Sea waves come and go, but the Ocean stays.
Truth is a metaphor we forgot it was a metaphor
The End of Storytelling —or Bali.
It was coming.
It is almost condescending to write it down, though until this point I was raking my words carefully, building up a wasteland narrative around the end of housing and the end of love, a terror passage through ghost millennialism embodied by the misfortunes of a little middle ages heartbroken, homeless punk who was convinced during ten sloppy years that he had discovered techno thirty years ago.
I believed in him, in his nomadic dispossession, in his clubbing and sentimental opioid drowning.
I was feeling tight and strong, I had finally become a flowerless garden of blooming words. What could possibly go wrong?
The idea was to write a sad and hilarious travel journal following his random direction, an adventure that would start in Bali and that would culminate in a big shit wave that would wipe everything and everyone away except La Flaca’s singer, Mumruinho, Bernardo, the upcoming Georgian painter, and a bunch of tantric millennial Austrians fastening in a cave, oblivious to the whole thing.
I had it all crafted and developed. There was a publisher interested, then a second one. I felt great, that rush, goose bumps, book fairs and awards. It was the first time I was showing my work while writing it, which was the second unbreakable rule of my winding superstition: never show anything before it’s finished.
Whenever you mention number two everybody asks for number one. To frustrate their expectations tends to engage them.
I had broken the rules and almost had a novel on the pan. I felt subversive and relevant, which is all you need to burst the bubble.
My grannie would always say that to me. “Walk around like a rooster with an inflated chest, and you’ll be punctured like a balloon with a needle”.
The explosion was unheard of, deafening, the resulting void higher than the Twin Towers’ elevators’ gaps.
Until that point it was all coming together so nicely that I should have known better. And I actually did.
I did know that you can’t walk around like an inflated-chest-cock….
The needle punctured gravity.
In the blink of an eye everybody began buying toilette paper with masks and gloves on, and old timers started getting exterminated.
I’m not Nostradamus, but I’m a middle aged homeless virgin with a slight hunch, raised and dispossessed by Capitalism, Property Reich, and most excruciatingly, by Mumruinho’s and the Inca Dog love.
My grannie might be revolving on her gravestone.
“In our hood this is called genOLDcide”, she would have said.
Forget life as it was.
It is not coming back.
Remember Ballard and K.Dick, hope for Ursula K.Le Guin, Rebecca Solnit and Octavia Butler, and avoid Unamuno, Lem or Spengler altogether, especially if you are a millennial.
Before the shit wave I had emailed a fellow environmental advocate and diplomat living in Vietnam. He replied swiftly after I mentioned the break up and the virus, and wrote that he had a safer place than Indonesia — a huge, almost deserted house where he lived with his young daughter. He said that figures in Vietnam were the lowest in the South East and that a painter friend of his would also be joining us for a while and that we would all have fun together.
I felt deservedly bailed out as a Folded Arms Orphan, and thanked him outspokenly and even Mumruinho secretly.
I had been wearing a mask since January 25th, way before her or any other European. It was Chinese Lunar New Year and I read in The Guardian that the Chinese government had the Wuhan outbreak under control. It was around the same time I came across the existence of the late doctor Li Wenliang and his prophecy. I realised that the shit wave was completely out of hand.
Even though I was a journalist once, I used to read books, hence I had learned that any dictatorship stating it has any situation under control is as trustworthy and reliable as a junkie journalist telling you that this is going to be the last time.
On January 25th I performed my visa run from Bali to Malaysia. It was just before I left for the airport on my scooter when I had read the news, so I decided on keeping my driving mask on for the shameful airports day.
Up until that point I had been attending Aikido classes three times a week on the plank-ness town of Canggu, a forty-minute scooter ride that got my nails darker than coal and my eyes stinging like Boris Johnson.
Lunar New Year is the peak of Chinese travelling, and there were thousands of them queuing to get into Bali on the way back from Kuala Lumpur. It was January 26th. Environmentally wise I became a Nazi that day; Coronavirus-wise I couldn’t have cared less: I was already a heartbroken hypochondriac and a drugless paranoid with a Boris Johnson swelling on my arsehole. What sickened me was that on that day my only contribution to Malaysia was to cremate its oxygen and to pay an obscene amount of money to a dictator-owned flying company.
Back in Denpasar’s airport all Chinese I saw were wearing masks, only a few were coughing, and no one got checked. Wuhan was as yet an unknown word in Bali, and Corona just stood for the name of the disgraced beer.
Up until that point all cremated vegan Aussies were riding their motorbikes with no masks or t-shirts all over the island. They had inadvertently come to embody the phosphorescent dawn at Chernobyl on the morning after: otherworldly western lights unleashing the purplest inner deadly radiation ever recorded.
