Sunday, December 23, 2012

Geographies III

For R.J.

"You never left", Youssef Nabil, 2011

"There is a beauty in the world, though it's harsher than we expect it to be." -Michael Cunningham, The Hours

"He would be back from India one of these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished --how strange it was! --a few sayings like this about cabbages." -Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.

Beautiful things. They were. They still were. Beautiful. Beautiful, as it were. There is always a first day.  There was a first day. The beginning of everything, of all things, of the world. An ordinary morning, like any other morning in your life. But. "What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted something alive and shocking enough that it could be a morning in somebody's life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that." And what is a beginning, really, in a morning, just like that? "In the beginning, there is an end. Don't be afraid: it's your death that is dying. Then: all the beginnings. When you have come to an end, only then can Beginning come to you." He remembered that morning, he was in bed. They drove to the middle of nowhere, and just talked, for an entire night with all its hours, under the perfect warmth of summer, as if in the most total wakefulness. Someone talked about sighting a comet. That was an important detail, he thought. And yet nothing had changed, it was still, it was still just like that. The letters still tiptoed around the throat without making the slightest noise; imperceptible, delicate motions. So delicate that feeling anything at all seemed threatening, impossible, and dangerous. It was so difficult. Difficult to achieve that. The most ordinary morning in anybody's life. "What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run."

Some things. They have. They have already vanished. Tangible and predictable. The words are not important; it is things that matter most. Events. A certain manner of observing other things, and people. The conversations were unimportant too, and so were the letters. Many of them. He would have wanted to paint.  Writing sometimes took too long. It never permitted them to take the whole; an instance of happiness, the terror of joy, the encircling of the hand. Writing always comes a moment too late. In writing, it all has already happened; it has all been already decided. It is an act of mourning. The painting is immediacy, the cruel and violent immediacy, the unmediated unfurling, the knife in the moment right before it punctures the soft skin of the limb, while the knife is still clean and the skin is still beautiful. "The way I would like to live. Maybe the way I manage to live, sometimes. Or rather: the way it is sometimes given to me to live, in the present absolute. In the happening of the instant. Just at the moment of the instant, in what unfurls it, I touch down and let myself slip into the depth of the instant itself." In writing, the blood has been already cleaned, the wound has been partly healed, the absence has been occupied by other kinds of absences, of spaces; it has allowed for some memories to be embalmed, for some others to be lost. That is the essential quality, of the painting. Of what one would have wanted to keep.

Everything. One would have wanted to keep everything, without even yet knowing everything. Without ever knowing. Knowing and feeling are perhaps misplaced categories, hierarchies, grandiose structures. Observation is very different. A reckoning with danger. Being far out in the sea. You can't know, you can't feel. Not yet. There, while being there, you wanted something else. Life to stop. Death to stop. How can I have this? You asked. But you were already not having. A suffocating terror took you on, took hold of you, blinded you with light, the shimmering light of Monet, the shimmering light of the sea. But it's only water! You thought, and the water responded: Open your eyes, it is nothing but light, fool! And you faded, you faded because you were intensely alive; you faded because you were already dying, like all living things are, except that, the instant that is always a last instant. Again and again. "I wanted to take hold of the third person of the present. For me, that is what painting is, the chance to take hold of the third person of the present, the present itself. But in life, it is 'only the act of love - by the clear, star-like abstraction of what one feels [that] we capture the unknown quality of the instant, which is hard and crystalline and vibrant in the air, and life is that incalculable instant, greater than the event itself.'" But you still know the colors. And now you must burn the painting; you must hide it. Or, leave it behind in an island.

