Well...

September 2011

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to the fronthiroaphasia wrote
on November 25th, 2006 at 02:30 am

Cracked Lengthwise: One hour




let it go-the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise-let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go-the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers-you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go-the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things-let all go
dear
so comes love
-e.e. cummings, 1944


I walked out of CLL, and the indecisive rain came edgewise on the wind. I had stayed late after my usual evening course, to finish some lesson plans for the upcoming week. Anxious, semi-broken, and not really having slept in days, I felt like I had been stuffed haphazardly into my skin. It fit me ill, that night- all loose in some places, strangling in others. The boxes in my head were in disarray. My internal office personnel kept bringing me the wrong files. Every thought I had felt worn, and over-used. I was sick of my own voice, but that voice was internal, and so impossible to shut off. Spurred by my feelings of helpless frustration, I took an alternate route home. I got off the metro at Montgomery instead of De Broùcker. The man in the little hermetically sealed information booth pointed me towards tram 81. I boarded, wondering why I had decided to do so (81 takes nearly a quarter hour longer than 55). The only answer I got was the inarguable “Why Not?”

The darkness of the night outside isolated those of us inside, in that special, grandiose way that only late-night trams can manage. It laconically clattered down the cold damp lines, and I was left alone with the riot inside my head. I looked out the window and only saw my own tired face reflected back at me. The harsh fluorescent lights illuminated each contour and line, emphasizing the near-hysteria behind my eyes by contrasting it with the stillness of my features. This nameless apprehension! This silent face

At the next stop, a woman who was not beautiful got on. Her eyes were stolid doormen who let nothing through from behind, opaque and dour. Where skin was not sallow it was red and chaffed where the wind had tried to whip life into it. She had thick, unbeautiful, worker's hands and she wore her clothes badly. She was carrying a large camping backpack, which was oddly incongruent. She sat catty-corner to me, across the aisle, and I watched her more as something to look at than in an attempt to see her features. Suddenly her shoulders slumped, and she seemed to collapse into herself, her thick square-jawed face cupped in her palms. Someone on the tram was coughing. I couldn't look to see who it was because I was transfixed. I knew this woman so well. I was not able to see the shape of the things she was bearing, or what had brought her shoulders forward, but the shape of things being defined by their curve. We live our lives trying to capture how we are formed, not by the major actions that occur because of us or to us, but by the space between them. I saw her brush, not at tears, but at where tears were trying to form.

I took a quick look around. No one was noticing, or they were busy trying not to notice. Often of late, I have been grateful for Belgian conservatism. It is isolating, but it gives one a measure of privacy, even in the middle of a public tram, or a street. She breathed deeply, and her mousy no-colour hair covered her face. I leaned over.


"Pardon, Madame… Vous êtes fatiguée, ou est-ce que vous êtes triste?"


My poor French.

The quiet, late night tram.

The rain outside the window.


She looked up startled and didn't reply, but my hand had stretched out over the space between us to touch her knee, and she looked down at it; impassive for a moment then her heavy eyes filled with tears that ran down her cheek to her jaw in silence. I took her hand. We didn't speak. We sat hand in hand, diagonally across the tramcar aisle her bag between her knees, and her face turned slightly away. She smelled slightly of travel. Her skin was dry and cool. Two or three stops further on, she got off the tram, without saying goodbye. I sat watching but not seeing my face in the window until Horta, near la barriére. No one said a word. I walked out into the dark night, and I was still. Silence had infiltrated me, and was profound. I still could not sleep, but I did not care. I felt emptied, and it was blessed.
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