Among the timber tables run decrepit demon dogs, all ulcerated, their mouths bleeding, bubbling with an alabaster foam. I couldn't care less about them, though. There's me and there's she, though for me, there's only she, nothing else matters, even these weird creatures. The air smells of candle wax and balsamic vinegar someone has split at the table next to us. While the demon dogs each try to snatch a piece from the tables, the copious happy people around mumble, the fish-headed waiters shout at each other in unrecognisable language, somewhere in the bushes right behind the restaurant cicadas compose a cacophonous lullaby, and a branch of yew with red holey beads scratches the plexiglass roof of the terrace, she, only she, remains the sole focal point into which my decaying reality funnels, and while a fly drowns in my wine, I drown in her kaleidoscopic eyes. Those round, furtively blinking orbs are either grey, the hue of a smoke or a thick morning fog, or green, the hue of an emerald, possibly faded a little from overexposure to intense attention. Around her eyes, just like around mine now, a ruby lattice of tiny capillaries has grown, turning each of them into a piece of jewellery mastery. Is this the third bottle this evening? C two H five O H, two carbons, six hydrogens, one oxygen, and some other substances which no one cares about, but there's more — the transmutation of the evening into the
—It's a secret ingredient for the transmutation of the evening into the night.
—What kind of ingredient?
—Well, a secret ingredient.
—O-o-oh, I see.
—I won't tell you. Did you think I'd tell you?
—You must tell me. My mother taught me not to take strange substances from strangers, which perfectly describes the situation I’m in right now.
—Mother's word is law, of course.
—I wouldn't ask otherwise, right?
—I won't tell you anyway. Somewhere, somewhen, I'm someone's mother, therefore on a grand scheme of things my word is law too.
She stretches a sly smile and sips from her glass. She keeps staring at me and doesn't blink, or perhaps we blink at the same time. I try to blink unevenly, at random times, but never see her eyes closed. It is a state-of-the-art mesmerisation, no more, no less.
—I won't argue with that.
—Well, then don't.
—I won't, but I thought it would benefit the evening a little bit and perhaps speed up the transmutation process if we trusted each other more, wouldn't it?
—Well, I trust you. You're crazy and naîve enough to take a pill from a stranger, so you can't harm anyone, I assume, and since you've done that, I guess you also "trust" me, in your weird way. But does it matter?
A faceless waiter with five eyes, a peaky nose, and a Cheshire mouth under a Dali moustache walks by carrying on a plate a festering dog's head sprinkled with cheese and basil leaves, the aroma of which overpowers the smell of the dog, as if it were pasta.
—If you're afraid of falling, fly. Or terr'bo'sta in my language.
—Doesn't make any sense.
—It does make sense if you enable your brain to think.
—I'm afraid of "enabling" it to think about something like that.
—The risk of falling is not present if you're already falling. It's in the "past" and it's zero percent and hundred percent at the same time, which in practice means it’s not relevant, which in turn means it doesn't really exist. Flying, on the other hand, is w-a-ay riskier because the risk of falling is still non-zero — you can just fold your wings. That's that.
—Didn't know you were a risk manager.
—Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. I prefer to remain a stranger. Maybe I'll poison you, rob you, give you syphilis or something worse.
—Do you do that to many people?
—No, only the pretty ones, the rest I just rob.
—Am I flying or am I falling?
—We'll find that out soon.
On the porcelain plate right in front of me lies a slightly charred, drizzled with saffron aioli squirming tentacle of an ancient god. Shoggoth? Yog-Sothoth? I don't want to know. The suckers on it stare at me by the hundreds of tiny eyes, not with pity, not with interest, but rather with irony, as if the tentacle is about to eat me: jump off the plate, wrap around my neck, squeeze until it cracks, and then, when my last breath leaves my lungs, crawl into my brain through a nostril and occupy my body.
—We should've done it at the hotel.
—I'm afraid I'll start doing weird things soon.
—What weird things?
—I wish I knew in advance, but no, I don't know. Weird things.
—Do you have any previous experience of doing weird things? You could predict.
—Are you an analyst now?
—Maybe I am.
—I'll start fighting the waiters and then they will throw me in the canal and I'll drown there and die.
—No worries, I will pull you out of there.