I didn't keep the letters. So secret they were that they had to be sent by post, through an alibi, a confessor. How corrupt is the postal system of the world, you thought. Two weeks to deliver a letter that should have been sent yesterday. No, not yesterday, but the day before. Not the day before, but a day before that. No, it should have been sent before all the days, all days. You should have written and sent that letter before you acquired your first language, before you learnt your first word, before there was language. They were not kept, because you should never give anything, that is not everything. Give everything, let go of everything, lose everything. This is not possible in writing. It wasn't writing because you had anything to say. It was writing because it was necessary to fill up the empty space around the gazes and the gestures. This unbearable monstrous void, the present tense. "I would like to break your heart with the magnificent calm of a beach safe from man. But I can't do it. I can only tell it. All I can do is tell the desire. But the painter can break your heart with the epiphany of a sea. There's a recipe: 'To really paint the sea, you have to see it everyday at every hour and in the same place, to come to know the life in this location.' That's Monet. Monet who knows how to paint the sea, how to paint the sameness of the sea." There were other vital questions. Could it be true? We didn't want to find the answer. "Yet what misfortune if the question should happen to meet its answer! Its end!"

There are preconditions for writing. "The condition on which beginning to write becomes necessary - (and) - possible: losing everything, having once lost everything." On the last day, a refined gentleman asked why was it that there were so many good writers to be counted among the people of my land. And I didn't know what my land was, therefore I had to improvise an answer. I had lost everything. The land came first, many years ago. "No legitimate place, no land, no fatherland, no history of my own... At a certain moment for the person who has lost everything, whether that means a being or a country, language becomes the country. One enters the country of words... Exile makes one fall silent/earth. But I don't want exile to make silence, I want it to make earth; I want exile, which generally a producer of silence, extinction of voice, breathlessness, to produce its opposite... I lost Oran. Then I rediscovered it, white, gold, and dust for eternity in my memory and I never went back. In order to keep it. It became my writing." I wanted it to become my own land. There were no people from my land, and I made it into my occupation, to find them. Nothing, no land, is far, for those without maps. "You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes."

There were other things, I kept. A painting that was not mine; there were no people in it. But it contained secrets about light, about being awake. A absurd circle of cities, Bogota, New York, Manama, Istanbul, Beirut. Chasing the citizenship of secrets. New cities became newer and larger arenas of imprisonment, between walls of impossibilities, and the world became so small that it only held enough space to house the painting. Everyone else was now a refugee, everywhere; a refugee from war, from faith, from himself. "Why did you put me in the world if only for me to be lost in it?" Moments of agony? But why? You've never been in the dark! You're an spectacular source of light! The moments of agony was the only thing one could truly remember, because everything else, and the space around it, was that, just the most ordinary morning in a person's life. Just like that. The light had a tendency to consume itself eventually, like that comet they sighted once, and he wrote a poem, in four lines; the poem painted and cried, as it witnessed what had escaped Cézanne: The landscape. Man absent but entirely within the landscape. Flights and impossibilities. There was a second lesson in painting. "And the lesson is: one does not paint ideas. One does not paint "a subject." One does not paint water lilies. And in the same way: no writing ideas. There is no subject. There are only mysteries. There are only questions... What enlarges a person's life are the impossible dreams, the unrealizable desires. The one that has not yet come true. And these hopes, these desires are so strong that at times one falls, and when a person falls, she sees, she is once again turned towards the inaccessible sun. Why does the flower have a fragance that is not for anyone, and for nothing..." He couldn't possibly know that. Cities of refugees. They are all waiting. God knows for what. Waiting to be able to wait again.

"Everything that is (looked at justly) is good. Is exciting. Is "terrible". Life is terrible. Terribly beautiful, terribly cruel. Everything is marvelously terrible, to whoever looks at things as they are." Just look Omar, look, never stop looking. When this war will be over, we'll be both going home. To the sameness, the spectacular sameness, of the instants, fleeting from our hands, irreparably kind, irreparably terrible. But we've never been to that land before. There are no instructions. Imagine something so ambitious; a first day. Again. Beautiful things remain just that, it's us who change Omar, it's us.

[Passages taken from Helene Cixous' "Coming to Writing & Other Essays" & Michael Cunningham's "The Hours"]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Geographies II

For R.J.

