. Even though he was becoming more and more of a drug addict, he worked asan errand boy during the day. He was the only one who worked regularily and at the same workplace. He passed his bac and is now going to university. At Christmas he was made to cut his hair before seeing his grandma who would have thought the matriarch of a poor family if he did not. He got Marie to do it first although it was difficult and she could only get a style that would be good for a few hours and he was going to stay for two days. He went to a barbers and came back with medium length curly hair. Marie liked it. He had inherited it from his mother. His mother left when he was little and now lives with a Vietnamese man who has two children, his father remarried and has other children. Yves stays with him.
One day he was messing around with make up with the other Daltons and looking in the mirror he said that if he met a girl that looked like him then he would be in love. Marie asked if he looked like his mother and he said yes and spoke to Marie about her with an unfathomable love. He even had a photo album with her and him as a baby. She was a beautiful blond, pin-up type. Many photos were just of her face cut out. He also had picture of his Vietnamese brothers and sisters. Another day, Yves said that he realised that he was the most idiotic boy in Paris. This shocked Marie but made him a hero in the eyes of the others.
Marie had known for a long time that the 'everything is stupid' attitude taken up by the youths is a double edged sword. Everything on the outside is 'stupid' but at the same time they themselves were pointless. The more stupid the outside world becomes, the more interesting you become. She would listen to their arguements come to the conclusion that the only existance with meaning is that of the amoeba. Marie wonders what advice to give them. Why should they become part of the terrible machine? The Prime Minister declaring more tax, the years of study that end in unemployment, the useless diplomas, the 'Bruay' affaire where votes were fixed, where money rules. They spoke for hours about the Join France strikes. Marie points out the pointlessness of her ranting though. If she tried to get them to do something about it, perhaps to start a revolution, the answer is just Revolution? that's stupid.
Jean-François is the one who invented the 'stupid' language. He has the widest vocabulary as he reads more and must speak a lot with his mother who was an intellectual. He lives with her although Marie does not know her. She works for the goverment. The children are a real acheivement for her as she had her only son late on and she lost her husband two years ago from a liver problem. Jean-François gets on very well with her although Marie thinks he lies to her as she had been suprosed and distraught when drugs were found on him at the border. Her house is a bit like Marie's but the key is not in the door and his friends stay in his room, she not knowing what goes on up there.
Jean-François reads a lot but not very well. He is quite clever but tends to assert things when he does not fully understand them. Others tend to believe him because they themselves are inexperienced. Marie talked again about drugs and she said she did not like them because they alienated. Jean-François said they they do not and rather they enrich and augment beauty and the good feelings in life. Marie asked what he thought 'alienated' meant and he replied that it meant to dispossess and that Marx, when speaking about the working class said that they were alienated because they were dispossessed. Marie replied that she did not remeber Marx using the word in that sense although it was possible. She explained the real meaning and told him to look it up in the dictionary. Jean-François replied that life was stupid and those that did not do drugs were really stupid. Marie said that she did not like the cowardice of those that fled from life, worse was suicide. Jean-François replied that suicide was cowardice too. Marie said that it was not in the sense she meant. to refuse to take part any longer in a world that you loathe with no hope of improvement then it is not cowardice. Jean-François said that that happens with drugs as well. Marie replied that to think that there was no life outside of drugs that you have not experienced is daft and that she believed that there was a life that depends on you to find. Jean-François said that that was stupid. She then asked if imagination was stupid.
Marie said it was moving to see them on the verge of a new outlook on life they they were creating but finding hard to keep up with. They were discarding ancient ideas that were long out-moded. They were so conditioned by the past that they could not imagine a furture without them. Their naivity is only on the surface.