'Twas the late 1980s in Paris, the plaza at Beaubourg facing the Centre Pompidou. I was hanging out, crowd-watching; people relaxing on a sunny day in Paris. My shoes were worn. I suppose I was scribbling in my journal as any proper moveable feast American in Paris does. Jugglers, tourists, painters, punks.
And Jesus, sweet Jesus, walked among the crowd, silently blessing the masses. He is American, it turns out after all. Dressed in a white robe and sandals with a rope for a belt. He looked just like his pictures - a ruggedly handsome white man with long hair and a beard. No halo, but his steps were light, his compassion visible.
I watched Jesus. He slowly moved towards a couple of German tourists, two girls in hiking boots having their lunch while seated on the cobblestones of the plaza. Some quiet words were exchanged and one of the girls reached up to Jesus and handed him one of their oranges. Jesus accepted the fruit delicately, as if taking an infant into his arms.
Now the white-robed figure glided patiently through the crowd with the bright orange in his hands. He approached two punks clad in official leather, chains, and torn jeans outstretched on the ground in heroin-induced spittle-bliss. These were the days in Europe when public displays of heroin use were treated like one would treat urban pigeons.
Jesus stood over the two punks, the sun glowing at his back. He reached out his hand to the punks, holding the orange as an offering and said, "please accept this fruit." They responded slowly, bewildered at the unusually life-like divine productions of the smack, and squinted up at Jesus. Jesus looked down upon his children, "please accept this fruit."
One of the punks managed with great effort to raise an arm more naturally attached to the ground. He gave the arm a small wave, a "go away" movement. The arm relayed the message to Jesus. Jesus responded, the golden manna in his palm, "please accept this fruit."
The other punk became angry, but couldn't stand up. He tried. But there was great difficulty raising his head. He uttered a word or two, which can be translated here roughly as, " no... ungh...."
"Please accept this fruit," Jesus again asked from his place in the infinite stream of cosmic time.
"Please accept this fruit."
"Noooooo...." And the angry punk tried clumsily to swing at Jesus. Neither of the punks could get off the ground. But their will not to accept the bright fruit remained impressive.
"Please accept this fruit."
Frustrated by the divine presence's eternal patience and their inability to move, the punks began to cry. They tried covering their ears. They tried rolling away. They tried to give each other comfort. All failed. They were left with crying.
"Please accept this fruit...."
Needing to move on to a rare appointment, I left Jesus, the orange, and the two punks, a crèche-like scene of Jesus and his lambs that grew smaller as I walked on. As I turned the corner out of sight, the drama was still playing out.
What was the outcome, I do not know. I suppose that Jesus broke the punks' will and ultimately gave the gift he sought to give.