Category Archives: Personal

summer

The sky is the same

I look up at the sky. It’s the same bright, limpid blue sky that promise of possibilities. It gives me the same overwhelming feeling as its height is emphasized by the tall building made of glasses that draws perfectly parallel vertical lines. Yet it’s not the same sky. How can it be the same now that I’m here and not there anymore? How can I leave that place and still carry its sky with me? Do I only see the sky in memory? I’m here, and yet I’m not here. I’m not there, and yet I’m there.

Sane

I started a new novel and now I’m half way through it. Probably finish it today. It reminds me of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. The protagonist is a kid with schizophrenia, but it’s not clearly stated in the story because it’s told in first person. Like the dog in the night-time, the mental condition of the main character makes him blamelessly anti-social and brutally honest. But I like his voice. It forces you to have understanding (and not sympathy) of the subject. It’s not your version of the story, but it’s about how they see their world. In that world, it’s not them who are mad. “the only thing I have control over in my entire world is the way I choose to tell this story”, wrote the protagonist. It makes me think about victims of deeply traumatic events. You can’t judge whether they’re telling the truth or not. Because they were affected by what happened, you can’t expect them to provide an objective account of history.

Take it slow, I tell myself. Maybe when I finish all these books, I’ll be healed. Right now, I’ve decided to be in a state of numbness and stasis, that is, stagnating in the present moment, not reminiscing the past, not projecting myself in the future. I can’t participate immediately. Everything here brings back the person that I used to be, and that I didn’t like. Maybe if I hang about on this campus often enough, I’ll finally get attached to it, even though it’s not mine. Feeling familiar, knowing my way around.

Passing 

I feel nervous when I step in this university’s cafeteria for the first time. As if I returned to my first day of being a bachelor’s student, unaware of how it functioned. The sociolinguist Pennycook talks of “passing as a local” in a second language (besides, I find this term more sensible than “foreign language” which denotes a stronger sense of ownership), i.e. making yourself credible to your interlocutor so that they would believe that you actually are a “local” from somewhere else. You don’t need to be fluent in that language. It’s not a matter of authenticity, but of legitimacy and perception. In the end, authenticity may be less about turning inward and being true to oneself, than about putting on a convincing performance to an audience. So every time I feel vulnerable in a new environment, I observe people and, not imitating them, I try to act as if I was a “local”, an insider. I get so self-conscious about it. Of course nobody cares. I guess I do it for myself. I surveil myself before anybody else could. Is that a way of claiming ownership over one’s own image, by subjecting oneself to the imagined gaze of others? Of course, if they ever watch me, it doesn’t matter what they perceive. It’s what I think about their perception of me. Then I wonder if we ever do not perform. Maybe we’re constantly performing to ourself, looking at ourself as if we were somebody else. Anyway, I only want to find the the place to get tap water. And I guess all this can be summed up in one word that is meaningless to me because imprecise and abused in CV: adaptation.

The feeling that it won’t last

The lunch meal in the cafeteria reminds me of the lunches I shared with my classmates last year, in the common room of the information and communication department. That was where we gathered every noon between two 3-hour lectures or seminars to eat, talk, do projects and revise for exams. I recall this because we didn’t have a cafeteria there, and I’m trying to remember the last time I had a lunch meal in the cafeteria of a university that was mine. Last year was the first time that I was constantly surrounded by people and belonged to a group, but then again, none of that lasted longer than the academic year. It was an affiliation born out of convenience and necessity. But can we talk of permanence even when it comes to people with whom we’ve been deeply emotionally involved? Because now my thoughts drift to him, as I think about the novel that I’m reading and how it’s similar to the dog in the night-time one, because I gave him that book last summer. I thought he’d love it because it was peculiar like us, but he never showed me any sign of appreciation. Like with everything else I gave him. I’ve settled on the conclusion that, it’s not that the story is lost, but that there has never been a story. All those years, I was chasing an ideal. How ideas are dangerous. They can kill.

Longest day of the year

I find my shelter on this campus. These days, by “shelter” I mean shelter from the heat. It is nestled in a passage between two blocks, and has benches shadowed by the thin and scattered foliage of some newly-planted trees. Sometimes, a slight breeze flirts with the leaves. I lie down on the bench and look at the sky. Instead of being covered by vertiginous pine trees, my view is invaded by metal-and-glass high-rises. The sky is not the same as I thought. It’s lower and heavier.

People start to come out, so I move inside one of the building nearby where it’s fresh and empty. I crawl into a corner and press my body against the glass wall. People keep talking but their sounds can’t reach me. I’m sheltered from the heat and from human noises. Of course there can’t be absolute silence. There’s the elevator’s ringing sound. The bangs from the slamming door. But I guess it’s the empty space that keeps people away from me. I feel safe in a corner of a very large room that offers no point of reference.

neverland

This is the kind of song that you listen to on a summer night when you feel lonely and the road is yours. You see some stranger’s silhouette that you mistake for somebody you knew. The warm yellow light from the street lamps and the windows is in a perfect contrast with the twilight sky. The moon is a faint spot of light brushed away by a thin veil of cloud. The sun lingers on top of the canopy whose thick and dark shape forms a rampart surrounding the sunflower field, above which the sky opens up like a canvas painted in an oneiric blue, the shade of blue that you’ve only seen in Magritte’s world. You chase the night. You keep going until it absorbs you and you can’t find the way back. Time stands still as the bicycle’s wheels turn around, and time is infinite. For a second, you wish that you were truly alone in this world. That there was no one to miss, that you were one and whole in the uniqueness of your existence, like a prime number.