Next to us, in the artificial river locked into three walls of brick and concrete and one wall of light-polluted city atmosphere, among dark green algae, cigarette butts, and cramped cans, a school of fish learns to fly. Do they fly or do they think they fly? Or do they fall horizontally? What do the fish feel at this moment? Where are they going so free, so aimless, so full of hope? Straining their fins they travel to the spawning grounds where they, like zergs, in sin, will multiply in quantity, and then come back to hooks and nets, to fridges and freezers, to pans and plates, to fish and chips, to someone's mouth. Mine perhaps. Or hers. Her crimson lips, glistering with grease, unfold like a rose in bloom and her pink tongue licks the tartare sauce from her knife and her— wait. My mother told me never to lick a knife. It brings bad luck, it's tempting fate, it's bad etiquette, it's basic sharp object safety. But she. For her. For her it's a transference of energy or life force of whatever the knife recently cut to the person licking it. She lovingly pierces a chip with her fork and starts chewing it, her sharp jawline going in zigzags. She is a praying mantis, and next she chews my head the same way. My skull cracks open, as easily as a chocolate egg, and the brain, like a yolk, tries to escape this tragic transgression but shares the same fate as the fish. She picks up a dried bucatini and, using it as a straw, performs one rapid succinct sip — schlurp — it's gone. I've lost my head, I’ve lost my brain, I've lost my mind.
—You never said it was so strong.
—You never said you were so weak.
—I’m not weak. I’m vulnerable to deception, like anyone else.
—Well, I'm not!
—You seduced me, fed me with your weird pills and now my mind is melting. I see things I wish I didn't see.
—That's a good description of my whole life.
—I feel like (I wouldn't tell her I saw her eating my head. That would ruin the romantique) my brain is made of malleable paraffin and it’s melting now, trying to escape this tragic transgression but shares the fate of fish and my fish-fate appears predetermined, circumscribed by an insurmountable metaphysical impasse.
—Sometimes I don’t understand what you say.
—Just listen to the words.
—It’s not fun listening to the words when you can’t understand them. I could just listen to cicadas instead. There’s a chance I understand them more.
—What do they say?
She scans her surroundings, squints intently, and, shrugging, returns her gaze to me. Those eyes again. I'm disappearing.
—I'm not sure. I don't know much about Cicadian, or is it circadian? Anyway, I know it even less than English.
—Imagine. Do they sing? Can you hear them singing a song?
After a short intermission of silence, the conductor hiding in the vegetation, its tailcoat fluttering in the wind, its eyes closed, its mind concentrated into a single dot, a dot that's about to explode with music, spreads its little cicadian limbs and, bursting with pathos, drops them down in one sharp stroke, cutting the air and, who knows, the whole world, the whole universe into two halves. In a fraction of a millisecond (which some oddly label "immediately"), as if the "start" signal was transmitted to them with no consideration of time, telepathically, the orchestra of dozens of other cicadas starts its fierce symphony. Out of nowhere, a series of omnipiercing vibrating shrieks, like those of a spinning chainsaw or aroused starlings, takes over the space. OoOoOoOoOoOoOoooOooOoooOooooOoooOooOoOOoOOOoooo and so on — a fucking lot of "O-s" and "o-s". The orchestra, perhaps, consists of all living cicadas, all cicadas that have ever lived, and all cicadas that will ever live. The symphony, simple yet complex, discordant yet meticulously composed for maximum endeafening effect, angelic yet demonic, rhythmic yet arrhythmical, turns the air around us into gelatin. Everyone and everything feels it. Every flower, petal, leaf, grass, poisonous yew berry, every glass and utensil on every table, the plexiglass roof of the terrace, every eardrum, every hair in every cochlea — everything trembles, neither from fear, nor from awe, nor from pleasure, but from belonging to something greater, to something common, to something universal, as if now the vibrations emanating from the orchestra do not just touch everyone, but merge with them, propagated deep down to the innermost essence of every being and thing. It's a rock-opera. It's jazz but with a billion "z"s at the end of the word. It is a torrent of joy and agony combined into a hitherto unknown bittersweet sensation, a feeling of nostalgia for every fraction of a moment passed and every moment to come. In these brief moments, if you tune in, you experience an eerie sense of quiet, like the universe just pressed the mute button for a split second, immersing you in a transient void. You feel its texture. You feel what the world really is.
