Re-reading old books is the closest I'll ever come to time travel.
It's more than the familiarity of the story, the way the words feel soft and friendly
- like memories of a distant relative-
it's the barely intelligible thoughts scribbled at the margins of pages that once made me dream,
or made me despair.
I pick up The Unbearable Lightness of Being, because I know that Kundera always challenges me,
and tonight I am looking for anything difficult, anything at all.
Instead I find my own questions randomly strung next to a tense conversation between Sabina and Franz.
All the things we don't know, it says, become our downfall.
How to answer expectations never spoken?
Not sure if I used the story as a prism of my own life, or as a means to step out of it for a while.
The highlighted phrases remind me of another time, one of unexpected hope in the midst of failure.
I discovered some of the few quotes I could easily recite in my sleep in this book.
They've lived side by side with my delusions, exaltations, achievements,
giving birth to ideas that caused me to change my life and leading me to question those same ideas.
Some of my dearest life companions are invisible to others. They live between the pages of books I've carried between cities and countries since before I owned any furniture. How could I ever be lonley when I've got Joyce Carol Oates on my night stand, and Jeanette Winterson in my tote bag. How will I ever lack magic when I can pick up Gabriel García Marquez, or sit down with Salman Rushdie.
I was just a little impatient back then, with Kundera in my hand and a broken heart aching for pessimism.
I have learnt this. What I don't know will not become my downfall.
It will catapult me into a world of wonders.
My imaginary bags were already packed,
I could smell the pisco, my face cringing at the thought of swallowing it, but I would learn.
I felt the guardian gaze of the mountains over my shoulder and the pull of Cape Horn from the south.
Hours after I received the news of my upcoming posting in Santiago de Chile,
I was mentally prepared for the task.
There were books that I devoured.
An architect's guide to Santiago, Chatwin's phantasmagorical novel In Patagonia,
an investigative reportage about mining in the Andes, the complete travel guide to Chile and Easter Island.
I watched Gael García Bernal as the confident director of the NO-campaign in Pinochet's 1988 referendum,
and sat through a 2-hour horror film of a demolished discoteque in a Valparaíso earthquake.
There were radio documentaries from exiled Chilenos in Sweden,
there were friends of friends that I should get in touch with.
And then suddenly here I was, unpacking my very real bags in the midnight sun
- as far from Patagonia as physically possible. The taste of pisco no longer on my tongue.
Forever chasing an illusion is a convenient way of ignoring the now that you are making.
Life becomes a line of stepping stones to help you cross an ever expanding river delta,
When you pause in the middle, you see oceans before you, but yet you don't stop.
If you stop you might have to feel something. You might not know where you are. You might change your mind.
Mediated experiences always seemed to trump situated ones for me.
Elsewhere is an enchanting place that can be molded into perfection,
And I've spent most of my adult life in a most exciting There.
This time I stopped.
Instead of following a dream I decided to follow myself.
I felt. And I changed my mind.
cherry blossoms and pieces of self.
Sometimes in the recent yet distant aftermath, the whirlwind of it all becomes appearent
that what seemed so irresistibly undeniable and right,
was perhaps just another inevitable act in your own megalomaniac trajectory of life.
It was the power he had to make the otherwise insignificant parts of my body appear important
And in his delirious logic my awkward feet suddenly became perfect.
Those small clues make me realize it was nothing but ego,
but mine had been shattered by someone else and I would happily let him staple me back together.
What a strange notion,
stealing a few hours from someone else's life and playing along knowlingly,
just to feel like yourself.
Mending yourself is not to be taken lightly.
If you leave the holes gaping you will always be wanting,
the temptation will be insurmountable
to plug them with anything you find along the way.
your hands always reaching out, grabbing more than you can carry,
You cannot fix what was broken by carelessly picking up pieces that others leave behind.
Even if I once used this as a romantic projection because I so wanted to feel something.
- if he broke here where would the pieces fly?!-
I would write it like an exclamation point, a challenge.
