Monday, May 20, 2019

Changing the consistency of the air around her

Another woman was already standing in my favorite spot by the rusty tracks. Her long coat had a high collar that resembled the gills of a tropical fish. On her head she wore ornaments that looked somehow extraterrestrial. Perhaps she was a singer who'd fled from the stage of an opera with futuristic sets. What could be the reason for her having hurried here without removing her makeup and changing clothes? She was older than I was, and had something extraordinary about her. Her presence even seemed to be changing the consistency of the air around her. The clear form of her lips held her flesh together like overripe fruit, and the two ends sometimes dipped down slightly, as if they were remembering a bitter taste. The woman's spine described a straight line of justice not dependent on any existing law. Each time I blinked, her body dissolved for two seconds into colorful micro-grains.

The darkness around us thickened. The woman gave me a dutiful nod, as if the two of us had an understanding. My heart began to pound violently. It was up to me to take action. Today was the chosen day. I had a vague memory of our having arrived at our agreement in a dream, though the specific terms of the the agreement were unknown to me. Suddenly the woman lay down on the tracks and pressed her face to one of the ties. I ran to her, took her by the shoulder and tried to roll her over, but she was as immovable as the spire of a temple whose root is buried in the earth. I thought I heard the sound of a train approaching from a distance — this was impossible though. There tracks had known nothing but rust and weeds for years, certainly no wheels. Then I heard it once more, the sound of an approaching train. Or was it just a streetcar heading into the city center? Or was it the drone of a refrigerator that had been implanted in the depths of my eardrums during my days of loneliness? I wanted to tell the woman to get up, but I couldn't think of any words. The old words had left my skull, I needed new words to be able to speak to her. But what were new words?
— from The Naked Eye, by Yoko Tawada.

The old words are inadequate. The new words are inaccessible.

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