—... That is how cicadas, a manifold of little rebels, reveal to us the underlying vibrations of the world — through their music, through their unequivocal art, and they are just humble tree crickets. I can't imagine what a human could do.
—Wow, I mean... I admit, it probably went too strong on you.
—Did you hear all my thoughts?
—Yes, because you said it out loud. And please let my hand go. I don’t mind but your grip is just too tight. Feels like a child handcuff.
I remove my hand from hers and look around. The dizziness takes over, and every person on the terrace, every guest and host (no dogs — they are gone, luckily), now have auras comprised of vibrating döppelgangers, their appearances multiplying before my eyes, each body fanning out into a cluster of blurred copies, as if the shutter speed of my mind-camera has gone snail.
—Sorry. Can you say something in your language?
—I don't know. Something. I need to hear something.
—You are not well? Here, drink water.
She moves her glass towards me and I pour it whole down my throat, together with ice. It feels like embers crawling down my oesophagus.
—We can leave, have some fresh air?
—No, please just say something.
—Such as? What do you want to hear?
—I don't know. The whole thing I just said, about cicadas. Translate it to me. I want to hear your native speech.
I sit straight and look into her eyes. Mimicking everything else around, her eyes multiply into dozens and hundreds as if she's a female Argus now. I close my eyes and prepare to listen.
—Erm... well... it's, ugh, gul'dræ'n'duli atá.
She's silent. The only thing I hear is the cicadian orchestra.
—Is that what it means? The whole passage translates into that? Just one word?
—Our language is very expressive. And it’s not a word, there's no such concept in my language.
—Where are you from?
—I won’t tell you.
—I think you're inventing it, the language.
—No, I'm not.
—Yes, you are. You're making it up.
—No, I'm not. Why would I do that?
—I don't know, to play me?
—I'm not playing you. It's all very very serious.
—Then what kind of language is that? Is it some rare unknown indigenous thing?
—Yes, I'm an alien from Venus.
—Alright, we better get some fresh air then.
Along the cobbled path, high above the surface run four legs, from which gradually grow out two bodies holding hands, entwined into one drunk silhouette that chuckles and bursts into laughter, which at this moment is the silhouette's only language. The words, the real words composed of morphemes with attached hints of meanings and history of the evolution of hundreds of languages, have ceased to exist, dispersed into individual sounds, and these sounds, in turn, have dissolved into the air like vapour billowing from an air humidifier, and instead of them there now exists only glances, touches, emotions, laughs, the smell of hormones and alcohol, basil and garlic stuck between teeth, the waves of twisted electricity hopping joyfully from neuron to neuron, from brain to brain—liberated, given to themselves. Words are no longer necessary, necessity itself is unnecessary; it simply is — everything simply is. The memory that has been and memory to come, the coordinates of seconds, minutes, perhaps hours, and any sense of continuity — snap — are gone, lines on paper filled with numbers and ticks that our brains cannot read. Chronology is not a property of time but a science that studies it, a pseudoscience for pseudopeople. Her hand is cold and wet. She smells of wine and sweat. We're traversing a piazza, a convex square made of thousands of thousand-year-old convex stones polished by time and by soles, but mostly by soles. In the middle of the piazza is a concave fountain with a statue of Venus. The statue has no head, the head has no eyes and no mouth, the figure has no hands and the hands have no fingers, it has no legs, no torso, nothing, the statue doesn't even has itself, but it's still there, visible, looming a few metres high over the piazza, dropping its shadow in all directions, overlooking the paused fountain, now filled with coins from all around the world, tributes to the goddess of love. The gusts of wind soar at the piazza, whistling around us as we escape the space behind us. We've abandoned our shoes and every stone in our cobbled path now feels like a little mountain. We're flying above the mountains, thousands of little mountains, and suddenly hear the mus
—It sounds like someone's beating an elephant! Let's see what it is!
Her hair all over her head, face and shoulders, she pulls my hand somewhere, without waiting for my response.
