Paris, France June, 1832
Yes, we all know what transpired during the June Rebellion, so I won't dwell on what happened to our favorite students and republican revolutionaries. What you don’t know is what happened--or kept happening--afterward. This is the tale of Les Amis through the ages.
Adjusting the satchel of books to a more comfortable position, Kryl'ya1 whistled a jaunty tune under his breath. Never had he felt more alive, never had those around seemed more lively. St Petersburg herself seemed to smile, gleaming in the sunlight. Every day they moved forward on this path of liberal revolution a knot of tension he’d not realized was there loosened.
This felt so right he thought, rubbing at his receding hairline under his hat. Professors and students holding liberal discussions on campus, then after the government shut them out of the university, in cafes and parks and anywhere they could gather. Literature and textbooks from the West were smuggled in and distributed--as Kryl'ya was doing now with a number of anatomy tomes for medical students. Funds were raised and distributed to the poor. Yes, arrests have been made, but most were released within a few days, celebrating their newfound fame as revolutionaries.
As he climbed the Medical School residence hall steps, Kryl'ya nodded at the dapper fellow sporting a walking stick coming down them. A voice from further up called out, startling Kryl'ya.
"Zholy2! Your scarf!"
Between the figure above waving the scarf in question, a sudden ringing in Kryl'ya's ears and sharp throbbing pains, somehow he and the other student ended up colliding and crashing to the steps. Kryl'ya chased down their hats and some of the books that’d spilled out of his satchel, then winced once he realized the walking stick was a cane as he helped the other down to the street level. When their fingers brushed, they both gasped, eyes meeting. "You! I remember you! We--" Kryl'ya didn’t continue as Joly--Zholy now--nodded, teary-eyed and a smile trembling on his lips.
"Wings? Truly, they call you Wings?" Zholy tossed back another shot of vodka in the cafe he and Kryl'ya retired to a few hours later.
Kryl'ya shrugged, tossed back his own drink. "Makes sense now," he chuckled. "But the questions we should be asking is where are---who are--the others?" He scratched at his scalp considering. "Now that I think of it, there are a couple of sharp dressers who could be Courfeyrac and Bahorel in the Law School."
"Yes! And Combeferre! I'm sure his was in one of my first year courses!" Zholy exclaimed, a grin spreading across his face.
Together their eyes widened, gazes meeting, "The charismatic blond who leads most of the rallys!"
"The blond revolutionary in red!" They said at the same time. "Enjolras!" They laughed, ordered another round.
From the corner where a game of dominoes was being played, laughter rang out as one player scooped up his winnings. He had dark unruly curls and a nose that had been broken at least once. Joly and Bossuet's eyes met again. "Let's go see if that's our Capitol R, yes?"
So history repeats itself with another small rebellion that most history books forget. Does history also repeat with the lives of students and friends cut much too short?
Another demonstration, another strike. They were making progress, their voices were being heard. The Rector and many of the Jesuit Deans were gone. If only this progress didn't mean conflicts with the police and now the National Guard. Juan wrung his hands while sorting through the diminishing stock of medical supplies. Why was it that violence the only way? All they wanted was reform. Free secular education that taught modern theory, free of religious dogma. A voice in governing the university. Autonomy from the government and the Church. Voices were rising outdoors. Many shouting out the demands of the students, others demanding they stand down or risk being ousted bodily. The voices moved on, closer to the faculty buildings a number of students were occupying.
"Look out!" A thump then the sound of breaking glass had Juan dashing into the reception area of the make-shift clinic. The front window of the former cafe was smashed, a fist-sized slab of concrete lying on the floor. Juan tsked, turned to find a broom and dustbin to clean the mess. Before he could take two steps, a body of all things next crashed through the broken window.
"Sorry, sorry! I tripped. Are you hurt?" The student--it must be a student by the shabby condition of his coat. Although he was bald and appeared to be older than most students at the National University of Córdoba--asked, helping Juan to his feet and handing him his cane from where it had fallen during their collision.
"Only my pride," Juan responded, dusting himself off. "You, on the other hand are hurt, you're bleeding."
"No, is only a graze. I didn't duck when a rather snazzily dressed student threw a piece of pavement meant for a guardsman." He dabbed at the trickle of blood on his temple, wiped his hand on a kerchief, then held it out. "I'm Juan Aguila3," he said at the same time Juan introduced himself.
"I'm Juan Alegre4, pleased..." They both stopped, hands clasped, staring into each other's eyes.
Again, they both spoke at once, then started giggling that once again their given names were a derivative of Jean. Were the others also? Again, were they also here?
So, once again another student rebellion. Only this time reform did happen, and spread throughout Latin America. Had history learned its lesson at last?
And today it continues. Another university, and another, and another. Rinse and repeat. Student protests across the world and particularly violent in South Africa. Will we never learn?
Eyes red and watering, throat and nose irritated from smoke, he made his way slowly toward the outer fringes of the student protest. Too much, it was just too much. Would it never end? Would 'they' never learn? Not again, not again, he kept repeating to himself like a mantra. Nearly to the back of the mass of bodies that throbbed like a heartbeat, chanting, ever chanting, he collided with another also backing away.
They clasped hands to remain upright.
"You! It's you! It's me!"
"Yes! It's me, it's you!"
They hugged, they cried more tears not caused by the smoke.
"What do we do?"
"We continue to leave. We find Musichetta. We grow old together."