as if we were free

August 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm (community, complex pleasures, mechanical engineering, out and about, queer, travel)

one of the things i got to do overseas that i haven’t for ages, was performance. in berlin i joined in a drag king performance at the very last minute, apparently there was footage filmed but i haven’t seen it. i also read out a poem. it was translated from slovenian and it took a lot of editing before it was readable, i only got the printout a day before, and i spent all that time walking around berlin, overshooting my destinations as i read bits out loud, gesturing the emphases with a red pen in hand. noone thought to mention that i’d be juggling a microphone too. five minutes before the show i find out that the translation was done by one of my new friends, and she didn’t like my editing, but she ended up agreeing that i had as much right as her to interpret a translation. and besides, it was about to start. here is the version i read, more or less.

As if we were free
Urška Strle

Somewhere in the centre of the small neglected town, which is, at the same time the capital of some small but relaxed East European state, in a newly cobble embellished street in the inner city centre where they just closed two pubs and a bookstore, I have met a man who ordered himself Culture as if he were ordering coffee with milk.

I have to confess, the cobbles are perfectly laid down, all the gaps are carefully clogged with quartz sand, and at the edge it is possible to recognise a slightly rounded pattern. In short, the street of some small neglected town, which is at the same time the capital of some small, cramped, and relaxed South European state, looks like the idyllic image on an old postcard.

Old bakeries arise in all parts of the town like mushrooms after the rain, as if they had decided one day and achingly wrested themselves out from old corner houses where they had modestly waited for decades unnoticed for their grand arrival, and which, on their frontage proudly show the inscription “Old Bakery”, which even more contributes to this idyllic look. I guess I’ve hurried past them for years and years without even noticing. I’ve walked past exactly this old bakery on the corner of this small idyllic street with carefully laid cobbles in the centre of some small neglected town and so on and so forth.

Suddenly an unbearable paranoia came over me, I got the feeling that somewhere out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of crinoline, and suspiciously I glanced towards the boys in white shirts with black bowties who were picking up the garbage. It appeared to me that time is curving itself as to the pattern of the new cobbles and that we will all find ourselves on that everlasting postcard from the end of the 19th century. Hastily I dashed towards the closest boy, that is, to the left edge, I ripped myself through the yellowish cardboard, and with a crash I landed in front of the doors to the pub which had, in the meantime, already disappeared in another reality.

To eat in this slovenly pub, which displayed insignia as a rallying point for all the enthusiasts of the sautéed potato, was akin to some special kind of masochism. Gnocchi Bolognese turned into spaghetti with tomato sauce, omelette with ham and cheese always remained without the latter two. The bills would be circulating around, they would be counted and discounted and finally there would come the conclusion that there are either too many or too few bills, the cash register is too far away and the next group of naïve tourists are just enough confused, hungry and tired and above all helpless in front of the board, on which specials of the day were written in complicated script.

But the slovenly pub that served for some special kind of masochism disappeared in that other reality, which was, to top it all off, mine. And there is no worse misery than when a person loses her own reality and therefore clings desperately to the handhold of some slovenly pub which went bankrupt, together with her lifestyle.

In the reflection of the filthy abandoned windows of my ailing lifestyle, I saw a mayor. All round and contented he was wiping sweat from his working face on the golden chain on which the city keys were jingling. He was shepherding a small squad of captured guest artists, some stoic, homeless ‘erased ones’, and from his pockets electric cables were forcing their way out, cables which NGO workers for the purpose of some obscure literary event negligently left in the middle of the street in the inner centre of the small neglected town, which is at the same time the capital of some small but relaxed Central European state. He ordered Culture as coffee with milk, and then stirred with a teaspoon an empty cup and grumbled about the bad taste.

I might be extremely happy about the new cobbles if I had to cross them in high heels, but, I think, the magic of the moment was ruined in the second when, under the sole of my beaten up sneakers, quartz sand creaked. Maybe my face would have lightened up if I had been on these new even cobbles with nicely clogged gaps and a slightly rounded pattern pushing a pram that would be running smoothly. But I just stood there at the beginning of that small street in the centre of the town in those damn beaten up sneakers, I was pacing around nervously, under my feet, quartz sand was nastily squeaking and I stared at the abandoned windows of the pub. All this with a newly cobble-embellished street of the inner centre of the small neglected town, which is at the same time a capital of some cramped but relaxed newly joined European state, and there was not a single space left for me to go.

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