—Beating an elephant? lol, I mean LOL
Before us is an arcade, a long illuminated corridor with beige brick walls and a few dozen glass doors under an arching glass roof. The shops and restaurants are closed, from them only the lights left, the lights of melon-sized bulbs hanging sadly above empty counters. In the middle of the arcade, a lone figure with a saxophone produces a free, wild melody that she attempts to tame. Her eyes closed, she doesn't see us, and as we approach her, she keeps blowing, ordering the disorder of the air into melancholic vibrations, an elegant sequence of transient voids exquisitely arranged and timed together, weaving the empty space of the arcade into one single thick thread that leads us to—where to? No idea. We tighten our collective grip, freeze and listen to the saxophonist. We feel her wordless speech not with our ears but with our whole bodies as all the little hairs on our napes, hands, and legs raise, after the cold, refreshing, sobering and tickling sensation travels from our eardrums to our toes and fills the whole body with ecstatic charge. The song abruptly end and the saxophonist gives us a blissful smile.
In unison, we ask:
—What's the song called?
Frowning, she replies:
—It's not a song.
In unison, we express our persistent curiosity:
—But what is it called?
Upon pausing for a moment, the saxophonist answers:
—Let it be "A Lament of a Dying Elephant."
Awed, quite so (myself, especially), we ask again (we must be very annoying):
—Has it died?
The woman seems amused by the conversation:
—Who? The elephant? I don't know.
She shrugs, and we clarify:
—No, the song.
She's almost laughing now:
—Ah, probably you can say that. I don't think I would play it again.
—Why wouldn't you?
—Because I have no idea or memory of what I've just played.
The song has passed from the physical world, for it stopped vibrating it and thickening and entangibilising its fabrics, but in our world, which is far from physical, it still sings. In our brains, it's tattooed as a long sequence on notes, filling every convolution in dense calligraphic graffiti. In our minds, it's turned into a code, a program, an instruction, a spell, something that's now running continuously on our joint brainware in a magical, metaphysical manner, despite having little of repeating elements that could be reproduced. Every second and every note, the song dies and a new song is born. It's a generator infinito, but instead of random numbers it produces random sequences, one after another. Hypnotised by, as everyone agreed, "A Lament of a Dying Elephant", we dig coins from our pockets, tributes to the goddess of music, and transfer them into the saxophonist's hat resting in front of her like a loyal dog and flee the makeshift concert hall.
Around us, there’s a narrow and long public garden where, lit and yellowed by the lanterns, grows various flora: camelias, roses, daffodils, lavender, hydrangeas, peonies, daisies, tulips, ferns, climbing ivy, jasmine, rhododendrons, lots of 'em, wisteria, azaleas, chrysanthemums, lilacs, marigolds, irises, begonias, violets, cyclamens, heather, foxgloves, pansies, sage, more and more poisonous yew, cypress, rosemary, juniper, fuchsia, dahlia, petunias, anemones, aster, zinnias, cosmos, verbena, maybe some others I can't recognise, for I'm not a botanical expert. We stroll through the labyrinthine collection of flowers and name each of them. The little pebbles that litter the road prick our bare feet. The ground is still underneath, existing and we, in fact, are not flying. I can't name the colour of her eyes anymore — in the dark, they are just two shiny obsidians formed from rapidly cooled lava. A carefree, slightly ironic smile rests across her face. Her hand squeezes my palm, plays with my knuckles, rolls them hither and thither. Here we are, two people surrounded by sleeping beauty. It's wrong but I want you tonight. Say it. No, can one even say that to someone in a park at night? Can I argue with my inner voice? Does it even hear me back or is it just a monologuing entity? Say it. We stop. I grab both of her hands and look into her eyes.
—It’s wrong but I want you to...night.
—To knight? To knight you? (she laughs) I mean, sure. On your knees, please.
My head is overflowing with embarrassment and blush, as if a waiter had fallen asleep while pouring red wine into it. The awkwardness condenses into one sloppy and scratchy lump and dives down through my throat. Left with no choice, I fall on my knees and bow to my newfound queen.
—Are you ready?
The queen clears her throat and commences her speech:
—Before you rise, you must understand the big responsibilities that come with this… well, impronto knighthood.
—Okay, "impromptu"-whatever knighthood... A knight is sworn to valour, to uphold justice, to protect the innocent, and above all, to speak the truth even when it's total bullshit. Do you swear to do so?
