The Pervasive Yellow Jacket

Myra saw her out of the corner of her eye that first moment they entered the gates of Versailles. What stood out about her, in all of its visual loudness, was the bright yellow tone of her jacket. A lightweight fall number that looked, to Myra, like a cotton-polyester blend. It had three-quarter length sleeves, with a hem that fell just above her knees. Myra might never have noticed such key details were it not for the contrast of another woman nearby wearing a deeper canary yellow hue in a shorter cut that fell at her waist. 

From the outset, both women would ruin various photo-taking opportunities near the solid gold gates they would soon be allowed the “luxury,” as modern plebes, to get behind. It would be one thing if these women were “standard extras,” but the glaring couleur of their jackets eclipsed even what should have been the overpowering grandiosity of the gates. After waiting several minutes with her friend, Luc, for the yellow-jacketed doppelgängers to pass, Myra finally gave up. They kept standing there, themselves delighting in having the people they were with take pictures of them. Sighing to Luc, she said, with naïve hope for the rest of the visit, “Let’s just go inside. I’m sure there will be plenty of other backdrops to choose from.” 

And she was right, there were. She took advantage of many of them, from posing in the Hall of Mirrors to making a disgusted face in front of several different busts of indistinguishable-from-one-another white men in the Gallery of Great Battles. You know, to show just how much of history was and remains dictated by a single type of person (read: Caucasian and male). But this sense of liberation from unwanted hoi polloi constantly infecting her space was quickly interrupted once they entered into the jardins of the château. The infamous, sprawling outdoor space made all the more iconic by Sofia Coppola in 2006. The place where countless instances of debauchery and bacchanalia must surely have gone down, only to be reduced to this vanilla present of tourism. Oh, how positively appalled Comtesse du Barry would be to see this place so staid and sterile. Then again, she was already disappointed by that in her own time as Louis XV’s mistress. 

Current “tranquil atmosphere” or not, it was easy for Myra to see that various pockets of the garden had once served their purpose of easily furnishing some ritualistic orgies. There was just no way to deny it. All one needed to do was look at the Star Grove (with its erstwhile pentagram landscape structure conveniently removed), Apollo’s Bath Grove and the Enceladus Grove to fathom the decadent delights of the monarchs and those allowed into their orbit. Luc wasn’t really interested in hearing about this speculation on Myra’s part. Nor could he stand her constant inquiries as to whether or not he could take “just one more photo” of her here or there, and everywhere. It set him off in such a way that he proceeded to pontificate about Thomas Bernhard’s stance on “pictures” (both literal and metaphorical) as he recited the lines, “These pictures are full of lies and falsehoods and full of hypocrisy and self-deception, there is nothing else in them if we disregard their often inspired artistry. All these pictures, moreover, are an expression of man’s absolute helplessness in coping with himself and with what surrounds him all his life.”

All Myra could respond to that little ray of sunshine quote was, “Mm. Okay.” She waited about ten seconds for him to cool down before asking him again if he could capture her image in front of the dramatic sculpture of Enceladus. He arched his brow and cocked his head in an expression of semi-disbelief. He then snatched her phone from her hand and told her to “hurry the fuck up” and get into position so they could enjoy the rest of the garden in real time as opposed to constantly being held prisoner by the phone’s potential for capturing some false “moment.” It was Bernhard who also once said, “…if at some point you go for a walk in the woods, and someone takes a photo of you, then for the next eighty years you’re always walking in the woods.” It seemed to Luc that Myra wanted to be the American tourist trapped in Versailles for the rest of her life, going by Bernhard’s logic. And, as a working-class Frenchman, that was something he truly couldn’t fathom. Just as Myra couldn’t fathom that the woman with the three-quarter sleeve pale yellow jacket had reemerged out of the woodwork to act as a human stoplight holding up her ability to take an ideal photo. For she, like everyone else in this grove, wanted to get the perfect snapshot as well. The difference was, other people weren’t dressed to completely steal the attention from the main subject of the photo. In that sense, the yellow-jacketed woman was all the more odious for assuming that she should be the star of every image in a public space, even ones that were not taken on her phone, by the person she was with. 

