Towards the twilight

It was the night. I aimed for the tube, going back home after having met someone, somewhere (unfortunately I can’t remember who, nor where. It was an important part of the story that won’t ever be recovered).
In Madrid’s subway stations (supposing it was Madrid, which I’m not sure) there are no counter clerks anymore, but this particular entrance (this entrance of my dream) had two old-fashioned booths: they were at ground level, placed before the flight of stairs that lead to the platforms; upstairs, not down, like some stations in the Kiev underground. To one of the booths there was no queue, so I headed that one; but above its window there hung an absurd LED-lamp, switched off, like a motorcycle’s tail light, under which the clerck was frowning at me in an unfriendly way, as if to say: “if you come over here, I’ll switch on the red LEDs”. I thought, then, that if I disobeyed those eyes’ silent order, I’d end up waiting longer; same as it usually happens to me at the cashiers in the supermarkets, where I always head for the shortest queue, which turns out being the slowest. Therefore, I chose the other booth, which was busier, but without the suspicious LED-pilot and with a friendlier-looking clerk.
After queuing for a short while, I was sold a ticket that rather resembled a cinema’s than a subway’s: it was not the usual elongated piece of cardboard, but consisted of two detachable paper halves. Indeed, past the booths and before the turnstiles, there was a ticket collector like in the cinemas; more precisely, a “collectress”: a young woman, who, upon seeing me, smiled as if she knew me, and said: “hurry up, don’t you miss the train entering right now”.
Caught up as I was in the hush of the metropolis, swept along by the passengers, I barely had time to nod her thankyou, and, unfamiliar with those particular turnstiles, I didn’t even manage to validate my ticket, both whose halves, untorn in my hand, I stared at in puzzlement while being dragged up the stairs by the human stream.
But then, I did something quite unusual. It was unusual not in the usual way for dreams to deploy unusual events, Continue reading “Towards the twilight”


Actually the whole episode could’ve not been simpler, and if I had to put it down to some element more or less outside its direct players, I’d probably point to the mismatch between my eating habits and those of the Japanese: there, restaurants are rather for dining, and most of them–except maybe in the cities–only open after around five or six in the evening; but even the ones serving lunch close down usually for a long break shortly after noon–which is when I’m normally waking up from bed… or sort of; therefore, by the time I start getting hungry–say 3-4 p.m.–I can’t find where to go for a meal. That’s why that day I had to overcome my qualms regarding small bistros and get over the embarrassment of feeling like an ignorant alien among the other customers–who would no doutb be watchful of every move of mine–in order to get inside that particular hovel–the only one I found open–called by its small, dusty and neglected showcase, where there yawned–since years ago, I’d bet–the so common in Japan plastic replicas of four or five different dishes, labelled with their respective prices.
Right after getting in, I was welcomed (welcomed?) by the typical stale fag-ends/cold-smoke smell, which is one of the things I find most unpleasant in regular life–very specially when having meals–except perhaps for the typical lit fag smoke, which was also present in that place. This aversion of mine to tobacco truly hinders my enjoyment of many (otherwise) pleasant moments that life could–and indeed does bring me; most of all in Japan, where the smoking rate among the (male) population is rather high and where, funny enough, though it’s forbidden on the streets (!), turns out to be legal inside bars and restaurants, except for the few ones (normally more sophisticated and expensive) whose managers have willfully banned smoking. Hence the qualms I mentioned. And that’s a real pity, because it’s precisely in the more local bistros where one can–and usually does come across the more genuine experiences and people, leave aside the more affordable prices; but then you have to count on the smoke, which is twofold a problem for me, because on top of inhaling the foul air, later on I’ll have to hand wash the smelly garments in the hotel room’s sink, or send them to laundry–whichever way a chore.
As I was saying, Continue reading “Omotenashi”