—So, remember, you're not just any knight; you're my knight for tonight. Or should I say, "to-knight"? Anyway, your duty is to be present, to be yourself, and maybe even to enjoy this weird world we're sharing. All good?
—It is, pretty much, yeah.
—So, with the authority given to me by the power of this night and by virtue of the stars that we cannot see because we're in the city and the sky is light-polluted as hell, I "hereby declare" you my knight. Stand up and don't forget, names and titles are only words, just don't be a dick. Okay, we're done. Rise, my knight.
Something's definitely rising at this moment. Physically and spiritually, I rise and shake the dust and bits of leaves off my knee. She smiles, grabs my hand and drags me further through the neverending garden.
In front of us, there are the gates. The pillars are made from rough white beige and topped with dome-shaped caps. Quite antique, actually. Between the pillars are wrought-iron gates with gilded ornaments and figures of leaves and flowers. Above the middle of the gates appears a monogram, a crest on which five hearts are arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The light from the lanterns highlights the curvilinear elements and plays with shadows on the pavement behind the gates. It's not simple gates, a door, not even a portal. It's a piece of art, and this piece of artistry is, of course, closed. With sweaty fingers, we wedge between the bars and start climbing upwards. Foot. Arm. Foot. Arm. Foot. Arm. At the top, thank the architects for no thorns, spikes, spears, barbed wire, or other anti-human or anti-pigeon attributes installed. Instead, there's a smooth metal branch that grows from the pillar towards the centre of the gate, where the two doors meet above the coat of arms. Under us, there's a narrow sidewalk, and on the right — a motorway going approximately forty eight lanes in each direction. Hundreds and thousands of lights drift by like stars that have fallen on Earth and now frolic in panic on the hot asphalt, leaving behind themselves long luminous trails, adding to the landscape a boiling river of light, noise and exhaust fumes. Don't inhale them. Don't look at them. Don't count them. Look forward, onto your path. She keeps squeezing my hand and leads me forward, then slows down, turns around, circles me, changes her hand, drags me forward again, circles me again on the other side, and so on, spinning around me, spinning me around herself, dancing. Thus we dance along the motorway and before another bend, the sidewalk ends. Grimacing, she examines the raging river and the glimmering sea on its other shore.
—I’m afraid we have to cross it.
—Cross this thing.
Her seriousness has acquired physical qualities.
—I don't know. For the plot? It's a character development event.
—In some absurdist tragedy. That's a dumb way to die.
—Imagine you're in a story and you want to make it as interesting as possible for whoever reads it.
—What if I'm a secondary or just a background character? An NPC?
—Then your goal is to become a protagonist!
—You've sworn to knight for me tonight.
—Yes, but you don't have to jump onto the motorway to test my knighthood. I don't want to jump into the road.
—You do, you buzzkill. You just don't know that yet. Let me show you.
She lets go of my hand and in a gracious feline trajectory jumps over the guardrail right into the road and dances off to the other side across all the lanes while honking cars whiz by, then climbs over the concrete divider in the middle of the motorway and disappears from my sight.
Breathe. The falling stars fly by in trembling curves, their blazing trails etched briefly against the black. The coarse grit of the asphalt grinds into my bare feet, sending shocks of heat up through my legs with each footfall, and the world becomes a blur of hypnotic colours. The hungry herd of headlights speeds by, trampling all in their orbit. A whoosh of hot wind blasts my face as a streak of red screams past just inches away. The space stinks of burnt rubber, C O two and adrenaline. The pawn moves towards the queen. The pawn crosses the thin line between the known and anarchy, terra firma and the abyss. The pawn realises it has a ribcage, a ribcage that has something inside that has started reminding of itself. The path is laid with asphalt and perpendicular splashes of white paint. I'm electric. I'm electricity. It's a leap of faith or fall of faith or flight of faith. The asphalt keeps burning. Step. Jump. Step. Run, run, don't stop and don't close your eyes. It’s the lament of a dying pedestrian. The great diesel beast stretches itself towards me, distorting from a pinprick to a swirling giant, then collapses back to a singular point as it flies past. I see how a few metres ahead my ghostly figure dances through the veils of exhaust, its limbs shake, its eyes never close — don't dare to blink. I haul myself over the concrete divider, collapsing onto the blessedly cool sidewalk beyond it. There, under the trees, waiting for me, I see her.
