evolution of an imaginary affair
Endless violations of everything,
everything she knows,
everything she wants to be true in life.
How to continue after that kind of transgression?
Cautiously juggling bliss, pride and humiliation.
Self-worth becomes something silly, found in the inspirational quotes-section in online forums
- what does it really matter?
Worth becomes relative, elastic, irrelevant.
And if her sense of self is threatened; that can be dealt with later.
Later might as well be a different planet and she's reluctant to pull herself out of the orbit just yet.
Despite everything she may be feeling, all the convictions she has abandoned,
She knows that his gaze upon her is really just searching for his own reflection.
Maybe he lost it somewhere along the way, maybe he just wishes it was a little different.
And for as long as she lies there it is. Different.
They both lie, obviously.
What did she really know?
She would take whatever she could get- and odd phrase for her, but there it is, spelled out in all honesty.
It was never true before but writing it she realizes it is all she can offer.
Strange how compromising herself could so easily be presented as a gift.
Curious how readily he accepted it.
Funny how first person narration fails me.
An underwater earthquake
the surface of things
is all, that's all
a window- not to the soul-
but to whatever image can be salvaged from the remaining fragments.
Reconstructing the few pieces left behind,
many were sacrificed in emotional sandstorms before I could consider the postscript
a time before I forget but after I can really remember
Maybe if I change the pronoun?
I wanted to recall the first trickle of feeling,
how I was looking at my feet because it was suddenly a little difficult to breathe,
- my sparkly toe-nails offering a slight distraction.
the way his presence was heavy somehow, or was that mine?
How shockingly guilt-free that first touch which should have felt clandestine,
How the world shifted a little and nobody would ever know.
An underwater earthquake.
Maybe it was symbiosis?
Maybe it was pheromones.
This may be phantasmagoria.
The world is burning. The world is drowning.
If it were not endlessly heartbreaking it would be ironic,
that two of Plato's fundamental elements would crash into each other so violently.
that the roots upon which everything else was built should turn against us.
In Greek philosophy Fire and Water were derived from chaos,
but if chaos is the beginning, what will be the end?
I've been thinkning about where everything comes from.
Me- this bundle of qualities, emotions, opinions-
If I am a graveyard of past experiences; a recollection of places, people, plights?
Or an island, born and refined over time. A pebble on the shoreline.
Every year a little more like herself.
As though the waves had washed away all pretensions and attempts at hiding behind old illusions.
There were days when I'd write odes to the Bel Paese,
Sometimes I still find them and cringe over their poor grammar and distasteful drama.
I would buy La Gazzetta dello Sport and cut out pictures of Maldini,
paste them in my notebook and move on as if I had ever cared about Serie A.
Every night I'd put children to bed singing piccola pietra, che forse un giorno si poserà..
Occasionaly I'd brew espresso for four and pour it into a big cup and drink it all.
Sure, I was a little shaky but who wouldn't be?
I was alive.
There was a time when I pretended that every song about "her", was about Italy.
Vivo per lei was my anthem and I recited it to anyone who would listen.
At 19, there's a certain narcissism to life.
I was sure nobody had ever suffered like I was suffering.
I was abandoned by someone but felt that the real problem was that I had betrayed Italy.
Loving her and leaving her.
Like he had loved me and left me.
In retrospect it is easy to see how naive I was.
Believing that life would be week nights at the Irish pub and Sundays in the park,
Enigmatic men with secrets and a penchant for philosophy.
Wine, coffee and gelato.
And thinking that love could be earned if only I learned the words.
- curre, curre guagliò -
I did not see it coming,
Real life, the one you cannot plan, pre-book or conjure with foreign phrases.
Where poems don't serve as collateral,
and your value is not determined by how good you are at coming back for more.
Where we are all portions for foxes, but we've learnt to live with it.
So, I guess I am wondering.
If I am I still the girl who woke up to romantic texts that seemed profound
but turned out to be scrambled lyrics from the latest hit from Raf.
The girl who threw her bag away and pretended it was stolen to get out of trouble.
If I woke up tomorrow, poured myself four espressos and just kept going-
Would I find her, am I her?
And if not, where is she now?
Tomorrow morning I'll slip out of my apartment and out of this city,
get on a plane, unpack my things, untangle my mind and continue my life somewhere else.
Every little mundane landmark that I have conquered will be left behind and
I will no longer be there to recognize the way their unimportance holds the world in place.
Tomorrow I will be one of those people who once passed through,
through a city in which everybody is transient, a sort of collective pile of lost & found.
I’ll be “Yeah, I think I remember her, she was kinda cool- just here for a while though”.
This will not be my city, and I won’t be living in Brussels anymore.
A few months in, I tried the Brussels-is-a-dress-that-looks-good-on-me metaphor on for size.
It was comfortable, like the colourful, flared pants I can't stop buying at thrift shops.
Generous and surprising, much like Brussels, they leave enough space for my personality.
I am scared that the parts of me which were made here might be lost with the city.
That I am too fluid to retain any real structure and that after learning for the first time to put down roots,
my limbs won’t know what to do with themselves.