A rhetorical question that took its meaning from its lack of bearing on reality,
Yet I willed it into being and those pieces became real companions of mine for a while.
Too young to know the archeology of pain, but wise enough to understand that feeling requires sacrifice.
All this time I spend in my own mind,
I always thought I was feeling my way through things,
but really, I was just weaving myself narratives,
intricate, complicated slices of life, neatly served and ready for consumption.
Sometimes I catch myself unable to face things until I've composed the story
And I wonder if others do the same thing,
or if I am the only one constantly building towers for my own feelings
so that I know how to behave.
How to play out the story.
Maybe now that the narrative is creaking, my behavior is becoming too obvious to ignore.
Maybe I needed the story to arch prematurely this time,
so that I could finally deconstruct it and simply live my way through things.
Let everything happen to me- beauty and terror- without knowing beforehand how it is going to play out?
Trust that life is in the right, always?
Reacting instead of intuitively knowing how to act?
Sometimes falling apart instead of holding things together?
The kind of sliced up life that you have to bake yourself from scratch.
It is a false dichotomy, that between the past and the future,
and alternative worldviews are ripe with clichés.
In truth we're everywhere, all the time.
We contain multitudes, we contain contradictions, we are human.
Let us ponder that time is not linear; does that mean regret shouldn't technically be possible?
Some suggest that the boundaries of grammar set the limits of our understanding.
That without the subjunctive, how can we even entertain the idea of a counter-factual?
Does the absence of the form preclude the substance?
I'd like to think that the mind transcends the linguistic tracks we have carved out for ourselves.
That cuneiform and hieroglyphic minds imagined other worlds even if their signs don't show complex tenses.
How else could they have created words where there was once nothing?
At that first carving of the clay, what would you be thinking?
Write the word, write the world...
When the world is in disarray, language can help us fuse tenses that appear irreconcilable.
Competing ideas of what has been and must be left behind,
and what might be and should be sought can find refuge under the same roof.
The Ashanti people of Ghana created symbols to represent ideas.
The symbol of Sankofa is vizualised through a heart-like shape with roots stretching from its base.
Its meaning- it is not too late to go back for that which you have lost.
Time and language construct life just as much as they constrain it.
And we invented them both.
Does that trap us or free us?
It is not too late.
lightly, lightly, unbearably lightly
I can sense myself trying to outrun my feelings,
or maybe I am speeding just to keep up with them,
stumbling around on ice like Bambi, fighting to keep my balance,
lest they slip through my fingers before I could ever understand what I felt.
As though I was stuck in between, my inner and outer life never really acting in accordance,
causing me to constantly try to catch my emotion before it escapes.
Is that a thing? An elusive emotion?
I am even struggling to properly describe it. Naming is important, so let me try again.
Even when it's perfectly obvious, I still struggle to fully inhibit the feeling.
And every time it tries to sink in, I open another book, turn up the music, board another plane.
A fresh batch of other thoughts, emotions, impulses washes over me,
until that one stubborn feeling subsides again.
Until I breathe lightly, lightly, unbearably lightly again.
I am wondering if I don't let it in, I may lose the ability to truly feel it.
The longing, the missing, the wanting of something I thought I could give up.
And I am worried that ignoring all of this will keep me running forever,
irrevocably trying to replace that loss.
Ne me quitte pas.
A boy's room,
making his way to manhood, but a boy nevertheless.
Stolen road signs and worn copies of Le monde diplomatique scattered on the floor.
An innocent film script covered with marginalia - the mark of someone who still believes.
A headful of dreams and parents patiently waiting on the ground floor.
His eyes lit up as he said You must listen to this- it's magic, and pressed play.
Jacques Brel burst out of the speakers, singing, but it felt more like he was weaving a story.
about the sea, tempests, infidelity and about love, always love.
Without understanding why, something heavy was pressing on me,
I could not be sure- my French was tentative at best- and so he explained,
about the old lovers, the shadow of my shadow, the exultation of the body.
He told me about burning, loving- maybe too much, maybe in all the wrong ways.