On a sandy pebbled beach, we lie and listen to the waves washing the shore off the green dirty lumps of algae and sometimes reaching our feet. This is how the sea talks to you — via gentle strokes of water when it's calm, or via heavy blows when it's angry. Now, the water is cold, and every time it soaks our naked heels, our bodies respond with goosebumps.
—Now we wait.
A coy breeze brings smells of fish, algae and salt and immediately carries them away as if teasing us, reminding us that we're on the shore. The waves murmur like a dozen cats falling comfortably asleep, ebb, rattle the pebbles, and run away. Somewhere behind us, hidden in the leaves of the trees, cicadas play their symphony, a little further away the motorway roars, and somewhere deep within my head, elephants sing an infinite song. A little closer, beside me, I hear her heavy breath, and I see her breasts heave up for a second and then dip back again, thirstily absorbing the sea air. Her eyes are closed. Just like mine, her lips dry in the breeze, and now and then she licks them. Before me, the stygian sky, illuminated by the city behind us, and on it, either by satellites or by faint stars, the outlines of her face slowly emerge, and reality around me fades, as if everything but the vision of her face has lost its already miniscule cosmic significance. I roll over onto my side and lie watching the movements of her dark arched eyebrows, her nose greedily lusting after the atmosphere, her crimson lips, and, trembling, reach for them until she, hearing my movements and sensing my ragged breath, draws towards me, our bodies merge in a clumsy kiss, and begin to roll sideways, flipping over and over, on top of and underneath each other, again and again. Suddenly, I find myself in a orchid garden, alone, a garden that is the whole world, a grandiose, boundless construction built to feature but one orchid elucidated in the cosmic glow, a glow born in a complex chemical reaction somewhere thousands and millions of lightyears away just for this resplendent orchid. It stays on the podium on a little white pot and stares at me, its petals softly curled outward. At its centre emerges the labellum, sensuous and pink, its lobes frilled with intricate ruching and folds. I reach for it with my lips and feel its wet silky petals and finally hear the words in the language we can both understand, the language of lo
—You're snoring. Wake up.
She’s shaking me by my shoulder, chuckling.
The garden is gone, as if it never existed, what's left is darkness, the cold, passionless void.
—I'm listening to cicadas and you're snoring.
—Cannot be. I never snore.
—You do, though. No idea what you saw in your dream, but you sounded like a cicada.
—He-he. You've almost slept through it.
—I didn't sleep.
—Of course. Look. This is Venus,—she says, pointing her finger at the sky, at the bright dot that for me appears slightly pulsating.
—Are you sure it's Venus?
—I'm pretty sure it's Venus, I would call her Jy. The good thing about her is that once every 584 days it gets as close to Earth as possible and you can see her even in the city. Today's that day. Today she's as bright as you could see her from Earth. Verk'arri'taa'Jy'kos.
—What does that mean?
—A lot of things, probably a few hundred words in your language. I can't explain.
—You could try.
She pauses and looks at me.
—You don't want to hear it. It's a boring story.
—It's fall or fly, right?
—Don't use my weapon against me. You've sworn not to be a dick.
—I won't judge or anything. Whatever you say I'll just listen and nod like a good knight is supposed to do.
—Ha-ha. Okay. But If you say a word, I'll drown you.
I adopt complete numbness, having cast a ziplock spell on my lips.
—Good. I've told you it's boring. So...—she takes a deep breath.—When I was a little girl, maybe five or so, we moved from a little village to a big city. In the village, when you go out, you would see the woods and the sky, and the sky would always be full of stars, as if it were a sieve through which something magical flowed down to Earth. Imagine that beautiful sky, every single night, full of shiny dots. Not sure if you ever saw it: the Milky Way and all that, not all people know you can see it, apparently, but anyways. When we moved to that big city, the first thing on the night sky I saw was Venus. There were the moon, satelites, planes and other things maybe, but I remember only Venus. I felt instant nostalgia even when I saw her for the first time. At first, I didn't know she was Venus. Of course, for me she was just a "star". Only later I learned her course and how they dance together with the Sun, but before that I just saw her becoming dimmer and dimmer every single night since the first day I saw her. And “Verk'arri'taa'Sy'kos” was what my parents told me when I asked them about her, why she's disappearing. In short, it means something like, soon, you'll see her again, every time she'll be the same, same beautiful planet, but you'll be a new person, slightly different, maybe more mature, coming to her with new challenges passed and new acquired, and despite them, or rather in spite of them, every time she would remind you that there's something permanent, something that gives you hope, something that fades and flourishes, something that teaches you how to find comfort in constraints. So, yeah, there's more stuff but it's just a brief summary for you.
