FIRST FALL: I LOST YOU
IN THE AIR, CERTAIN that we had left the line that divides the stage platform, twenty feet high, I remembered the expression on your lips as you laughed, and I realized that you were my safest place; the thread that led me out of my confusion; the part of the labyrinth where I’d find the exit; the only possible exit among all those that we dream about during the coldest days. It doesn’t matter if spectators screamed below, waiting for my hand to miss the swing and for me to continue flying and fall to their seats, or if lions danced around your body, or if a hail of bullets closed the circus forever. The older people, the giant, and he who every morning washes the fish scales off his skin—they said that we are ghosts. The Mexican horseman of the three pistols—always grim: with his skull face, firing bullets full ofdoubts and tears—insisted that there is a story, hidden on the Internet, where they confirm our supposed truth with irrefutable evidence. I have come to believe that it is true. I can sense it when the cotton candy escapes from the lips of teenagers and goes through my skin, when the captain turns on the phonograph that his ancestors never left him, when I disappear and I can see the whole universe spinning among our Mevlevies brothers and, also, all those times when we ran from those who chase us with torches because I drank the medicine for baldness made by Dr. Chang. Maybe it’s because our world of appearances and disappearances, of sensitivities that pass through us, or that of objects unrelated to their ages: all of these things coexist around us without any clear explanation; they affect us and make us look different, maybe because we are different in a world of different creatures. That feeling grows when I’m writing to you and I replace my words with three dots. When I listen to “Creep.” When I go back to experience the freezing temperature in the park. The memory of clumsy words is always badgering me, the memory of a hand that explores a white face dimly lit by headlights that come and go from time to time, by glances that cross glances, and by that summer when we were forced to say goodbye.
SECOND FALL: YOU LOST ME
LEANING OVER THE ONLY place where chance is a living language, hidden among my tent mates, I started to paint a map of the places where I should not be. I wrote about it in ideas that were contradictory but necessary. My hand, always steady, was preceded by a tattoo on my forearm. In it you can read the word “love.” I was the same chatterbox with the deep eyes, white pants, pointy boots, a black sweater, long hair, and a sharp beard. That one who every night shouted out the wonderful things we were able to do. But this time, my words were not about fire circles, spinning men, red noses, female beards, kicks in the butt, feline teeth, or flying tutus. Nor did the drawings I made describe a geography known to humans. My map was the story of all the things that I would suffer yet again if you returned, clinging to my wishes, and one of those stories that I would avoid for fear it would put distance between you and me. I thought of making the sketch linear, imitating the fire that shoots out of the mouth of the dwarf. Then I imagined laying a circular text over it, circling round the same idea again and again, where words tremble with the violence of blank space. Also, I pondered the idea of a vindictive sentence that flies like a cannonball against all metaphors, or a judgment, which like the lion tamer’s whip, martyrs each of the words that I’ve not dared to say. I discarded the options one by one. I could neither advance nor retreat; I tried to write “I love you,” but I did not get past “I,” I in its orphaned state. I was thinking about the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge that we read again and again: “Beware! Beware! / His flashing eyes, his floating hair!” It got late, we grew distant. When all the floats and trucks left the city, I was lost in my thoughts, anchored to the same place, with the blue moon in the background, sitting on my words, with a spray can in my hand, watching the white background of everything that I could not tell you to keep you from leaving me.
THIRD FALL: WHAT WE BECAME AFTER FALLING
I AM A DARK SUN seen through a window. My only purpose is to observe the moon. Ominous arts of the two daughters of Dr. Chang opened a hollow on one side of my tent. They do not believe in waiting and yet make love with every man who offers them a chance to escape the alchemical dreams of the father. Their white, black, hypnotic, and erotic magic kept me going. I thanked them for all the licking, wounds, encouragement, and laughter. However, I never stopped being stuck in the odd game of memory. Indeed, they—the daughters—were an exhausted consolation, released into a vacuum: my own emptiness. During those years, I did not allow myself to leave the window, nor did I leave the darkness that is now my workplace. From there I thought of all the solutions. Hour after hour I deleted options that ended up being wrong: to hack virtual library books to find one of your own; to sickly surf through Google, searching for your name; to enter chat rooms where someone knew a line by Coleridge; to delete half of each Radiohead song locked in my iPod or download videos on YouTube of Sufi dancers. Everything was stupid and will never replace our ghostly bodies; our staring at each other, trying to make eye contact; the cold parks and the ellipsis. I thought of giving in, but when there seemed to be no option, the key appeared before me: we never left the circus. So there is no map. Maybe therein was the meaning that was hidden in the wordsrepeated by the blind man every time we passed: “Our tent is a frightening sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” Nothing is outside of the arena surrounded by chairs, the tents that constituted our cosmos. I knew it seeing my mates walking safely through the yard at show time. At that moment, I found the answer to why some had long legs, red noses, and perverse whips; others had lobster tails, tits and beards, camel leather, and cannonball helmets; and others, sharp knives, fake guns, untruthful drinks, and word games. Nothing was distant for them, they never had to say goodbye; they came and went at will, using their wonders to astonish the unsuspecting inhabitants of the earth. It was then, at that moment, from my window, when I discovered that my arms—used to pursuing the swings in the air—were tentacles. Immediately I stretched them out of the window, and the tentacles were the size of the world; my arms reached all corners, they traveled through the nine planets of the solar system, and they went underwater. They climbed mountains, they left behind indivisible boundaries and ancestral fears. And one day, unexpectedly, when they stole past the moon, they could not continue; they were trapped. A similar marvel stopped them: other tentacles that, on a September morning, I found clinging to mine.
Story and photo by Humberto Valdivieso
*First published as part of ‘Narrative witness’ project