You don’t know who you are anymore. There was rumour of someone who’d passed through before you, perhaps after. You try to recall the one case, imagine the other, but neither are very clear.
Cities arriving and departing, to no particular schedule. They leach in through your window, elaborate, high-toned, submissive, their thousand and one things held out for your consideration. The prospects are inexhaustible.
Every morning the same girls hanging out for your business. They come to you and take hold of your hand, as if you would walk them to the other side of town, into the sea, out of life. You are their guide, without any map showing the way. The girls stole it from you, long before you arrived. You’ve been looking for it ever since. These days you are map-blind, and you play things by ear.
Someone was yelling to you from the other side of the street. You looked that way, they could be yelling your name, the one you’ve forgotten. You heard them yelling something, but you couldn’t catch what it was. When you go over there whoever they are is gone. Even the echo of your name is gone. The name that might have referred to you, that might not.
Who you are is not who you are. This you have heard uncountable times. Who you are not is who you are. This you’ve heard almost as often. The word ‘are’ leaves something to be desired – it lacks substance, it might be unfinished, it requires a definitive consonant to put some kind of an end to it. ARE-D, ARE-K, ARE-X.
Arid, a wreck, an ark, a rex. Barren, ruined king, sitting in his ark. This is who you will be, until next time: even if only for pretend.
Fortunately someone reserves a place for you. A chair in the theatre, a folding-contraption in the front rows. A director’s chair, no less – you will sit there and order life around. You go to take your place, watch the show, and start making quiet suggestions. Perhaps a prop there, a slight adjustment of the mise-en-scène. Nothing too dramatic. But there are silent censors in the theatre, and the more confident you become, the more they question your direction. When you ask for more transparency, a more honest play-acting, you seal your demise – the folding-chair wobbles a little before swallowing you whole. A flytrap chair, in a flea-bitten theatre, in a fishbowl city you barely know. They should have some compassion. You are only a visitor, after all.
She wanted to come with you, and you wanted to leave. Neither of you knowing why, nor the end in sight.
The musician on the corner has a kazoo, as well as an electric guitar. He comes out of the 1960s. Everybody seems to come out of the 60s, even those who already come from somewhere else. But if you were to ask them, none would be able to confirm the fact. To come out of somewhere is to not know you do: this is its only guarantee.
The tourist pockets her change. She has too many pockets and not enough change. This is frustrating, and requires her to buy another item in order to fill her multiple pockets properly with change. But she must also use this change to buy new items, which affords her another amount of change. Such is the change of the change of change. The tourist doesn’t know this last fact, but she is very, very sure of where she comes from. In order, naturally, to return. To able to leave again, and return (etc.).
Idly they pass by: days, songs, lovers, histories, traces of civilization. You stay there, see them pass. Even though you too, finally, are only a visitor. You want to ask: who watches me go?
The woman in the café brings you your change. A remarkable old café in a remarkable old city of the world. A wonderful world, the man sings. The woman watches you go. Later, she too will leave (the song will still be playing).
Everyone will leave, passing transparently through this space. You will be able to see them go. But you will see them through another’s eyes. Not knowing, for certain, if they are still your own.
Barcelona, July 2010