Her eyes have become wet and in them I can see the reflection of Venus. She smiles and moisturises her lips again. Should I start talking or shouldn't I? I don't know what to say. It feels awkward, more awkward than the restaurant, than the knighting and the dream, as if I realise she's told me too much and I'm expected to tell something of the same grade in return, but I can't — my thoughts keep panicking, running, stumbling, hiding from me, like three little piglets who've just seen a wolf, and I can't find anything remotely as deep that I could share with her.
—Do you want one more?
She stretches out her hand, slightly dusted with sand, to me, and on it lies a shiny pill, half red, half blue. Silent, I shake my head negatively, and she stashes the pill back to her pocket. She doesn't say anything for a while and we keep lying in silence.
—You know, I've been translating myself my whole life and I don't even remember what it's like to talk to someone other than myself in my language. Often I want to meet someone here who would be able to learn my language.
I point at myself. She smiles.
—It's just a language, right? Maybe you could learn it but you still won't be able to really think about it, I mean, "really". You'll still count in your own language, your dreams and subconscious will use it to talk to you, the whole universe will use it, too, because that's simply the easiest way to reach you.
Her tongue clicks and she pauses, shortly.
—Look, you're a very nice and fun person, but imagine if we were more than friends and decided to spend our lives together. Despite what I would say to you, there would always be so much more of me untold that you can never see, there'll always be so much more of what I could never translate, and even if I could, you'll never be able to understand it. Every day you would be looking at a tiny projection I spend so much effort to create. Every day my soul would cry because I would spend my whole life translating to you my emotions and feelings. Even after you "learn the words", you'll never see my innermost self, who's a far more interesting person.
Holding our hands behind our backs, we slowly walk back along the motorway as the cars whoosh by our side. I feel calm, almost sober, yet something bitter at the root of my tongue is drying out my throat. I look at her as she walks, stepping only on her toes, balancing, and smile. She notices and smiles back. The world is playing a trick on me, and a bad feeling that something beautiful is about to end grows in my head and soon fills it full, to the point of overflowing. The inky indigo of the night begins to yield as the hazy purple gradient creeps from behind the horizon, painting the whole sky pools of radiant pink and orange, like swirls of sorbet bleeding into one another. The sea catches the nascent glow and shimmers like a mirror fragmented into a thousand shards of light. Upwards, the gulls cry and follow us to the city gleaming through veils of illumination, and elusive as a mirage. It's getting closer but I don't want it to, I want it to always stay where it is, frozen, distant, forgotten, including all that happened to us there. I try not to look at it and instead look at her, at the sea and the sky. I just want to be here, staying and not walking, because with every step, time crawls through me, ferociously, as a long spiky thread that's stuck in my chest and pulls me forward against my will. It better be cut, it better disappear altogether, better if someone coils it up into one big, endless skein and stows it somewhere far away in a drawer, on a shelf in a black, dusty and cobweb-covered closet, and we, instead of dragging onwards, just freeze in place and remain in it as we are now - the queen and her knight - but that's not happening, the spindle keeps spinning and the thread keeps weaving us away into a new merciless day. The blazing sphere of the sun breaches the waterline and in minutes, and in the sky the transmutation of night into morning happens — like a sugar crystal in the celestial morning cup of melted amber, Venus dissolves.