"There were so many boundaries, and so many walls, and inside the walls, more walls. Bastions in which, one morning, I wake up condemned. Cities where I am isolated, quarantines, cages, "rest" homes." -Helene Cixous

"Tell me something, before I sleep". That question always paralyzed me. Do you remember the beginning of Mrs. Dalloway, Rana? "And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning--fresh as if issued to children on a beach." Yes, I agree, that was not the first sentence, it's the fourth to be more precise. How to end a story? You know why I found that question so difficult? Because I never wanted my stories to end. I always chose vagueness, openness, and sometimes even, a certain touch of abandonment, to circumstances, without a final word. It seemed to me as if the ending was always already implicit in the first line, regardless of the content. Do you know what they say about Maalouf's last book? "The novel ends in darkness, solely with the purpose of showing that the disappearance of the past is something one can find consolation for easily; what is inconsolable is the disappearance of the future as well." I wanted ends to write themselves out, when I were elsewhere already, or at least somebody else, occupying the same body, here and at the same time. Did I tell you Abdulrahman loved Istanbul? Yes, he loved Istanbul with the eyes of a child. He could have been like me on the first day, when it took me an entire day to circle the mosque nearby on foot and then a whole another day to go on a boat trip with Anwar. Do you know that moment when you dream of things and then they happen? It was a morning like that. So fresh. With friends, with laughs, on a sunny day, going from Europe to Asia, across the Bosporus and then the Marmara, on a little boat, admiring things with glee, admiring them as if no one had seen them before, the way Magritte would. How would we see things if we were really awake? That was the question of his paintings. Yet never had I been so cold, never had I been so tired.

Abdulrahman wanted to come, because he wanted to feel being in my shoes: He wanted to write Istanbul. But I was afraid, I was afraid that he would come and that then I would find that he is gone the next morning, perhaps to a church or to a little shop, in the Asian side, and then, I would find myself entirely alone. So I didn't let him come. He also wanted to come to Adliya, but again I was afraid that he would see me across that painting, and its scenes of drowning, its surgical colors, its smothered words. I didn't want that to happen either. Nor did I plan for the painting. I had bought an elegant grey jacket, from a tailor, that I would wear only on that day, at the dinner, located somewhere at the center of the map. It wasn't the past what disappeared, but the immediately present and the absolutely future, while the past remained untouched, and just as distant. But yet it was a beautiful day, mapless and all, so I wore the jacket to go to Seef with her, and spend the hours, the most beautiful hours, the hours that still did not end. "I love you so much", she said, and I understood that she was the most real thing in the world, and we understood that some things are better left unsaid. And I loved her too. It was the longest of lunches, in a most singular morning, although it was late afternoon, and when we parted, I began to realize, it was her, in front of me, what I had loved too, from a respectful distance, through the most squalid laughter, through cynical pain, in just a moment, like that. Through a hundred days. "He had never felt so happy in the whole of his life! Without a word they made it up. They walked down to the lake. He had twenty minutes of perfect happiness." Do you know the pleasure of agreement? The agreement that begins at the height of the eyelid and then, like a tear, slides through the corner of the mouth and becomes a smile? The home, the place, the possibility of space, was here gratuitous but never free. How far would you go, just for that, Rana?

Perec writes: "To be far away... To discover what you've never seen, what you didn't expect, what you didn't imagine... Not what, over time, has come to be listed among the various wonders and surprises of the world; neither the grandiose nor the impressive; nor even the foreign necessarily. But rather the reverse, the familiar rediscovered, fraternal space." And everywhere is far away. The closer I came, the further it receded from reach, the more intoxicating that the distance became. There was this sweet tenderness, and it had a body, a body of proof, it occupied the entire room, as if it was the only thing that mattered. "For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying - what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must simply say what one felt." Once I saw it in Istanbul, actually twice, and I chased it across the hall, I detected this beauty, I knew of its existence, I let it surround me, between the walls, the walls of the cities, the walls of the hills, the walls of the rivers. We had met before, I thought, and yet it was surprised that I didn't recognize it more immediately. I stood there, pretending to admire the artwork, letting it take me on completely, and even walk me to the elevator, speaking a language I didn't understand. It was so fragile, even more than me, I stood for hours; it was the moment, right there. It reminded me of what I never had, with kindness, as if it were the first day after the war, with its bristling air, teaching our limbs, how to live now, and I felt it was still far, so far away, a gaze, a glimpse. I adored the moment, irreparably not mine, stamped on a new jacket that was no longer new, and bathed in this sweet perfume. I circled it with my hands and I faded. It remained.