This is happiness. I could very live like this until the rest of my life, but I’d probably die out of boredom and frustration. Which makes it a happiness. It’s not meant to last. I only love this place because it’s not mine forever, and so it’s mine, in this present moment. Once I realize that, I feel liberated from the burden of anticipated nostalgia. Everything that I’m experiencing right now is precious. That dead trunk on the roadside. Those insects that hit my forehead, my glasses and my mouth (giving me violent kisses). The summer air that smells of smoke, animal’s excrements and fresh leaves. This timeless town untouched by the outside world. It will cease to exist as soon as I step on the train that will take me away from it forever. It will hibernate in a corner of my memory.

I’ve found where I belong in this world. I’ve always known the answer, but never quite understood it. Now I do. In my dreams, there’s only one place that I belong to, but it doesn’t have a name, nor a shape. It takes on different shapes in real life, and so I have to constantly move between places. Because dreams can be eternal in their own territory, but will vanish when hit by reality. I only belong to somewhere as long as it remains my dreamland. As long as it doesn’t last. As long as I don’t belong to it.

I listened to that song on a summer night back many years ago, back in my hometown. I listen to it now, and it instantly brings me back to that night. Or rather, it brings that night here. The past and the present fuse together. I time travel. I am one. I am whole. I am here. I am alive. I am infinitely mine.

“De nulle part à nulle part”: Enquête du printemps

Cette synthèse de rapports a été produite à la suite d’une enquête menée sur une période de 3 mois du mars au mai 2017. Étant donné la spontanéité avec laquelle l’enquêtrice a procédé à sa mission, les dates de début et de fin restent indéterminées. Cette enquête a été conduite dans des lieux divers qui peuvent être tous définis comme “nulle part”. Le projet de l’enquête s’intitule ainsi “De nulle part à nulle part”, dans le plein respect de l’esprit de la flânerie – à la fois une discipline scientifique et une méthodologie émergente.

Mars 2017: Rapport Premier

L’enquêtrice constate que le nombre d’indices repérées empiriquement demeure insuffisant pour confirmer l’arrivée définitive du printemps. Compte tenu de la nature capricieuse du sujet, une perspective “émique”, c’est-à-dire s’appuyant sur la subjectivité de l’observatrice qui devient elle-même le sujet informateur, sera indispensable. Cette approche permettra de recueillir des preuves intangibles telles que le sentiment d’être revitalisé à la vue des boutons floraux, ou l’agitation de l’âme au souffle du vent.

L’enquête se poursuit.

Avril 2017 : Rapport final

L’enquêtrice, atteinte d’une dépendance à la mélancolie hivernale, est incapable de poursuive l’enquête dont la finalité risque de lui causer une violence sentimentale.

L’enquête se termine.

Mai 2017 : Rapport de suivi

Malgré l’annulation du projet, l’enquêtrice, ayant développé un sentiment d’attachement au sujet d’étude, s’obstine dans son observation ce celui-ci, un exercice qu’elle pratique quotidiennement de manière instinctive. D’après les dernières preuves empiriques, le sujet entre actuellement dans la phase d’extinction. Il serait donc souhaitable de reprendre l’enquête dans des conditions nouvelles, en ciblant un autre sujet d’investigation. L’enquêtrice propose, pour l’instant, de définir ce sujet naissant comme “été”.

l’heure bleu

Lorsque je me lève les yeux du livre, la lumière est en train de s’écouler par la fenêtre comme un ruisseau bleu infini. Même l’air est teinté en bleu, tel que de l’encre. J’aspire cet air liquide comme si je l’injecte dans mes veines. J’ignore s’il s’agit de ma tristesse qui s’extériorise et s’empare de l’espace, ou si le monde physique, subissant d’une réaction affective quelconque, s’est métamorphosé en une substance intangible que j’assimile, et qui me consomme.

blank canvas

I look at heavy clouds as they fill in the space
between the high-rise block and the pine trees’ top
like a child coloring a picture
through the classroom’s window frame

The view transports me back to high school
those March days where the light was new and pure and fresh
the world was born again
and for a while
we could finally breathe

there I sat in our old classroom
me staring out the window
you staring at me
secretly
both of us
looking forwards
to something yet to grow
but already born
like green sprouts stirring under spring’s moist ground

I was alone in my gaze of the sky
so were you in your gaze of me
two universes
apart
yet together
in the solitary exercise
of silenced affection

The clouds are now long gone, and the canvas blank again
there I draw my vision
of us being in the same room
locked in our own solitude
comforted by parallel secrets
and I keep fixing on the empty space
between the high-rise block and the pine trees’ top
in fear of the picture erased.

I wish you a home

img_3319

I wish you a table
to sit and write letters
I wish you a home
a happy place to rest

I wish you a teapot
a bag full of secrets
a heater, and the warmth
will never vanish

I wish you a corridor
with dozens of doors
I wish you a garden
full of scents and colors

I wish you a window
to peer out at the world
I wish you many friends
and also good neighbors

I wish you the sun
and I wish you the moon
so that you could choose
where to go and to stand

I wish you a road
free of nasty holes
I wish you a tree
to take shelter from rain

I wish you a book
to go through dark days

[…]

Spot on a window in the street of Tilburg. Unknown author. Translation from Dutch and photo by me.