Spreading Love This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 28, 2008
It is night in March, and the sun has set. February would probably be more appropriate for this, but when you get ideas on February twenty-fifth and they require as much effort to ­implement as this one does, well then, February isn’t really an option.

Pierre was drunk when he came up with the idea. He admits it proudly. No shame whatsoever – what’s there to be ashamed of? He’s legal; it’s well known that one is most innovative when inebriated, and it’s not like he had to drive. It’s Paris, and students in Paris don’t drive. “Driving,” Pierre says, “is for the overweight denizens of suburban America, with their gas-guzzling, Kyoto Protocol-violating SUVs.” Paris is the city of love, the greatest city in the world – obviously it must have decent public transportation. Jean-Luc is less loud about the idea, like he is about most things, but he admits that Pierre does come up with decent ideas once in a while.

So now, at 5:30 on a chilly March night, they are setting up on the sidewalk. To their left is a brightly lit ­family restaurant. It isn’t entertaining many patrons, this being a Thursday night. To their right is a boutique that’s already shut for the night and isn’t ­entertaining any patrons at all. Before them is the street; behind them is an ­alley. It’s as good a place to start as any.

Jean-Luc fiddles with the computer, watching it trace curves and figure eights while he straps a kitchen sponge on his right knee to match the one on his left. He reexamines the sponges on his elbows, flicks his helmet for luck, and plops down onto the sidewalk. They have ­already hosed it down and dumped soap on it, so instead of simply falling to the ground and wincing at the impact, he slides along the concrete.

Pierre does the same. They are slipping and rolling and dancing in the street – it’s like breakdancing, but any fun flippy moves are out of the question due to all the soap on the ground and Jean-Luc’s hand-eye coordination, or lack thereof. Instead he is reduced to a – not in any way comical! – scrambling motion, like he’s trying to stand up but not quite succeeding.

And it is then, exactly then, that the foreign students arrive. They are ­accompanied by three middle-aged women, probably their teachers. There are, Jean-Luc guesses, maybe 20 of them. All seem to be female. He imagines they are staring. He knows they’re giggling and chattering in English about the crazy French guys rolling around on the ground.

Any audience, however, is better than none.

He finishes with a squatting pivot around his left foot that makes odd scraping noises, and stands up. He glances at the ground where he’d been shuffling a moment before. Their ­bodies have pushed and prodded the clusters of soap bubbles, crushed and streaked them across the sidewalk in arcing vectors, looping around, seemingly purposeless, but all intercon­nected. They look beautiful, at least.

Pierre is holding his hands up, looking for all the world like an alien. We come in peace. There are ­actually a few boys among the mass of schoolgirls, Jean-Luc notes.

“Do you have a moment?” Pierre asks the group. Some frown without understanding, some stare blankly, some stand on tiptoe ­because they can’t hear. One of the older women says yes. This is Jean-Luc’s cue.

He picks up a clean sponge, exactly like the ones strapped to his joints. Slowly, carefully, he walks toward the students. There is one girl standing near the front, almost sideways. He starts rubbing the sponge on her back. She stands still for a moment, and Jean-Luc thinks, Yes, this might work! A second passes, two, three … and then she shifts, inching to the right. Jean-Luc can see he’s not wanted. It’s a failure.

He tries again.

This time it is a shorter girl, who only comes up to the first girl’s shoulder. Jean-Luc reaches out, and the easiest target is her face. He rubs the sponge against her face, but not like how he’d scrub a dirty counter. Instead he rubs it gently, like –

“No!” one of the women yells in French. “Not her face!” Whereas there had been an almost reverent silence, now a murmur begins snaking through the mass of students, showing in gossip and whispers.

“But can’t you see what we’re ­doing?” Pierre pleads. “We’re using sponges to pass love through the city! It is a grand project! We will all be connected by sponges!” Jean-Luc demonstrates, rubbing his arm mercilessly with the sponge, forging intangible bonds of love. He can see them, connecting him, connecting the two girls who received his treatment.

“No.” The woman stands her ground. “Not her face. She has an ­infection.”

“We are spreading love! Love cares naught for infections!” Jean-Luc demonstrates, stuffing the sponge into his mouth hungrily. He is willing to make contact with infections – only quarantine is harmful. It creates fear, separates people. He sees the students cringe away.

“Don’t touch the children.”

“Well then, obviously it’s not working! We should love each other, don’t you see?”

“Don’t touch the children.”

Pierre throws his hands into the air. “Come on, Jean-Luc,” he says. “We’re leaving.”

Jean-Luc eyes the woman. This looks like it will be harder than they thought. He packs up the sponges, ­piling them on the cart with his laptop. As he and Pierre walk away, the laptop plays “Tristan und Isolde.” Pierre is a fan.

And they are off now, spreading love with sponges.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 81 comments. Post your own now!

Aileen_P said...
Jul. 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm
this is a very good idea but it's really wierd
palakThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm
this is good...plz see mine in poetry section too
agypup said...
May 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm
my b-day is february 25th!!! hehe
agypup replied...
May 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

btw how do u comee up with ideas?


demetria said...
May 27, 2010 at 5:28 pm
beginning starts off VERY slow. im not saying jump straight into the action--i'm just saying don't add unwanted words because the reader wil become BORED! i litterally didn't finish because it lost the "interest" factor from the beginning.
maddielissa said...
May 27, 2010 at 3:40 pm

this is really good!! 

- if anyone could check out some stories on my account (:

awesomeaugust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm
What a crazy, wacky, and wonderful idea! I sometimes have ideas for stories but I think, "No, that would be too difficult to write down without making it sound crazy." Now I realize that this isn't neccesarily true! Keep writing!
yetya101 replied...
May 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm
This is a really great story..... wish i could write like this
Dilemma said...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm
Absolutly amazing! I love ideas like that. I love people like that. They are just so fun and wako. They make the world go 'round. They spread the love!
thatclarinetgirl said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm
I love this. It is so witty, true, and life-like. I hope you can get somewhere with it. Good luck and keep writting!
live.create16 said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 10:37 am
i really like this :]
SilverLuna said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm
I think this is a really good piece because it is so "out-there." It's somewhat hard to comprehend but the main idea is still there and it's different. It implies a much deeper meaning then when someone jsut says "I love you." I liked this alot, maybe you could read some of mine too?
mkgirl395 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm
I agree Kennisld, this narration threw me off. It's an interesting idea- all you have to do is sprinkle some more detail onto it. This story was a bit too vague. That's what makes it interesting, its vagueness, but just be careful with how much you have. I do love that idea- how did you come up with it? Were you once a foreign exchange student, or did you just read about this somewhere? Anyway, this was quite intriguing. Just change the narration and add more detail. Then you're g... (more »)
Dandelion said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm
My first thought when I saw the title to this piece was, "Oh, just some other cliche love story." However, the "MAG" icon caught my eye, and I am glad I read the article. It is anything but cliche! :D
xLoVeLyCuTiEe428x said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm
I really like it. It's a little confusing, but after rereading it, I found it really well-written and a nice story.
acc13a said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 10:28 am
overall its good, but pretty confusing...i must be missing something
slightlymad said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm
Is there a continuation. Pretty good but makes no sense. :)
Audrea15 said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Lovely please please check out my stuff
Bliss said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 5:23 pm
cool story
Rkingett This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm
i like it. verry nice.
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