Storytelling is a shield against loneliness and newspapers.
And newspapers are the biggest undignified horseshit ever dumped in the name of reality.
Toilette paper would tell you a much wider and accurate history of mankind and reality that any newspaper.
After half a year in involuntary self-confinement, CorpoFucking the shit out of my sleep, self-stretching in self isolation, translating Kevin Barry’s excellence into Spanish meagreness, social distancing from Austrian’s, Mexicans and any other self-absorbed millennial clueless to masks, knives or opioids, and practicing Aikido with the smallest, youngest and most eruptive Sensei I’d ever encountered, I find myself acrobatically landing in Vietnam.
For all my memorable escapes, which are countless and ongoing, this wasn’t intended as such. It was supposed to be a social hiatus amongst a diplomat and a painter, just a layover from Indonesia to Japan, where the homeless punk was to encounter the masters and disappear for a while under a busy martial mop.
But then the borders started to shrink and little lawyers with massive suitcases started rewriting the martial law of monsieur Adolf in Phsylicon Valley.
It is my first morning in Hanoi. I wake up to its freckled rain, the colonial windows of my sumptuous room all steamed up, the mosquito net flailing, the invisible massacre unveiling. Getting in involved some acrobatics, an Indiana Jones fucking off the Temple of the Doom kind of number. The blading doors of the airport cave falling dramatically behind me, no hat but a skirt almost trapped by its steel tongue.
Nyoman, my best Balinese friend, had given me a sarong as a farewell present. I did put it on to cope with the airport AC and my suspicious lack of trousers, jumpers or socks. I did travel with my raincoat hoodie, masked and skirted for 18 hours, including a whole night’s layover in Malaysia.
In Kuala Lumpur I became a smoking area entertainment. Disgust, laughter, and awe, all belonging to shocked Malaysian males, their fingers pointing at me in a skirt. I stared back at them, their eyelashes falling, not quite gently, to avoid subversion, lust or shame with any hint of dignity.
A Burmese lad approached me with a smile on his face and whispered:
“Very brave, very nice, be careful.”
I decided I would never wear anything but a skirt from then on.
I escaped one hole to fall into the next one.
I’m sleepless in my massive suite now. Was held for three hours at the airport. They gave me a SIM card, scanned my underwear — they were quiet elegant, silent like, at the sight of Boris Johnson— and made me sign a health declaration under threat of being prosecuted.
If we were to count all those threats, coronavirus would die of boredom.
Nobody agrees, but everybody signs and gets threatened and makes the Amazon penis head even richer.
The health declaration is a harvesting data mechanism to track the movements of every person getting into the country, same as what the little shitty lawyers are currently redacting on Phsylicon Valley. You have to state your whereabouts and your current good health and they reward you with a customized integral surveillance.
If they find out that you were travelling on an infected flight or that you have hanged around places where other infected people have been hanging they will come to your door and take you to an isolation camp for two weeks. In two days and for the next while, every person landing will be immediately state-quarantined.
I almost long for democracy, that European joke if only for a second.
Right after my first yawn someone knocks at my royal door and I’m ready to pack my belongings.
Lan, the diplomat cook, urges me to go out with her.
The painter friend will be getting on the main road any minute. The diplomat is at work, dealing with the growing hysteria of the remaining nationals.
I follow tiny, strong and smiley Lan through the narrow lanes that encircle the villa like a hieroglyph. It is noon and Hanoi is covered in a thick mist sliced by badminton balls. Everybody is barefoot and sporting helmets and masks, vegetables and fruits spread in baskets all over the ground, exhaust pipes and hot tyres thriving, little makeshift counters selling meat, mangos, Bun Chi and pineapples acrobatically hanging off wooden boards, meat blood dripping off them. It is liveable and busy, traders sitting in tiny red plastic chairs, noodles fiddling, and many ladies kneeling while washing up colourful pans and pots on the ground, producing rivers of foam and bubbles.
I see a rat behind a bunch of rocket and a badminton racket in front of a little girl covered with a Hello Kitty mask and a little boy covering his face with his elbow at the sight of my white face.
It doesn’t take long to understand social distancing, but it is never early enough to realise how fucked up the healthcare system in Communist regimes is, and how state-induced-fear is the most useful tool to engage nationalism in the blink of an eye. Vietnamese people are petrified of getting infected as they know it is likely they will have to share stretchers with a bunch of other helpless diseased beings. Meanwhile the dictatorship narrative remains deathless: no victims.
Intensive lack of care
My phone keeps vibrating, Mumruinho is feeling unwell in her self-imposed Barcelona confinement, her range of angry emojis is on the rise though marketing and online tech dictators are rebranding the features of sensitive angry red and green masked sick faces.
