/ Exercises In Empathy

In this series, five friends imagine themselves in my shoes and write an entry for the diary.

1.

After the last few months, today wasn’t such a bad day. On my way to the metro I bought myself a kebab, got sauce on my coat and didn’t mind too much. I went down the stairs leading to the metro, careful so as not to trip, and in the passage I stopped for a few minutes to listen to a guy playing the cello. Beautiful music, I thought. Gripping the cane in my left hand, I carried on down a path which until then had always seemed narrow to me. I didn’t feel anxious, I think because for the first time in a long while I wasn’t cutting off my nose to spite my face. Tonight, I’m still doing well. Tomorrow, we’ll see. Even so, today was a relief. Now I see the world, I see myself moving in this world, and at least I don’t feel disgust. These are the possibilities. I embraced them today in the metro, and later, even when it got dark and I hardly knew where I was, when, after losing myself in the darkness, I managed to arrive home, I thought (I swear I thought) I would happily lose myself again tomorrow.

2.

There are certain memories, certain echoes, I want to hold close, always. Hold them so close that they fix themselves permanently in my memory. Capture images and keep them. Decide their longevity, and for some, suspend them, immobile.

All these fragments will mutate and transform themselves, I suppose, as things always do, one way or another. But at what point will they no longer make up the fabric of my memory?

3.

One night in Bogotá, in Colombia, years ago, before I’d started using the cane. I must have been 24 or 25 or maybe even 23. One night on my way home I heard music from a courtyard beyond my field of vision. The music was Latino music or rock or reggaeton, it doesn’t matter, I can’t remember. What I can remember is I heard the music as if I was both myself, far from it, and another self that was near it, another person who was in the music, in the party. My body felt far from the music but my mind was near it, within it, even, as if I was imagining it, as if I was, in fact, turning the music into an image. And what was the image like, what was the music like? It was the sound of images I’d already seen, sounds and images of women and speakers and cans of beer and amputated hands tracing circles of meaning in the air, images of fully stocked fridges and sounds of lighters in the brick-like silence of the city, images and sounds I recalled from those times when I’d been in the music, when I’d been at a party with that kind of music — Latino or rock or reggaeton, it makes no difference really — it was the image of music as a displaced, intangible waterfall, it was the promise of other images too, images of doors closing behind me and the naked body of a woman in my bed, never a body in its full glory, always a part of it, always a metonym, a sign in whose shape I could divine the shape of the whole, a shape that would instruct my desire to divine the whole, but the image wasn’t just that, it was also a tunnel and a corrosion and a dust storm and a slow eruption of light where I saw a face I loved, a face which was, perhaps, my face.

4.

In the passing light, I want to experience myself not as myself. To become the other — the sacrifice — of my former self. Assimilating the passing light makes me greedy for darkness. I want to be devoured in the late afternoon sun by others unaware of the finitude of their light. A naked body plunged into darkness. It will be all my doing.

The loss of light demands the immediacy of shadows and invitation of the moon. Naked I am squanderous of all dignity in the race against darkness. I’ll travel into the night as the hero who enters the cave of monsters willingly.

But the absence of heroism, which is my indignity, is the last act of a man on whom the sun has fallen. Still, it will be all my doing. I am greedy for the moon. In that tranquil and transparent light I’ll swim toward the naked realm.

5.

The door to the unknown swings on three hinges.

Handle tap tip I touch my guide, the earth.

Sword in hand I fear no dragons.


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