Us | Maps of Confinement

Translated by Han Hu

I don’t know your name, I never had the courage to ask. But we are neighbours. Of life. We live under the same skin, even though many meters of frayed fabric separate us. I don’t know where you are; I pass through our usual haunts and all I can see is your absence. Which pavement are you sitting on now? What have you been jotting down in your torn notebooks? I would love to read your notebooks, your words. Or could they be drawings? They might be scribbles, barely suggested forms, expressing nothing to me but vital to you. (I dreamed of them.) Your latent story, waiting to be told; and I would suffer from my inability to decipher you.

I miss how you wave wearing all those rings, the overlaid clothes that wrap you up on days of intense heat and that are like many layers protecting something very delicate you carry on the surface of your skin. I miss the bags that transport your world and contain your dreams; your mobile home. And I miss your smile, conquered with the daily exchange of shy looks. I never had the courage to stop and photograph you, to ask for your permission to choose the best angle, the one which shows your beauty blossoming forth. Permission to freeze your pulsation in time; to touch you with my body turned lens.

I review the sinuous choreography of those who cross your path, the averted gazes and steps demarcating territories of existence, and I ask myself which path could lead me to you. I don’t know where you are and yet I believe I can find you in some corner of myself. I’m afraid to sit next to you and see the world unveiling itself at your eye level. I’m afraid of what you carry in your body (or soul?) would, I sense, flow over me at the first touch. I’m afraid of inoculating myself with your humanity and being mortally wounded in my arrogance. I try, in vain, to protect myself with the safe distance of anesthesia.

I think our conversation would be made up of discomfort and restrained gestures; traversed by the unpleasant smell of abandonment, which trails behind you and which I can’t bear to inhale. (Would you be able to smell my antiseptic scent of sanity?) And our farewell, a mixture of relief and pain. I don’t know where you are; I don’t know your name. Would I ask, if I saw you today?

(My text to the Maps of Confinement Project)

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