He explained what everyone wants to feel at 23.
Upon my return home I studied Brel furiously.
Studying for the kind of love that only exists in chansons,
thinking that if I master the lyrics I can will them into being.
Will the songs into being.
Ten years later, and sometimes I still catch myself mumbling those phrases,
an old charm, an exhausting prayer.
l'ombre de ton ombre
l'ombre de ta main
l'ombre de ton chien
mais, ne me quitte pas.
As though they meant something.
And maybe they do.
Homespun webs of significance
Not being accustomed to complaining, I am struggling to match feelings with words.
Not wanting to write myself into a victim, I'm reluctant to write anything at all.
I am too aware that linguistic representation reproduces, permeates, consolidates,
too scared to make a premature idea real by articulating it.
But on the inside, a whirlwind of competing thoughts, desperately fighting for domination.
And if I don't take charge, who knows which one will win.
What were the choices that I made? Were they honestly my own?
Did I opt for glory over passion? Reshuffle over effort?
Are short-term and long-term really opposites?
What was it I wanted?
Sometimes when you look for answers, all you find is more questions
I read old journals, unsure what I am looking for - some sort of core?
Last year I asked myself whether I was
'just writing a never-ending narrative, where my lover is a character in a constant kafkesque metamorphosis.
Like a dream, where one person can take on many different faces without it ever affecting the plot.'
But maybe I am the one constantly changing and I just haven't realized that I could just stop doing it.
I haven't realized that I could let myself crack, let it all pour out - a tiny explosion-
I could say No, not this time, I could say You hurt me.
I could turn my back on it, walk away and not take it.
I could curse- I should probably curse.
Sometimes I think that a big explosion would be better than all the detox in the world.
That it would wash away whatever is stuck somewhere inside, blocking the good and bad from coming out.
Instead of trying to improve myself,
Instead of rebuilding myself, chin up, thicker skin, harder work, another challenge- a bigger smile.
(though, they've proven that smiling causes happiness, that's no lie)
Admitting to pain feels like giving up somehow, like I should have been able to prevent it.
Like I inflicted it on myself, the disappointment of finding my chosen ones unworthy.
And that I deserved to be put away in that lonley bed which was so clearly not yours.
It is hard to respect yourself, when you don't expect others to do the same.
And if you don't let yourself fall, it is impossible to get back up.
I am sailing.
Is it true that what we omit is just as important as what we include, in the larger scheme of things?
That the choices we did not make influence us through their palpable absence,
perhaps even more than the decisions we did take?
Like white would not be white without black, and night only exists in comparison to day,
- are we just binary bundles, held together by the belief that we are masters of our own lives?
Perhaps I am just trying to escape responsability.
By building this theoretical problem out of my own concerns,
by digging into the darker corners of the stormy sea I am trying to contain.
Perhaps I can find a way to blame you for feeling both like a victim and a traitor?
Perhaps I can keep the wind in these sails and just keep going.
I could say that you were spared by the storm,
Your sails are still pristine, heading back to their familiar route, towards the sunset.
And if you feel a little bored, there are picnic baskets and stories to be told.
Everyone loves a good story when the waters are calm.
Of course I'd be wrong.
More than binary bundles, perhaps we are just random reserves of complexion.
Held together by nothing but a will to infer meaning from whatever experience we have survived.
"You" is nothing but a fictitious construct. Me, I am the fingers typing these letters.
Eternal recurrence is not a real thing, is it?
This is not your life
just one thing differently
lived, felt, expressed
might have changed the course of things.
But we were busy weaving the narratives we would later tell ourselves.
So that whatever ropes were cast around us,
the holes were too big for us to be caught in the net.
So that whatever scene we acted out,
we would never be held accountable.
And our reality could never brush against the rest of the world's.
Everything you wanted me to say- egocentrically, futile- I did.
You just weren't around to hear them.
And all I wanted you to do, you did. I am sure you did.
With someone else- c'est la vie.
C'est ma vie.
wherever you are, there you are
Somehow the void of what I left behind is more obvious here, in my childhood home.