Something about Versailles, of course, brought out the Noah’s Ark qualities in the clientele, with the majority—including the yellow-jacketed woman—showing up in pairs… or in large school groups. Myra was actually pleasantly surprised by the general lack of snot-nosed children to further crowd the space and affect her (or rather, Luc’s) capacity to take the best possible photo. But it seemed the yellow-jacketed woman was designated there by the simulation to be the sole party responsible for ruining Myra’s mise-en-scene. Even the other yellow-jacketed woman from the beginning—the one wearing the darker canary yellow shade—had the good sense of decorum to vanish. Perhaps there was some unspoken rule that if the two yellow-jacketed women crossed paths again, all of Versailles would implode. Or perhaps the canary yellow-jacketed woman had the good sense to remove her garment after noticing several dirty looks aimed in her direction. Ones that made her realize that the color was offending to photo-takers everywhere—no better than a wrongly-toned muleta. Except at least bulls were color blind, evading one form of suffering, in that sense. 

Indeed, Myra was starting to wish for a bit of color blindness herself, for it appeared as though everywhere she turned after a certain point in the day, there was the accursed yellow-jacketed woman. Goading her with a presence that seemed to say that she’d always be one step ahead, yet also one step behind so as to linger in the frame of Myra’s potential photo. It was becoming sheer madness, and Luc could see in Myra’s eyes some kind of devilish flash; it was as though she was becoming crazed with the idea of rushing ahead to the next area of the garden as quickly as possible to capitalize on the potential chance of the yellow-jacketed woman somehow not actually being there. But no, without fail, she always was. 

Thus far, Myra and Luc had only been at Versailles for half the day, yet, to both (for varying reasons), it felt as though they had been there for an eternity. Myra was starting to experience the same sentiments she imagined an ultimately caged animal must have after too much time spent in a pasture intended to make it feel at ease about its inevitable fate. What’s more, Luc was truly starting to get on her last nerve with his own impatience. The cultural divide between them had clearly become too great since the last time they had seen one another. For, like any American, she saw Versailles as a playground for her own self-aggrandizing social media purposes. In contrast, Luc saw it as a genuine chance to learn about history, specifically in terms of reminding the present-day citizens of France of all the reasons why they should never let “their rulers” get out of control again. Naturally, that had already happened, and another storming of the palace was long overdue. Incidentally, it was in the Enceladus Grove that Luc tried to explain to a non-receptive Myra that the reason Louis XIV saw fit to install such a dramatic sculpture of the giant’s fall was to iterate the idea that anyone—no matter how powerful they thought they were—who deigned to try going up against the gods would suffer fatal consequences. Obviously, this was subtext about how no one, least of all a plebe, should ever think they could take on the monarchy and win. At least not in the long run.

But Myra wasn’t trying to take on anyone other than this goddamn cunt in the yellow jacket. In fact, that’s what she found herself doing all at once, as though there was a jump cut she hadn’t been made aware of until now. In one instant, she was simply standing across from the yellow-jacketed woman at the Golden Children Fountain, and the next she had somehow lunged forward, her hands gripping the woman’s neck like a joystick. Luc, meanwhile, remained in the position they had both been standing in before Myra inexplicably wound up over here. Yet, wait… something was not quite right. Because now, she was seeing the yellow-jacketed woman she thought she was strangling walk laughingly past her, the laughter being nothing more than part of the “influencer” “culture” that had invaded even the most average of person’s mode of performing for “the camera” in their day to day. The man she was with, unlike Luc, was truly game for entertaining her every whim and desire when it came to photographic possibilities. Maybe if she and Luc were lovers instead of friends, it would have been easier for him to oblige her vapidity. But, as it stood, Myra had already rejected his advances long ago, when they first met while she was studying abroad in Paris. 

She suddenly realized her hands were no longer constricting the neck, but instead, her own neck was being “held.” And it was Luc who was strangling her. For he had reached his wit’s end about the photos after a day of ceaseless vanity-related requests from Myra that completely detracted not only from the historical value of the excursion, but Luc’s overall ability to live fully in the moment.

Making sounds that were utterly foreign to her as Luc’s grip grew more and more determined, Myra took in the sight of the second yellow-jacketed woman who appeared at the entrance initially, and she, too, was laughing. They were all laughing. Everyone around her, everyone that passed. No one could have cared any less about how the life was being summarily choked out of her. The last thing she saw before she expired fully: a suffusion of yellow. 

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