What is that place? Where is it? From Perec: "I would like there to exist places that are stable, unmoving, intangible, untouched and almost untouchable, unchanging, deep-rooted; places that might be points of reference, of departure, of origin: My birthplace, the cradle of my family, the house where I may have been born, the tree I may have seen grow (that my father may have planted the day I was born), the attic of my childhood filled with intact memories... Such places don't exist, and it's because they don't exist that space becomes a question, ceases to be self-evident, ceases to be incorporated, ceases to be appropriated. Space is a doubt: I have constantly to make it, to designate it. It's never mine, never given to me, I have to conquer it." I told Abdulrahman in a letter that I wanted to go back home. Home isn't a recorded voice note. There's a far beyond. But you need to make yourself comfortable first in the empty space, bask in the privilege of exile, and then, only then, reach for the bodies, first you need to see the eyes and through the eyes touch the hands, and then occupy the words, at last. The sentences. The ends. Do you know the last sentence of Mrs. Dalloway? "'I will come,' said Peter, but he sat for a moment. What is this terror? What is this ecstasy? He thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was." And indeed, there she was. I wore the new jacket, it was the perfect moment, we drove past the Ocean, Monet's, basked in it, it was worth everything. Even the empty space. The overwhelming empty space coating everything else ever since then.

There're no given homes. All space is but conquered.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Geographies I

For R.J.

I went there for a third time. I wanted to be recognized, essentially recognized, yet not known. I had seen that smile, or, at least I had imagined, in that land, where yellow was immediately turned into sparkling white. The name of the land is only a fraction of a name, a fleeting presence, a moment without mediation, by other moments; standing by itself, suspended. The smile had a name, had a voice, and a physical shape, without yet occupying a body. On the contours, I detected the familiarity, the warmth, the distortion. I wasn't interested in the food, or in the companion even; I simply stared into the signs, hoping that I would recognize myself in the eyelid. That I would recognize who I had been, who I had become in the expectation, I wanted to witness again the delicate lines of the transformation; how I had broken myself to become visible only to the one eye of the world. What had I done with the rest of my body? That I could no longer remember. Why was I still afraid? Afraid of the letter that would never arrive? That I didn't know. Each time, I became more familiar, and hence, less and less visible. Perhaps an object, something incomprehensibly sensory, yet unreachable, undecipherable, a fraction of empty space. So void I became, like a postcard, sent to the wrong address, muted.

What is it that vanished? Was it the void or the space circling around it with dots? Every hour of the day, in my mind, I wrote a different letter, a letter that would never be sent, a letter whose signs would disappear as it is being read. Or, like that letter, that meant to lure someone to Istanbul, cut into shreds by the hand and thrown at a hotel bin in Adliya, as the words pierced the limbs of the writer himself as if burning coals were entering his exhausted body. A body of exhaustion, that is how he began to understand the spaces of the world. Spaces are not places, cities, desired destinations or even moments of love; the space is only delimited only by the contours of the absence around it, by what one would have wanted to have in them, by the traces of disappearance. I would like to look at the photographs of missing persons, wondering if I may find myself too. The clear gladness of water, that was the initial sign on the map, on the map that contained the names and the instructions, and at the end, of a circular journey, there were bodies, traces of food, a walk to the lake, no more than twenty minutes, it could have been the ocean. No one knows. The instructions were lost on a certain night, at a hotel in Juffair, when everything went dark, he fell into a pit, on a  26th of November. All the pages turned blank, the next day.