Mumriunho undeviating lines of red and green emojis say that no public healthcare facility is answering her phone calls. It is still early, March 15th, though the telephone lines are overwhelmed and people are assessed to go to hospital only when choking. We would find out rather too late that the contagion rate of those who risked going to hospital would be devastatingly higher, especially when old or overweight. Capitalism-wise the obese are the necessary evil of this global genoldcide that seems to exclusively target old timers with no properties but pensions. Mumruinho is freaking out, and not without reason.
We are about to unveil ourselves under a terrifying new light, and it would be disturbing and engaging and scary and it would be disturbing and engaging and scary, like a dub techno beat on repeat.
Chain Reaction, Basic Channel.
Lan walks fast and I follow slowly if only to rhyme forward.
Lan is slim and bony, her waist like the mercury ball on a tripod, its circling sense of balance. After the second turn through another lane full of pomegranate tress in bloom and thick, hanging black wires and colonial balconies and cracked walls and palm trees and corners quietly stuffed with colourful plastic bags of rubbish depicting every single flag in the universe imaginable, we reach our destination.
Lan says here and stops, considers the rain and asks me if I’m ok.
I’m catching my breath.
We have flown into the lake road that surrounds the city, plenty of fishermen reeling silver corpses beyond its fence and its murky waters. There are also cockroaches and vegetables and identical flag-coloured rubbish bags dotting the ground like prodigious versions of cocaine onions.
The lake waters are unmovable, perfectly reflecting the clouds and the skyscrapers rising at the end of the horizon.
A taxi pulls up and the door opens and a little masked lady in the shape of an elastic terracotta soldier peers out, her head like a Viking helmet, her eyes vivid and unblinking.
“Hello. Is everybody wearing masks except you here or it is just my imagination?”
I look at Lan. Lan looks at me. We both consider the cab driver. He is wearing a mask and seems suddenly disappointed with the nudity of our nostrils.
I’m about to excuse myself when she urges me to help her with the luggage. The cab driver opens the trunk, where there’s a massive oblong package inside that defies physics.
“Be careful”, she says.
I wonder if she is just trusting, or enslaving me.
I pick it up. It could be the foundation of an obelisk.
“No free hands left?” she asks.
She is a grammar blower, though her strikes might produce more ambiguity and fear than verbal radiance. I thought my hand would summon a handshake – this was before the end of hugs after all. Instead I feel like Jesus escaping Judea with the cross attached to his shoulder blades.
“Do you have any other hand free,” she insists.
“I’m not handy enough.”
She seems to smile inside her mask and then proceeds to load Lan, whose resistance to sinking is epically camel-like.
The painter is small and stocky, and wears a flower patterned purple black dress utterly at odds with her imperial voice.
She eludes my hand and states that she is named after the first star.
“Under what sky”, I wonder.
“Are you Jewish?”
“Do I look Jewish?”
“I can’t tell with the mask on.”
“Well I’m not, nice to meet you anyway”, she says.
I tell her she sounds Eastern.
“Me too”, I lie.
She won’t ask anything in return; that will be the pattern.
Back in the house I carry her suitcase to her suite, probably the heaviest case I’ll carry until the end of my days.
I wonder where she comes from
“Nice part of the East.”
“Was in Jamaica before.”
“Yes, it is. But I’m Georgian,” she states.
“Georgian,” I repeat — Basic Channel, Chain Reaction.
“Meaning not from Atlanta, nor British. Everybody has trouble with the demonym. I’m from the land of wine and Medea”
“And apples,” I say.
“Are apples originally from Georgia?”
“Nope. Is wine?”
“Yes, wine is.”
“Medea also,” she says.
Stalin is the only Georgian I can remember, though there was that artist who ate Maurizio Cattelan’s half a million banana in Miami’s Basel Art fair a few weeks ago. The piece was conveniently called Comedian. It went viral until the virus.
“Oh yeah, I know him. He was born in Georgia but he is American.”
“Same as you so.”
“No way. I’m Georgian. And a nomad. But I found what the Georgian did funny. Georgians are really funny people, they have the best sense of humour. And Maurizio Cattelan installation was also good,” she says.
“I’m writing a piece for a Catalan artist that has based her new installation on Cattelan’s take on bananas,” I tell her.
“Oh, really, do you write about bananas?” she wonders.
The onion miracle
We are in the kitchen now and she is kneeling and producing millions of prodigious plastic bags off a number of different bags and suitcases. Feels like the Cocaine Onion Miracle.
She produces a bunch of herbs, seeds and even vegetables off this yellow paper bag.
“Is there a blender in the house?”, she asks.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know the Internet password?”
I tell her.
“Are you on Instagram?”
“As little as possible.”
“I can’t manage uploading my images,” she says.