I am scared that the person I have become here will be all wrong there.
That I’ve carved myself around this city with all its imperfections, quirks and undeniable if difficult charm,
and that these concessions will be too revealing for somewhere else.
Why does this disturb me so much?
The stories we tell become who we are,
and I've been calling myself rootless for as long as I can remember.
Cities, jobs and lives were blissfully interchangeable and I was always on the verge of something wonderful.
Living in units of time allows you to stay permanently detached.
Compartmentalizing life prevents you from being held back by the messiness of reality.
Perhaps I once reached for a word to describe an emotion and grabbed the wrong one.
Clinging to it for dear life, using it as a life-vest and not noticing it's full of holes.
And if I have to choose a new one,
what would it be?
Not all places need light
There are things that you live out in the open
it happened, because everyone was there to see it.
it was real, because you did not have to lie about being somewhere else.
You were both there, and noone was pretending.
The world was a helium balloon in your hand that nobody could snatch away.
There are moments that you live in solitude.
Perhaps because you know that if shared, they would become something different.
Perhaps because their existence depends on this.
Does it take away from their significance, blur their value?
Or does it add to the burden of being, pushing our life closer to the earth,
- closer to the truth, as Kundera
might have suggested?
Just to be sure, I go back and repeat the words, rethink the thoughts,
Replay from Start until Game Over.
You play- you win, you play- you lose; you play.
Was I really playing, and who was the winner?
And if I don't write this, did it ever really happen at all?
Between the idea
and the reality
Between the motion
and the act
Falls the shadow.
They are the hunters, we are the foxes.
Did you ever notice that armour is just amour with an extra R?
False friends or binary opposites?
right to say that the meaning of one word exists only in contrast with its opposite?
Can love exist only when we stop protecting ourselves from being hurt?
Any given moment is a chance not to shut down.
But any given moment is easily squandered.
A second where you should have hesitated before opting for the easy way out.
Phantom feelings are not like phantom limbs.
Once cut off they don't come back to haunt you.
They're just gone.
I was waging war on windmills.
Repeating loudly "Pick it up, put it down! a little light reading; a bedtime story!?"
Angrily formulating my defenses as I sank deeper into the quicksand of the mislead.
Falling back on past emotions is not a crime, but a disgraceful part of being human.
And trusting the present is perhaps the most jarringly human risk we can take.
It could be one of those pre-fabricated sentiments,
focus group-tested, good on paper, Freudian naïvité - that sort of thing.
A kitschy cry in the dark.
It could be shame; simple and irreproachable guilt.
Does this define me? What does that make me?
it wouldn't be the first time.
Oh, and it could be boredom,
foolish fantasies, fictitious flirtation and fear of..
Fear- isn't it always fear?
But what if it's nothing short of a poem?
Entire of itself.
He came with the wind,
And you can see it on his face.
Stormy seas, endless deserts, hostile trails over mountains unused to bare feet.
He wants nothing, but for the wind to stop blowing,
for his road to stop winding, constantly,
unforgivingly changing direction every time he hopes to arrive somewhere. Anywhere.
But there is no place for him; he is nobody.
Murmurs of an indignant crowd stirs up a storm that keeps him moving
Running to keep safe, although nothing can protect him now.
And when he finally falls, the murmur grows silent for a moment.
The world is given a chance to rethink,
A chance to right the wrongs, to wake up and smell the death of inaction.
The crowd regroups, changes its chant, repaints its door and stands there,
Ready to rise up and scream.
But they aren’t screaming for the death of the fallen man.
They do not wipe for his demise, searching for peace at the end of inhumanity.
They wipe for themselves,
they demand justice for themselves,
they cry STOP!
But it does not stop, it never stops.
And it is their fault.
Calais migration crisis, 2015-07-29
Crazy hair and a singing heart
Not enough metaphors left to tell this story.
Of dreams and impossible adventures of the heart.
Not the linear kind, but the explosives-and-walking-on-hot-coal type of adventure.
Of unexpected bliss and swarms of butterflies,
Of betrayed trust, second chances and elaborated excuses.
I make them as much for me as I do for you.
- The truth did not discourage you? you ask.
Perhaps you're shocked, perhaps you are still not sure if it did.
What can I tell you that you do not already know?
We act like we're surprised at what we are doing, yet this was the road we chose.
You turned the blinker on and I helped turn the car around.
And the ride is like a cabriolet on a sunny road to the beach.
Crazy hair and a singing heart.
What can I tell you about me?
That my relationship with truth is a very complicated one.
That I am strong, independent and fragile, and so very shaky on the inside.
That I will use your guilt against you before you can turn it on me.
But, also this:
That I will be gone before any of your disaster scenarios could ever come true.
Trust me, I am telling you stories.
Someone else's ceiling
It was true once, that the act of being chosen trumped any will of my own.
days consumed obsessing over someone I cared little or nothing about,
my world would expand and disappear to the rhythm of his whims,
and I would be rendered useless by words or gestures that never took place.
But life happened and I grew up a little.
My heart learnt to stay within its own boundaries,
and though my body sometimes opens itself up- the shutdown is usually firm and fast.