Hundreds of pages they were, hundreds of days they had been. It was like a summer day. No one asked any questions anymore, someone traveled to another city, somebody else traveled to another country. On the last day, he saw the water, at day time, and the island didn't disappear, or become smaller, but for a moment it was infinitely big, many times larger than the entire world. All the orders of happiness and unhappiness were small enough to fit in it, and it never altogether faded from view. I still see it, sometimes, when I dream that I am awake, and that we still kept our secrets, like children, who could laugh at their own mistakes and repeat them time and again. That dream, albeit so small, seems now like that point, where the universe began. Have you ever been at the beginning of things? Maybe that's why he wanted to be free. Free from the names, free from the embodiment, free from the enclosure, free to tiptoe around the delicate lines that one day were to form the bodies. The firm bodies. An anchor in the ocean of uncertainties. Aren't maps more enclaves of enclosure and limitation than merely descriptive topologies of what is possible? Parallel lines, horizontal lines, cages, cages in search of birds. How can you lose what you never had? The temptation of impossibility runs larger than any of the edges of mis-having. Have everything. Have without limits. Have without giving anything... That is not everything.

I must go everywhere. Into the most difficult places. Into places where being afraid is the only human possibility available. I must go at a going without having, a place that circumvents its own space by collapsing unto itself, imploding, subverting the order of the maps, coloring the highest places first and in a crescendo, descending into the fertile valleys, imagining that they are like a skyline, growing in blotches and then bleeding from the top, into the deeper womb of the highest peaks. I was in a place like this, it was without regrets, no one had questioned the motifs then, and that would have been easy, easy to say we're sorry, wonderful to say we regret it. But there's no sorry and no regret from a position of having no choice. He wanted to live. He would live at any price. Unlike the poet, whose survival skills were tuned only in a dialectical relationship with death. He understood so late what the clear gladness of water meant: No aesthetics is possible from a position in which the orders of reality are far more advanced than those of the imaginary. In the absence of aesthetics, the confrontation is brutal, and one has to be prepared, too, for mercilessness. This is what the peak was: A free fall. He stares into an old photograph. Have you ever seen the beginning of all things? It was right there, in front of him, a fleeting moment, it contained everything. That was his belief, that he could never stare into the photograph for long; he wanted to capture the moment and make it not last, but reenact itself, on and on. It was his endless faith in fragility, as the readable sign of ever lasting strength. That is what it was. Only a quick stare. That's all what he was permitted to keep.

I must go everywhere, again.

أنت، إذا، الشعور الذي لم أبحث عنه، إذا. أنت، إذا، ملايين المجرات التي
لم تخلق بعد، إذا. لأني أنا، ملايين الذرات،إذا، التي لم تبكي رحيلك، إذا

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where Is Bahrain?

For R.J. & T.A. 

"Reclaim Bahrain" by Camille Zakharia

This question is asked a lot in Istanbul, and you keep wondering, "Where is Bahrain?" before you can seriously answer the question. You are perhaps fully aware that the answer to the question is only partial, and that a pointer isn't enough to locate Bahrain on a map. Then you say, it is in the Middle East, it is an Arab, "Islamic" country, and yet you also know none of that is true at all. As Bahrain approached me, on the earliest morning of November 23, I felt descending upon a pond of light in which I could only tiptoe around the flashes without becoming completely intoxicated. You think you can grasp the entirely place, visually, in terms of its relative size, but you truly can't. At some times of the day, Bahrain is so infinitely small and you want nothing but to escape, to reach the shore, to love the Ocean and swim far away in one of those little boats. There're other times when it is so immensely big. No point of observation in the horizon can eventually lead you anywhere and you want to be soaked into this endlessness so that it never leaves you; a basin of pure concrete rises out of its own proportion from within the womb of the sand and the shadow of the palms that are no longer there. Manama has a tendency to grow erratic and chaotic, according to its own rules, it is a patchwork.