One minute later I’m trying to work out the issue. She has an old tablet. She can connect to the network and even follow or unfollow other people, though she can’t upload any data.
I run my diagnostic: “you need to erase the app and upload it again.”
“But I’d lose all my data.”
I tell her not. Then she shares her data with me.
It is mind-blowing data, Georgian hyperrealist canvases, her avatar appearing in all of them like an arrestingly iconic, subversive and fun Georgian Frida. Wine jars and Kalashnikovs and then the avatar mounting a zebra while tying an orange turban on her head, exposing her thighs and armpits; and then her avatar in a Polka dot dress holding a black-beheaded skull under a radiant poppy seed night, and then a series of necklaces with Corona virus looking asteroids embedded on its chilly strings.
The work is immense, its diversity biblical, the craft unique. I mention the word retrospective.
“It is coming, in Georgia, in the autumn,” she says.
“There you go. I guess you have shown your work in the States.”
“I did my first show in Chicago, 1997 and sold everything.”
She shows me the data. “$70 grand worth of it,” she says.
I open my mouth.
“Then I went to New York and did the same thing.” Shows me the data
Sold out. White billionaires all over her.
Mouth remains open, the plastic bags seemingly untying itself.
“You should be a millionaire.”
“Yeah man, but I was living the life and never cared much. I divorced my husband and move to the States and it all happened pretty fast. I was actually down to my last penny when I did a third show. I had started going out to this Jamaican club in New York. I would get back home in the morning and paint all the black guys partying and smoking weed inside.”
She shows me the data. It is astro-biblical the stoned black guys under a forensic greenish light, apostolic faces, a deep convoluted sadness dewing the sense of sleepless joy.
The white billionaires were shocked.
“Can you imagine their faces, she asks?” I realized how racist art dealers are in New York.
I elude Basquiat while she manages to produce the blender out of a cupboard, then stuffs over half the contents of the refrigerator inside it. It feels like an ethnic statement: the whole rainbow except white: carrots, broccoli, bananas, mangos, what look like black bean data, and even a data rain of chia seeds and sunflower seeds and charcoaled seeds, and seeds that I’ve never heard about.
“You have to check my smoothies, she says. Everybody loves them.”
Just like data.
“In the end this guy came to the show. Big shot. A collector with a gallery in Manhattan, her wife a billionaire herself. Big deal you know. “
His name rings a bell.
She presses the blend button and the engine starts spinning, and the sound waving, and all of a sudden everything explodes.
We are dripping organic data, her phone virtually covered in a thick smudge of Vietnamese vegetables and imported Middle Eastern seeds, our faces, the walls, the fridge, the kitchen, the floor, the fans, the ceiling.
“Jesus Christ. This is some fucking installation,” I shout.
She is panicking now, gets her phone, removes the organic data, wipes it with every kitchen paper she can find. She can produce millions faster than an afterimage. Five minutes later the kitchen is gleaming and her data is untouched, though they are inside our phones: will be harvested like skinheads, this is only the beginning of the 21st century, as the diplomat would state.
24 hours after meeting Josephine I had viewed most of her work in tablet data content, failed to revive her Instagram account, and learned overnight of most of Georgian cinema history and local social protocols, like cheering and swearing words and drinking etiquette.
The only meagre data she could harvest off me is that I had been a junkie, something I couldn’t resist confessing after the three-hour session of junkie stories involving her ex, a heroin addict.
Three days later the diplomat askes her gently not to leave carrot peels on the sink overnight because mosquitos feed on them and there is an ongoing cloud of them. She bursts into a tantrum saying how much she has been cleaning, which is true, and how dirty he and I are, which was fairly undiplomatic.
We are not under lockdown just yet, though we are allegedly in quarantine, so the only way to leave home without risking Concentration Camps is to leave your phone behind and hope that no officer will knock at the door asking for your temperature.
The diplomat is overwhelmed, her retrospective won’t happen and my novel is fucking the gutters, Boris Johnson galloping my word troops towards the inevitable disaster. You could cut the tension with scissors, as a Spaniard would say. Though we are lucky, free, and disobedient like most of the city. We can go on long cycles and hang around Hanoi until the upcoming joke of a lockdown.
Myself and Josephine will succeed in escaping home a few times, most of them to help her doing things that she can’t seem to do without her long gone assistant. I have a Masters in that, I was labelled a Spanish caddy once by an Irish artist and a Catalan suitcase by my cremated techno prince.
Before loving the Inca Dog, I had chosen to spend my life helping out creatively superior creatures, people that somehow I admired and mistook for my dead father, people that were in constant need of emotional nurturing and tiny life production.