Water heart, ice heart

So there I was, back in my hometown, being paid a spontaneous tribute by my country folk for having returned from my endless journeys around the globe; a casual open-air meeting in the middle of the street, where I was welcomed by everybody in an atmosphere of brotherly harmony that I had not seen before; approached by all, shaking hands, people patting my back and uttering warm words of recognition or praise, same my friends or my acquaintances and even those who never liked me (a fair majority, I must say), they all wanted to talk to me and greet the prodigal son; though curiously, far from sounding hypocritical or phony, their signs of affection were real–I mean, as real as such an odd meeting could be. Among them, there were also a few friends I had made abroad, friends who couldn’t possibly be in Spain, who have not been there in their lives and who won’t likely ever visit my hometown, although in that moment those little details didn’t seem implausible to me: neither the presence of my foreign friends nor the sincere well meaning of my country folks.
And there I was too, simultaneously (mark, reader: simultaneously), sitting–so to say–at the director’s chair and directing the scene, exchanging opinions with an invisible assistant, making small changes and improvements we thought of on the go: Continue reading “Water heart, ice heart”

The visit

In my dream, I was watching a boy who, sitting on a stool at the kitchen table, silently and obediently nodded to every of this mother’s warnings, perhaps scolding or simply instructing him. He is a handsome boy of big dark eyes on a pale face and lank brown hair. Carefully he listens to his mother and, after each of her sentences, nods as a sign of understanding.
I witness the scene from very close, but — both knowing I am there, none of them seems to notice me, attentive to each other as they are; though in the bottom of his stare the boy has as if an absent air, like that of one who lives on two worlds at once: the inner and the outer. I gaze at him with a mixture of sympathy and infinte tenderness, and as lovingly as I’m able to: his childlike countenance, so familiar and so alien at the same time, and his deep, clever eyes that seem home to misterious thoughts, though perhaps they just reflect a most candid innocence.
I was feeling a great love for him and, mostly, an enormous pity: pity because all the sufferings he would have to undergone in life, pity that his tender and pure soul would age too early. Then, I came close to him and, taking his head between my hands, put my lips to his cheek and kissed him warmly, with the emotion of that who’s saying farewell forever — kissed him like my aunts in the village did when, by the end of every summer, we returned to the city. And the boy, still attentively listening to his mother’s words, received my kiss without a stare, neither of affection nor aloofness; not indifferently, but simply as if… as if he had not been kissed at all.
That boy — whom I was visiting thanks to the magic of dreams, that boy was myself.
And when I woke up, and the spell was gone, for a while I kept asking to myself, trying to remember: did I ever feel, as a child, the warmth on my cheek of a ghostly kiss?, did I ever shiver, being a boy, with the close breath of an invisible presence?, did I ever get the impression that someone was visiting me from beyond time?

Winter in Finland

After a last tantrum of unusual warm days for the season, this long autumn, child of burnt hydrocarbons, has finally given way to winter. Bright white days. Twenty five below.
Even before coming into contact with the air, my breath freezes inside my nostrils, causing an unpleasant feeling of dried up boogers. Eventually, a chance tear congeals in the corner of my eye as a rheum, or if I blink, it welds my eyelashes and I can’t then open my eyelids. Under the soles of the footwear and under the rubber of the tyres, the snow cries its loud creak of trampled grave. At night, the air humidity sublimates on the thinnest tree branches, coating them in a perfect, uniform frost layer like in the Christmas cards. At noon, after the weak warming up of a sunny day, that same frost thaws and falls from the branches in a myriad microscopic ice crystals sprinkled from above in a soft snowfall of sparkling diamond dust. The flowing water in the canal or by the wharf, that never freezes, constantly smokes a ghostly mist of boiling cauldron that vanishes into thin air only a few feet above the surface, evoking a fabulous landscape of enchanted swamps. And at dusk, the bluish white of snow and the whitish blue of sky blend together in a borderless horizon.
The lake, now lethargic, has finally silenced its otherworldly moans.