In my giddy twenties I spent a year in Paris. My friends and I had no money so tended to hang out at each others’ apartments, aka chambres de bonne/firetraps located on the 5th or 6th floor of a grand building. My friend B had a particularly lovely circular room in a tower, ooverlooking the Seine and opposite the Eiffel tower. He took the room over from our friend S, who had left behind an empty champagne bottle on a windowsill (in fact it was the property of the previous incumbent, but that’s another story).
One day, rejoicing in the warm weather, B opened that particular window for the first time. He had forgotten about the champagne bottle, and he watched in horror as it arced its way towards the ground, where a group of workmen were doing something. Seeing all their enquiring heads looking up, B ducked behind the curtain and hid. Soon the concierge came up and knocked on his door.
‘I’m sure it wasn’t you,’ were his opening words, ‘but do you know who might have dropped a champagne bottle on top of those ouvriers?’ His next Gatsby-like words made B’s blood run cold: ‘Il a presque tue un homme.’ – it almost killed a man. B courageously confessed, and was reassured when the concierge said that was fine and he wouldn’t tell since the police were ‘criminels’ in any case.
B says he often imagines what might have happened if the worst had happened, and if the champagne bottle had killed someone.
‘What kind of sentence do you think I would have got?’ he asked his brother R.
‘I think the worst thing about this story is the symbolism of almost killing a worker with a champagne bottle,’ R replied.
What about you? Have you ever almost done anything fatal, with or without a champagne bottle?