We go through the same public garden. It all feels like a dream, a blurry and dimly lit dream. Now, the gates are open. We enter them. It's completely different: different flowers bloom, different smells float in the air, different birds sing. There, in the middle of the park, on the pass parallel to ours and separated from us by a long trimmed bush, is a bald man in an orange garment and a zen face trimming that same bush. A monk! He looks at us and we look at him, and at that moment I feel a throbbing urge to ask him about life. He must know, he's a monk, he's been studying the universe and self for years, perhaps millennia, his wisdom is far beyond my comprehension, just like the language of hers. If I had just one question to ask him, what would I ask? What would I so desperately want to know that could make my life take a sharp turn as if it's on a hinge that needs just a little nudge to move, and that I feel this man, this bald peaceful monk, knows the answer to? What would he say to me? Yes, yes, I know what I should ask (or rather must). But what would he say? Would he say it's something you don't learn but feel, or that it's all chemicals in our brain? Or something else? I don't care, I just need an answer. So, I clear my throat from bitter mucus and approach him, leaning on the bush.
—Excuse me. If I may ask just one question... What is the language of love?
The monk barks out a caustic laugh.
—How the fuck would I know? It's 5AM. Go get sober, mate. And don't touch the bloody bush.
I nod meekly, hearing her suppressed chuckle behind me. She takes my hand, says something to the monk, and pulls me away to exit from the park.
Everything seems old, shabby, as if all the electric charm has been sucked out of it, as if with the sunrise all the slovenliness of the city that had been hidden at night now has been revealed: the pavements littered with rubbish, the buildings with dark stains, peeling paint and long meandering cracks where in between scurry little lizards. Everything has become monotonous and drab, the colour of old, the smell of old, the feel of old. We trespass the same arcade with a glass roof, yet now it feels shorter, just a few buildings deep, and emptier, for no one now is torturing elephants, the phantomic melody of which has escaped my head and no trace of which remains. We enter the same cobbled piazza that, like everything else before, appears much smaller now, as if just for a few hours people built buildings around it, a few rows from the periphery to the centre to the same fountain, next to which we find laying untouched our abandoned shoes. We put them on and continue our way along the canal, to the river, next to the empty seafood restaurant with the tables flipped over on the terrace under the plexiglass roof, which the poisonous yews are still scratching. We enter the same hotel where we met yesterday, and, despite it not being night anymore, we wish each other good night and ascend to our rooms.
After a short but deep sleep, close to noon, I wake in my hotel room and go to the reception. I see her in the same clothes, in slippers, with a suitcase, standing facing the desk while returning the keys.
I don't know what to say, and she, wearing a mellow melancholic expression on her face which also could be read as "tired", doesn't seem to know either, as if yesterday we spoke in a different language.
—What a night, huh?
—I was going to say thank you for it, by the way. It was fun.
Prolonged silence, as if nothing, a sheer void, can be prolonged, yet it doesn't feel like nothing, it feels tense and dense, thick and vibrating.
—You didn't say you were leaving today.
—I didn't say I was staying. I was here for one night only. My plane was rescheduled, and well…
—I see, okay. Thank you, too. I'm leaving tomorrow.
—Good! One more day! Have fun.
—Thank you. I will. It won't be that fun, though.
—No, it won't. That only happens once every 584 days.
Chilly, suddenly. Vibrations become slower. The heaviness in the nape creeps down to the neck. I feel the last second is coming like a diesel beast ready to knock me down and smear me across the ground. I wish her a safe flight, we say goodbye to each other and she leaves. I watch how she exits the hotel through the automatic door dragging a white wheeled suitcase with a luggage tag hanging from its handle, the case covered in coloured stickers with flowers, flags and landmarks from various countries, and, instantly, in a furious flurry, the words for “goodbye” in their respective languages pop up in my head. In French, they say au revoir, in German, it's auf Wiedersehen, over in Japan, it’s sayonara, in Russia, it’s do svidaniya, in Italian, they say arrivederci, in Spanish, it’s adiós, in Mandarin Chinese, it's zàijiàn, in Hindi, it’s alvida, and in Arabic, it’s wada'an, in Swahili, it’s kwaheri, and so on — it’s always one or two words, but what she said to me was ta'kor'estrï'osta'mar’iiyláblum'as'vera'taa’stæ'lany'er’myrrae'la'Jy'en'bos’ta'rri, and I have no idea how much meaning is wrapped into it.
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Literary anarchy and magic degeneracy. Fiction, stories, narratives, plots (sometimes), arts, memology, schizomaxxing, and transmutation of words.
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