Just a regular tree, but not any tree. The branches spread out from the trunk in a somewhat spherical form, as they were tamed to do. He has never seen this tree. He has an image in his mind, he can feel the difference in the temperature as the warm sun touches his face when he sits beneath it to smoke a cigarette, he told me, but he can’t, in fact, see it. He can only remember this tree.

Above it, birds screech in pain, the leaves hiss, demanding silence, silence, for there is no room for such folly. How could there be suffering in gliding? He exhales smoke through the nose and tells me “I sometimes forget I am blind.”

“Excuse me?”

“What you just asked me.”

“Oh.. Umm.”

My mind goes back to the books and the strong shelves that hold them. If I was a shelf, I would definitely envy them, their ability to move and handle gentle hands, to communicate the pitiful symbols of human tides who repeat themselves, inexorably. Hmmm… maybe not. Even though I was cut, sanded, varnished and bolted into place, like a person, I would still have the original sap within me, oozing out ever so gently through this stupid lacquer that was meant to hide me, there, in front of everyone, bleeding a slow death while supporting cadavers of my own kind. I still can’t decide if I love or hate it, which destiny is the least painful, probably both.

Damn, I am too tragic this morning.

“Usually, it is only when people misplace things I need, when I reach out to get them where I know they are supposed to be, that I remember I can’t see.”

“What about dreams? How do you dream?”

“Exactly as I’ve always dreamt, images, people, everything.”

“Can you foresee what fortune has in store for me?”

“Ha, ha, not yet.”

It is hard to verbalize the longing, to solidify the light, with the roof of your mouth, the back of your tongue, the fingertips that touch his long fair hair and remind him that class has already begun, and take a deep breath. I watch his and his girlfriend backs like languid fish in a pond of morning sun as they move towards the building while I finish my cigarette. I wonder how he navigates with this constellation of folded names and dates, now that he has friends whose faces he has never known. The écriture of life with an unbalanced pendulum, readjusting everyday, overlapping traces made with color pencils, ballpoint pens, ink. The mind map of a foreign country none of us ever thinks of visiting while, in fact, we are dwellers of what feels like a natural amalgama of exiles.

Almost ten years later I would ask him this, and he would say, alas, he still doesn’t know my face, our morning break conversation under that tree, my offhanded future or his own. He reminds me, however, he continues to bite his nails, diligently, to wear rock and roll bands’ T-shirts and to dread talking on the phone. He reminds me also that this is an opaque, overseas language to us both, smiles reassuringly and invites me to share a cigarette once again.

IMG_4832.JPG

Advertisements