Perhaps it is the abundance of time.
Perhaps I used to come here from Brussels and eventually I would always return there,
But this time the dialectic is different.
It feels as thought something is slowly slipping away, and I'm not sure how to hold it in place.
- is it me? is it time? is it everything?
I was only just starting to relax my firm grip around these last few years,
Trying to understand if that is something that I need to do, or even want to do,
But if it is everything- how can I let it fall?
I've been trying to separate things because I don't want to become a hostage of my past.
But I am me and my circumstances, like Ortega y Gasset once wrote.
We cannot cut things out to make things simple, or fake lightness for the sake of appearences.
There is only the choices we make and the consequences that follow,
living means confronting them even when that means asking questions about yourself.
Building a floor over unanswered question is no way to find peace of mind.
So I must open everything up even if that means making a lot of noise.
It is difficult to subtract anything from a feeling.
It would look all lopsided if made into a pie chart.
Any and every methodological framework is inherently unreliable.
Causation and correlation chase each other like rabid foxes in the night,
one always wins but only by killing the other.
Those fluttering shadows, were they real people once?
Their hearts beating together in the dark. They told each other it was a sign,
but bodies are built to empathize,
hearts slowly adapt to the drumming beat nearby.
What we mistake for intimacy might just be cardiac generosity.
Those moving shadows.
Pretending to be free though they are bound by the heaviest chains,
happiness stolen from someone else.
pleasure robbed from another's equation.
Can the feeling exist without the crime?
And does a heartbeat mean anything at all?
La rage de soutenir que tout est bien quand on est mal
Sometimes the madness of the world cuts through the surface of the
tiny narcissistic space that is our centre of worry.
They call it perspective, and if there were any coherence at all in this place,
I would no longer be writing these emotionally crippled tales,
I'd stop playing with transcripts of melancholy that concern nobody.
Mine would be an entirely different life lived, if any of this made any sense.
I would live forever acutely aware of not being shot, of not being blown up
or forced to jump off the ledge hoping for something at the end of the ocean.
I would watch tearful movies about unrequited love and smile on the inside-
Hardly believing my luck, able to feel such deep sadness while risking absolutely nothing.
Hell, I would sit at the table as he tells me "It's over", and I'd still be laughing.
I'd look myself in the mirror and say Get a Grip!
and in a moment of relief I would let go of all the straws I've been gathering in this fist of relentless defense.
My heart would be wide open.
I would miss the morning train on purpose,
and walk miles and miles chasing footprints on the road, literally trying to walk in someone else's shoes.
And that would be everything. Trying to understand would be everything.
But life hasn't learnt about relativity yet,
how many millions of years does it take?
And, so, here I am
it's not you, it's me.
It is hard to let go of the things we have once thought of as our own.
To see what used to be ours become just like any other,
- any other thing.
We wear some places like badges to remind us of who we are.
I swear some days I still feel you clinging to my skin.
Life lends itself too easily to comparison.
Perhaps we cannot understand what's in front of us unless we first decide what it is not
Whatever it is, it's not like that other thing.
Nostalgia is the supreme art of never allowing anything to compare to that other thing.
But comparing means asking the wrong questions,
it means stripping everything of its own meaning, disqualifying its essence, defiantly
saying it's worth nothing except its relation to something else.
I did love you for your own sake.
I let your inner turmoil, your brittle charm and your bohemian stubbornness wash over me.
And you let me quietly adore you, you led me on without ever asking me to renounce anything.
Maybe because you didn't really need me to acknowledge you, for anyone to acknowledge you.
You've survived centuries of invasion- who am I to claim you?
This is not goodbye,
I am releasing you because I want to honor you for what you are.
Not a possession of mine, not conditioned by something else.
The truth is, I'm trying to win over another city now.
You are generous, eclectic and complex; a whirlwind of sentiments- I'm hoping you will approve.
If I succeed, you should know it won't take away anything from what we have.
My feelings for you remain the same. And never in relation to this other thing.