Black knives white coconuts
On the fourth quarantine morning Josephine decides to rent a bike. I tell her I know a shop and we walk towards it. She launches into an ambitious conversation with the guy who rented me a bike, a sweet Hanoi lad that speaks no English. I tell her that while he offers her a bike and she rejects it. She keeps asking him things in English and he keeps smiling. After twenty minutes of Google Translate failure I tell her I’ll wait outside.
There is a lovely coffee shop with a few tables out overlooking the park, seemingly the meeting point of the remaining expats, most of them in the shape of millennial English teachers smoking weed. There is a cottage industry here of young Anglo-Saxon English teachers for the fancy offspring of fancier expats —the native teachers— and for the offspring of the locals, the bastard teachers, anything but native speakers. There is good money to be made, especially when you live off bun chi, weed and local beer in shared dorms.
Eventually she comes out of the shop with a pink bike, the most unlikely two-wheel piece you’d ever imagine her cycling.
She considers my spot; condemns its dirtiness; says she won’t order anything; states that she is a vegan and only then orders a coconut and an egg coffee.
I tell her I don’t smoke and then produce a menthol, and she says she doesn’t smokes either and asks me for one. She says it reminds her of the first menthol she ever smoked on the roof terrace of a New York art dealer
She would go on to mention many other billionaires with fancy surnames I had never heard, except for one: Rothschild.
I tell her about the great Pannonica Rothschild, the Baronese that became the patron of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, and who was by them side on their deathbeds.
She wonders why people are so disgusting here, meaning Vietnam, why every coconut seems to be cracked open using dirty, darkened knives. I wonder if this is related to my story, though my story is related to black fingers and needles and the tender death of two heroes at the hands of an exquisite angel, and then I tell her she can’t go around expecting New York’s hygiene standards in South-East Asia, and she says that people’s immunological systems here are stronger because they keep dealing with shit and dirt. I do my usual eyebrows routine and ask about racism, and she says she is an anarchist, all about love, she loves black people. Her boyfriend was black, she lived in Jamaica, where she threw the coolest parties in town, Kingston like. And then approaches the waiter and asks him about his knife.
“Why would you not clean your knives in this country,” she asks, and the waiter smiles and tell her that they do.
“Because the coconuts are darkened on its edges.”
“What? This doesn’t make any sense.”
The waiter smiles comes back and demonstrates.
It is true.
Tinder is the Night —of the Lockdown
After two weeks my confidence is like Venice after Corona. I’m still a Virgin and Josephine has sentenced me to death for being a bad caddy that seems to overuse the f-word.
I can only think of one way out.
I contact her through Tinder.
I had never done it before. But I’m a middle aged virgin Nostradumus in a world of masks and gloves and no toilet paper, where only pharmacies and tech dictatorships remain open, and where buying condoms is controversial, even though in Vietnam the infection rate for the virus seems to be the lowest in the universe. This is the best chance I’ll ever get: it might be the only country where Tinder is not agonizing.
My matches are software faces with soft names and a lack of underwear. It seems to be another redundant millennial loophole: they match you but they don’t ever reply to your nice to match you salutations.
The only hope seems to arrive with the end of lockdown; though here lockdown was only a metaphor that forgot its original meaning.
Her name is not human, but she replies quickly after matching.
My screen is dripping exploding hearts.
I write nice to match you and suggest a coffee place I used to go to before lockdown.
Tomorrow it is.
I lost my two trousers and all my socks while living with Bernardo, I still wonder why or how, even more so considering our unmatching proportions. In Vietnam my wardrobe consists of a skirt and two ragged shorts. I decide not to wear the skirt on the first date for her sake.
It is too late when I see the stain on my shorts: I’m two minutes away from the coffee place and already late by ten.
I’m rushing. Sweating. Panicking.
Yes. I’m fucking multitasking and yet doing nothing. Who the fuck isn’t? Or is? Or whatever?
I take my raincoat hoodie out of my handbag and wrap it around my waist, its empty right arm falling gently to disguise the toothpaste shame smudging my right thigh.
She is already there, sporting a plain white mask, dyed blonde hair, a blue cardigan over a green t-shirt with an Orwellian inscription on it. I can only read ‘1984’. It is a patterned, complicated t-shirt, and it would take me two hours to read the rest of the wobbly inscription on her Zeppelin boobs.
“The big brother is your mother,” it reads.
She is in intensive care, same as Boris, though unlike Boris she is isolated and it will be a lonely cremation if the thing reaches its worst conclusion. We never quite talked about it. She probably wouldn’t like to be cremated, but she’d probably won’t care much. My sisters can’t get any closer to her. They are worried and relieved, basic channel, chain reaction. They don’t cry. Me neither. No movement, but Tinder.
As soon as I manage to read the inscription my phone ghost vibrates
It is Mumruinho!