Fast and furious.
In a relationship of logistical efficiency, the small moments are lost.
Perhaps life is what happens in between those small moments?
The pause, the wait, the longing?
Matters of the heart are not meant to be scheduled, appropriate, orderly.
- they're not supposed to be safe.
But one day you walk through the floor and find that it is someone else's ceiling.
And you will no longer be able to tell up from down.
Stones in glass houses
We were rebels,
Phantasmagorically carving out a space in a hole we just barely began digging.
With stones in our hands and nothing but glass walls surrounding us,
we picked them up and started throwing.
Not the proverbial ones, but stones heavy with desire and sharp edges
The kind you cannot carry around in your pocket forever,
or they'll cut through the fabric, causing gaping holes that never heal.
The kind that can easily smash glass once they are released.
I know this.
But without the bruise, how can we ever tell where the boundaries are?
How much the heart can take? And wich frontiers are really worth crossing?
Or the answer to the ubiquitous question am I significant?
And as long as the glass remains intact, there's no reason to stop.
- is there?
Drones and dreams
Don't use your weapons, he said.
And I never got it.
If anything, he had all the ammunition; I was just trying to stay alive.
I used to pity myself in secret, mocking his position of power,
never taking seriously his military metaphors.
A few years later, I'm learning about vulnerability.
About how we keep it at bay by constructing our personally protective walls,
sheltering us from hurt and happiness in equal parts.
And it hits me how I've spent the last ten years perfecting the human shield.
Like oil and water, baby.
I am a preventative drone strike,
nothing ever gets through.
Lacking in precision, it takes out everything while searching for its target.
Annihilating threats and promises alike.
Leaving nothing where there was once something.
- Do you remember?
Never underestimate a peacock feather.
I read in the papers that giant frozen waves have been spotted off the coast of Nantucket.
Colder than water, softer than ice; the waves kept rolling in.
Defying density. Just barely breaking.
Breathing unevenly, I tell myself to get a grip.
This is not a car crash, not an unfortunate parachute landing, or a piano dropped from the 3rd floor.
This is not the moment when all my weaknessess break me.
- Hey, I say, and instead of meeting your eyes I move on. Barely breaking.
Like those frozen waves off the Nantucket coastline.
But the storm in my chest.
Experience concludeth nothing universally.
But then this.
The light trickles down the neck of a stranger,
plays on his skin and slides over my heart. Lightly, like peacock feathers.
It jumps off the pages of my favourite book and back up in the sky.
And if you crossed the street right next to me, I might be able to just smile and keep on going.
One of those days, when elation comes effortlessly and walking on water seems possible, if not probable.
So, despite this inner turmoil and all my outer insecurities.
In the face of such piercingly beautiful bliss that can only be intentional.
I'll be standing on the shoreline.
Which color do you want?
Outside this unfamiliar building, we're not sure what to expect,
and even less certain of what is expected from us.
Foyer Selah is a home for asylum seekers waiting for permission to stay in Belgium.
We, a group of well-meaning whites, with worries like "why hasn't he called yet?" or "hope it won't rain tonight";
I'm wondering if they really want us here or if this is just an imperative that we've invented.
The living room is big and bright and ridicilously over-heated.
It has the familiar feeling of a communal space, sparsely decorated but welcomingly colorful.
There is no suspicion, only big smiles, vivid hand gestures and eager attempts at finding a common language;
Arabic, French, Tigrinya, English and Somali bounce against the walls, looking for somewhere to land.
We have come armed with props, games, nail polish and curiosity.
At first it seems surreal, to meet someone for the first time and ask to paint their nails.
- Which color do you want?
Silvana, the smallest Eritrean 18-year-old I have ever seen, cannot make up her mind.
She looks over to her friend, a veiled Somali woman with a contagious smile who points to the turquoise bottle.
This intimate act becomes a way of interaction, of breaking down barriers too large to think about.
Or maybe reducing barriers that exist mainly in my mind.
Silvana is married. She doesn't speak much English, but she can say "husband", and she says it a lot.
Her phone is full of photos of the two of them together, looking young, beautiful and happy.
In between them are photos of shoes, glittery dresses and very exotic nail art.
She shows me a turquoise nail decorated with zebra stripes and miniature stones and looks hopeful.
I'm thinking how extremely normal yet absurdly abnormal this all is.
A young girl bursting out into the world, hoping to land somewhere less hostile than what she escaped.
A young husband who follows but ends up on another shore.
Weddings gowns, high-heeled shoes and a world of uncertainty and loss are all contained within Silvana.
She fingers the wooden cross around her neck and explains: "Orthodox".
- Are you a muslim? she asks as she starts to paint my nails with a shade of light pink.
A few hours later we hug each other and the girls are taking pictures.
I slip Silvana a small thank you note, and I wonder if she can tell that my head is raging with calm confusion.
She asks her friend to write a reply that says Yekenyeley.
It means 'thank you' in Tigrinya, she explains.
It's a story as old as the world.
We try to make a change in the life of others, and they end up changing ours.
What was it I wanted?