Buildings grow naturally and nowhere in the shadows you can see an old Bahraini trying to pick up memories from the glorious history of the island. You had to imagine the old Bahraini, telling you a story, accompanied by the drumming beats of a mirwas. The soundscapes were different: Indian pop, conversations in Urdu, a stench of Chanel everywhere and this absence, this infinite sense of absence. The absence of those who are not allowed to fully become what they are. So close I was! They say, and then they try again, and every time, the shore withdraws a few miles more. The journey can never be completed. At a beautiful but small palace in a village, you admire the linoleum prints of the late Nasser Al Yousif, perhaps one of the greatest masters of painting in a largely unknown part of the world, and too much known for all the wrong reasons, at the same time. In his prints you can see the bastari - no longer existing in Bahrain - or mud houses, the women clad in abayas dancing and the men playing the mirwas and the jahlah. "Where is Bahrain?" You keep asking the question, especially after you know that Nasser Al Yousif did these prints when he was already blind. "Back to basics", is what Jamal told me, when we spoke about the younger Bahraini artists, a generation that doesn't like drawing and painting (or wouldn't admit it in public).

If you would like to go back to basics, in Bahrain, where would you go? Who could tell you how to get there? Even if you knew the names of all the roads - which is very difficult in Bahrain - they all lead into each other, and like a logical tautology, you would end up again in your departure point, or even prior to your departure point. Sometimes the sky is pink, if that hint helps you in anything at all. Have you ever seen the sun? No, you truly haven't. Only in Bahrain they've seen the sun. That is ought to be explained. Not now. There was another painter, whose colorful nudes I had seen, those that no one in Bahrain had seen, so colorful and innocent, almost childish. As he drove me to Adliya - a new home or at least a pointer in the map of one's hope - he told me about Dilmun. Someone else was looking for Bahrain, and it wasn't just me.
I recall Helene Cixous, who taught me three months ago, how to see Bahrain, if I wanted to go there, if only to have that dinner, that someone once promised in a letter. Everything else was secondary: "But I feel, after all, “at home.” What you can’t have, what you can’t touch, smell, caress, you should at least try to see. I want to see: everything. No Promised Land I won’t reach someday. Seeing what you will (n)ever have. Maybe I have written to see; to have what I never would have had, so that having would be the privilege not of the hand that takes and encloses, of the gullet, of the gut; but of the hand that points out, of fingers that see, that design, from the tips of the fingers that transcribe by the sweet dictates of vision."

I had come to Bahrain to learn to see again. I told this to Jamal, that as a painter and as an art historian, one is never trained for knowing things, for interpreting - which always tries to dissect art works into sections and make them so comfortable and comfortable - but for precision of the eye. This is what I had discovered about three months ago when I wrote that story that begins in New York and ends with Mrs. Dalloway: "'I will come,'said Peter, but he sat for a moment. What is this terror? What is this ecstasy? He thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was." In the end of the story there's a painting lesson, the painter wanted to teach his dinner host, how to paint at the ocean and he brought up Monet, who said: "There's a recipe. To really paint the sea, you have to see it everyday, at every hour and in the same place, to come to know the life in this location." While in Istanbul, and still trying to locate Bahrain, looking into the Bosphorous, every morning and every night, I began to think about Monet's lesson, and why it had been so important for me. Once I had written a story for George, and I had changed that same passage about Monet for another one. The new passage from Monet was this: "What I am looking for, instantaneousness... The same light spread throughout, the same light, the same light." How can I see again?

Monet's Garden Exhibition in Istanbul
I spent a night in Manama with Camille, the Lebanese photographer, thinking together about Bahrain's fleeting moments, and the history of the last minute, but of the minute after the last minute. How to reclaim Bahrain? We thought about the fishermen huts along the coast, the murals that appear and disappear everyday, the fluctuating identity of a country that can be described only when one's not in it. We spoke about memory, and how the vault of memory is like a box in which no empty space is allowed - and anyway there's no such a thing as empty space - and in order to make the space composite we need to stretch some memories and aggrandize them and yet to shrink and belittle others. Is visualizing, touching, enclosing, a way to prevent memory, or at least to delay it? Is memorizing a form of abstraction? If so why would it be important to paint from memory? Memory can only be stable within the confines of the home and the place, but dissolves unto itself in the intersection between spaces. Traveling causes intense distortion, and loss has a lot to do with the use of magnifying glass at times. Dan Pagis wrote in his poem, "Fahr, fahr doch... Du darfst nicht vergessen" (Travel, travel far... You're not permitted to forget) and perhaps this doesn't have to do with traveling at all. A curious childish observation would be that life is the same everywhere. 