I wonder if this is it, if she is texting me from paradise, where clouds are made out of her smoke exhalations.
I can only read emojis.
That could be her epitaph, though it is only another innocuous line in our fun-sad communication.
She is lacking numerous emojis.
I text her I’m also in a life or death situation. I fear losing her as much as I fear not losing my virginity — until I reach intensive care.
For one thing we don’t lack for things to say. We have told each other everything except I love you. It will be such a low to do it now. I might only have one left in me. And right now it is flying over Ukraine on a Zeppelin.
Mumruinho would be proud.
I block her for a few hours like the son of a gun I am.
Sometimes it smokes in April
We exchange our masked hellos, my lenses steaming up, the toothpaste relinquishing but concealed.
She offers her hand. I take it feeling slightly criminal.
There is a blue LUV outside, engine on, not moving, though the driver flickers its headlights. I turn my back against him. The engine starts and the car gets closer to us, its window unalterable, forever tinted.
“No handshakes,” says the driver.
Surveillance is China-based here, unlike pizza or mushrooms omelettes.
Both of our jaws drop, our eyes concave. Life is a Munch cartoonist since the demise of unmasked faces.
I was cycling into town two days ago while under lockdown. Traffic thicker than cholesterol on Trump’s blood; toxic drivers all around me; a take away coffee in one hand. I did remove my hands from the handlebar and my mask from my mouth, and sipped the coffee underneath the cover without stopping cycling. One second afterwards a guy in plain clothes overtook me on one of those exasperating lazy bikes with an engine on it. He turned around, gave me the look and asked me to put my mask on again.
“Is there anything good about Communist dictatorships,” I wonder.
“They shot down the Chinese border first thing. And they isolated everyone suspicious, tracked every phone, anyone exposed,” she says.
“Communist I know,” she adds.
Josephine would share the same opinion.
“It is the good thing about dictatorships: they are effective at controlling things that humans stupidity fails to,” she would say.
There are various reasons for nicknaming her Josephine, the first one being the least shameful: she comes from the same town as Joseph.
The pop-up LUV fucks away.
She shakes her head, her dyed blonde hair perfectly quiet, her eyes sad, beautifully sad almond eyes.
“Harper, is it?”
She had suggested going for a “good nice good walk.”
I suggest going by the lake in some romantic fashion under diplomatic advice.
The sun fails to show up again, though it is trying its best. It recalls an egg yolk splashed against the sky vault, dripping ever so slowly under the shapeless clouds. This is the first shapeless cloud city I can remember. Skies are wholly overcast since I landed. Forty days of rain and just one massive shapeless cloud.
It is quite unbelievable, the perfect weather epitomising the invisible massacre, even though the invisible massacre keeps growing fairly slow here. Vietnam figures read almost a hundred million people and no deaths. It sounds a bit like the start of religion, a faith based on an astrological lie. The regime sweetens the pill and the skies remain death silver. It is yummy.
Phillip K. Dick wrote that some skies emulate governments, I wonder if he was referring to havens for Communist dictatorships. He rarely got it wrong once he started writing, though he rarely got it right once he started living.
And yet he was so damn left right.
Was he paranoid or just too clever?
I ask her where she comes from.
“I’m not into cheese,” she answers.
Masks are here to stay, but these are early stages, so the conversation is going to be disrupted so many times by the impaired/masked up sense of hearing that it will keep triggering the same question.
You could also wonder why, where, when or really, and still nobody would have the answer yet —apart from Philip, Ursula and Roberto of course.
They are all dead, like most right-left people.
She and I… we are alive, perhaps not kicking, but walking.
She walks fast, she moves with confidence, sets the rhythm, our direction.
We are moving East.
“Are you Eastern born,” I ask knowingly.
“Troubled land,” I reply
“Tell me about it.”
“I can tell you there was a war. Still on going right?”
“Yes, only on stand by, frozen, like a yoghourt.”
“Like a frozen yoghourt?”
“Very efficient metaphor,” she says.
She credits me with her own metaphor. It is remarkable. I might have forgotten the metaphor I was, though I remember I’m a vegan since the Inca Dog dumped me. She loved cheese. Now cheese makes me sick. I’m so glad she is not into it.
I start dreaming. Metaphors, mistakes, credit… Would love be next? Then I remember we are Tinder based.
Hectic Fishing, the Metaphor
She is double my size, her eyes are so blue and sad, like the city lakes, its perpetual fishermen reeling off inexplicably deadly fishes amidst yoghurt tubs and Philadelphia cheese containers, some auspicious dairy-love rubble.
There are fishermen every second step in this city, all over its lakes.
I tell her that I’ve heard that most fishermen are not fishermen.
She smiles, I can see it in her eyes —fuck you masks, you are as useless as Boris Johnson at disguising Munch’s cartoonist.