Things don't really change as we move places, because it is fundamentally the same concept of space - isonomy, but perhaps it is true that the intensity of life can change, sometimes, depending on the circumstances. There was a day, I remember that night, I was in Juffair, and all of a sudden, everything went dark, I fell into a pit, and could no longer recognized the difference between light and day, I was unable to see the light anymore, even though I was in the one only place where people had truly seen the sun, this transparent yellow beauty that made everything glimmer towards itself and become illuminated by waters, without any external interference. I was too afraid to read the signs; I feared it would hurt too much. Helene teaches: "In the beginning, I adored. What I adored was human. Not persons; not totalities, not defined and named beings. But signs. Flashes of being that glanced off me, kindling me. Lightning-like bursts that came to me: Look! I blazed up. And the sign withdrew. Vanished. While I burned on and consumed myself wholly." And I so wanted to read his sign, to see all the colors, to find myself at home there, to fall asleep for the first time in my life, to really fall asleep. This enormous mountain I never wanted to climb, although I recognized its beauty, and then with encouragement and love I began to ascend, so slow, so very slow, and I withdrew often, let myself slip and fell. But he kept me always standing. And as I reached my destination, exhausted and weary, at the moment I was about to touch the peak, he grabbed me by the neck and dropped me in a free fall; I fell on my face, entirely alone, and hurt myself with the shattered pieces of my own bones reentering my body like burning coals. 

"What had reached me, so powerfully cast from a human body, was Beauty: there was a face, with all the mysteries inscribed and preserved on it; I was before it, I sensed that there was a beyond, to which I did not have access, an unlimited place. The look incited me and also forbade me to enter; I was outside, in a state of animal watchfulness. A desire was seeking its home. I was that desire. I was the question. The question with this strange destiny: to see, to pursue the answers that will appease it, that will annul it." In the end, beauty was never a promise, but already a thing in itself, something that needs to be taken raw when it appears, and it is not ruled by the laws of matter and energy. So happy one had been and so happy one could be. This thought itself is a Messianic vision, for the object had already presented itself to you, it had screamed in your face, it had said to you, happiness, behold, I am here. It couldn't be boxed and stored unfortunately. Or perhaps fortunately. To keep happiness is the very modern possibility of not dying, it is the end of the perpetual illusion of new beginnings throughout one's life. 

What did you want from this happiness? You wanted having, the one thing humans aren't permitted, and yet you insisted. "Having? A having without limits, without restriction; but without any “deposit,” a having that doesn’t withhold or possess, a having-love that sustains itself with loving, in the blood-rapport. In this way, give yourself what you would want God-if-he-existed to give you." In Istanbul you see Monet, you see the Bosphorous, again and again, trying to learn this place, trying to learn this location, for once at all. "Non piangere" (don't cry) screams at you a Florentine painter, and anyway you can't, you're too overwhelmed trying to take in the water, to understand black, to understand white, to understand grey. To understand where truly Bahrain is. You wanted to have everything. A dinner could be everything, you know. Like the day Mrs. Dalloway died, at the party. How can you learn to see? Learn to see even once? How to not beg the possibility? To really see once would be enough, without understanding, without knowing, just taking it in, like the most important painting, like something in purple, done by Monet, imitating how the lilies would see the water. Helene Cixous comes to writing when she says: "Writing is good. It's what never ends". This is Bahrain. What never ends. It's only a light, spread throughout, a blinding light. We're yet to find what is it that never ends, while looking at the Bosphorous and trying to learn how to paint at the Ocean. "Writing is good. It's what never ends." This is Bahrain. This is where Bahrain is. In what never ends.

"Belonging" by Camille Zakharia