“They are cops and mafia heads,” I tell her.
“And drug dealers,” she says.
“That is some research. I thought I knew something you did not.”
“I’ve been in and out Vietnam for years now.”
“I’m just a beginner, even though I’m thirteen years older than you. Where else have you been?”
“Oh, really? I was in Ubud for a few months.”
“I would never go to Bali, too touristy for me. Sumatra was my choice.”
She shuts me up inadvertently again and tells me the story of the only volcanic soil lake in the world. I want to change my life, my stupid past mainstream decisions, move to the Sumatran volcano lakes. It is too late.
“I was there for thirty days. It is the maximum I can be in nature,” she states.
“Really? I wish I were back into the wild.”
“Do you? I don’t. I miss people after a while. I hate them, but I need their noise in the background.”
I wonder if it is now when I should mention sex, though we are walking along drunken toddlers and their sober parents, between dead fishes, quiet ambulances, and mystic cyclists in way too chilly shorts, the skyline nurtured by the yoke, the silver skyscrapers gleaming palely, like a deadly yawn in a nursing home.
Genoldcide. Capitalism. It is all falling apart, all revealing itself as Rosa Luxembourg had predicted, and Murray Bookchin confirmed: rebellion or catastrophe. We did choose catastrophe. Marxism was the metaphor.
Here Marx was the metaphor and Ho Chi Minh the result of a lack of memory. He was like Castro. They are still called freedom fighters on Wikipedia, dead dictators with mausoleums taking over precious amount of what could be social housing in the heart of capital cities. They claimed to fight for equality and destroyed their civilians in such a manner that today they are almost unified, though equally dispossessed. Poetic justice it is, if only.
Excitement is in the air. The city is open. People are celebrating. We pass by the steps of the lake, four of them, real wide, a few people sitting. I suggest sitting down.
Smells like Tinder spirits
Too smelly she says.
I can’t smell a thing. I wonder if I might be infected.
We keep slaloming pedestrians and cyclists and acid toddlers.
“I should be in Serbia now, I love it so much there,” she says.
Her eyes are much sadder than ever before.
“No way you can get back in?”
“I would never beg for anything.”
“No, not begging, getting back in.”
“My new life, it must be here, it is where I’m stuck,” she says.
“Yes, me too.”
Another lost chance to start a movement that has already started.
We could join it. She might as well be part of it.
I picture myself digging out her massive boobs with a unicorn erection, only to visualize floating flesh and a lack of scholarly air.
I guess she might be picturing how it would be to fuck the spine of a fish.
I’m tempted to tell her it is my first time.
We swiftly pass by the two big rusty boats, its rotten decks, the neon’s outside evoking sirens and tridents, fishermen selling silver corpses outside.
We keep walking until we reach the ridge between the lake and the river. I can’t tell what is what.
She stops abruptly, her left hand flailing, trying to remove her mask, her right hand holding the green metal veranda, the lake ejaculating lizard tongues and foam, the skyscrapers impassive.
“Are you ok?”
She is coughing now.
“It’s the damned mask, don’t worry, yes, I choke under it, but yes, I’m ok, don’t worry, I just want to stop and drink the coffee and smoke a cigarette,” she says.
Smoking as a way of breathing, I feel lust.
“Yeah sure, lets do it here so.”
Red lipstick, purple nails, white hands
I take off my mask and tell her I stopped smoking four weeks ago, the day before some eminence observed how few smokers statistically had been infected.
She smokes the same menthol I quit.
Once she lights the cigarette she stops coughing. Inevitably I start coughing.
“You are the symptom, I’m the sickness,” I tell her.
She smiles and offers me one.
“I would kill for one.”
“Try it,” she says.
And smiles. Red lipstick, purple nails, white hands.
I can only imagine the shape of her lips, though I can read cardiac arrest and low blood pressure from the paleness of her fingers, the unease in her voice.
I wonder if I should talk sex now. I try. Death gets in the way again.
You are so much younger than me I couldn’t kill you.
And then silence.
The silver lake, the silver skyscrapers, the silver corpses, and the fucking strident cyclists…
The only truth is on her elbows rubbing the green on the sparrows snuggling its wings.
Soon, by sunset, there will be bats.
It is all a bit like Cinderella all over again; or the history of moths for that matter.
It is the history of mankind, of us turning into confined worms after having lived the dream of a butterfly. And forgot it.
“Do you travel while in trouble,” I ask.
“Stupid question. I was a journalist once is my excuse.”
She smiles like a refrigerator. Only the upper shelves gleam.
I reformulate the question.
She half produces a yeah and says: “I get into trouble while travelling but my husband is worse.”
I wonder if this is the beginning or the end of sexual healing.
“What is wrong with your husband?”
“Lymphoma. Stage four.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Is he here?”
“No, he is in Chicago.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I’m so sorry. Any chance you can join him?”
“They wouldn’t let you?”
“Nope. Not a chance. Plus I had no pages left on my passport.”
“Tell me about it.”
“But if you are married, and he is so sick, there has to be a way.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Yeah, I know. But at least he is in good hands, you know.”
“I know, I mean, I have no fucking clue.”
I wonder if she is a millionaire back home.
“There is no back home for me, no, no millions, I’ve spend all my money — she is a millionaire, big time.”
She keeps going:
“But his family, they migrated to Chicago years ago, so he can stay. I’m an anarchist. Last time I was home they tried to kill me twice.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Who were they?”
“Neo Nazi groups.”
“I wrote about them.”
“Are you a journalist?”
“Well, not anymore.”
“More like a war correspondent?”
“No, fuck me.”
I wonder if it is the right time now. Words are on the rise, nonverbal seduction it is something I can blow apart so easily though.
The sun comes out so slightly it only nurses the tip of her nose, pale red.
Perhaps it is not.
“So you were reporting on the front line?”
A lonely slow motion nod.
I can’t help it now, same disgusting excuse as before.
“Did you see people getting killed?”
She slides down her eyelids, a Mona Lisa smirk on her face.
“I’ve seen them taking a gun and killing someone on the spot for no reason. That’s what those retards do there you know.”
Sex death healing
The state pulls those triggers though the story is out of date. Hannah Arendt, the Banality of Evil. It is all happening again. Your neighbour might report you for not wearing a mask. Or working in a supermarket. People are that stupid.
“Tell me about it.”
“In Ukraine they are burning down houses of nurses fighting corona.”
“Same in Barcechina. Some nurses and people working on supermarkets have encountered deadly graffiti on their cars and apartment doors. It is so easy to control the thought process of an idiot. Can you go back home?”
She smirks, her eyes are shouting what the fuck is home? Then replies.
“Not a chance.”
“You don’t have anyone there who could protect you?”
Smirks first, then talks again.
“I’m a war journalist, a left wing advocate, an anarchist… and my father…”
Smirks. Shuts up.
“What about him?”
She looks at the lake and offers a diagonal glance.
“He funds neo Nazi groups.”
“No, fuck me.”
I can’t help but smile. It only makes sense. It reminds me of the daughter of a protestant priest who became a porno actress. True story. Them all are.
“I guess you became an anarchist because of your father.”
“He saved my life. Twice.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Sometimes I wonder if I was lucky to bury mine.”
“Your dad? Was he a neo-Nazi?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You weren’t lucky.”
She doesn’t looks like an anarchist.
It is a weird moment, but I need to go to the toilet.
I stand up and my raincoat armour fails to do its job.
She sees the toothpaste shame. She doesn’t looks like an anarchist anymore.
I try to engage her eyes, as a mother of fuck … it is too late.
“Have you read Murray Bookchin,” I wonder.
“He is the father of eco-anarchism, I tell her. He actually coined the word ecofeminism, defo one of last century’s master minds.”
“Master minds? Is that your best wording?”
“Just mind your words,” she says.
“Well, fuck you.”
“Fuck the masters. Shine a light.”
I ignore the whole demolition and tell her Bookchin always dressed in shorts, even while lecturing, after being declared a professor by scholars that couldn’t get over how far out his thought process was, his only college the books he read and the people he met. “He wrote to the future, you know. In shorts.”
She blinks so slowly.
“Larry David says that you can never take anyone seriously in shorts.”
I become uber self-conscious about my shorts. I can’t go to the toilet now, I can’t go anywhere.
“Go to the toilet,” she says.
I freeze for a second. Should I invite her? Trainspotting’s is like Buckingham Palace compared to this one, plus Boris Johnson would be inside it.
She lights up cigarette number nine. She has not considered me in any toilet possible way. Not for a second.
I splash water all over my left thigh inside the toilette. It is dark. I rub it like a maniac, the water expands like a tsunami until reaching, well, the one place it shouldn’t reach. I go for a full shower then, the whole me, hair and t-shirt and arms and armpits. I have my fucking raincoat with me after all.
I pray for the rain to show up once I’m out.
Outside the egg yolk is immovable.
The waitress looks at me unimpressed.
“Are you ok,” she asks.
“Yes, yes, I was so hot. It is so hot.”
She is disgusted.
Hot is not the greatest word after all, though you never know how handy it might be while on a Tinder conversation turned into a war conversation turned into the confession of an anarchist on fashionable clothes.
“Fuck me, what happened to you?”
“Tell me about it.”
“Yes, FUCK YOU”.
And yet I will remain a virgin.