It took me several months to realize those had been the happiest days of my life. So happy they were that I was embarrassed to admit it, and often when inexplicably I had to cry, it wasn't out of grief or sorrow, or something immediately available. There was more to it. It was the uncontrollable joy of the present tense, of something that though dislocated and uproarious, was happening in that very moment, in a region beyond your control. The purest moment of uncontrollable joy, when you realize that everything that mattered in the world was happening right there, in front of you; a gratuitous gift. And in those small hours, when you rose above your skin, in rapid flight, over the lights, becoming a light yourself, between the eyelid and the corner of the mouth, you knew it was true.
It all had started so differently, you thought. Risking everything, absolutely everything, giving yourself as a gift to another person. The night before when your suitcases were already packed, and you were just about to enter the twilight of the unknown, everything was clear, and you knew the dream was over. Everything was met with silence in the other end, and a series of fabricated sentences and silences gave it away; you had come to a terminal end in which everything had been burnt. There were so many images, often theatrical, slipping from your mind in a second. It was in that hotel room when finally everything drowned in silence, and you didn't know where to go. You no longer knew what you were. The skies were pink in that early morning, your eyes of a beautiful pale green, somehow deserted, empty of any objective content.
And you had known it all along; for no warnings were needed. There had to be a free fall, a moment of absolute knowledge, a journey so long that it couldn't be traversed alone. And you were buried anyway, under thick layers of earth and memory, completely drowned, obscured in the middle of all that great light. It was something of a miracle that you had gone this far, but it wasn't this distance what truly counted. There was another measurement, a different edge of the slope, from which you permitted yourself to fall with all your heavy suitcases, with your presents, with your letters, with all your words. It was as if death no longer amounted to anything but a simple change of matter, the result of which was completely irrelevant. You walked through the streets of that city, unprotected, so scared, but knowing you simply couldn't die.
And the reasons you never understood. As you dragged yourself through the streets of Manama, you knew yourself to have once lived, and that it was nothing but courage what had led you there. An operation a lot simpler than love, a lot simpler than elaborate thoughts. You had to put into practice what once, several years ago, had been only an idea, a simple idea: The fact that there's no certainty. And you always have to jump, to shed your skin entirely in order to remain alive, in order to compose a story not so much about yourself as it was a stage where the world began to make sense again. Not for you, but as a whole. The wish to remain, albeit scattered, but yet to locate yourself inside something. In other words, to touch the ground, no matter at which expense. Even if the expense was your own image.
How to dissolve an image? The question of Trevor Paglen, I learnt so long later, that afternoon at the little food stand in Kurtulus. How to surround yourself (rather than vest yourself) in meaning in a moment when images themselves are in transit, navigating cycles of endless reproduction. If one experience (of viewing something for example) is universally translatable and reproducible, how do we legitimize the rawest experience of life as more than a repetition or logical fallacy? The mind, says Michele, is a logical impossibility, and yet mathematically conceivable. How to go from one place to another? How to abandon yourself and others? The casual tyranny of hope, the hope on an anatomy which is so inhuman and merciless; it is pure biological cycle, without contemplation or durable representation.
In the raving madness of weeks and months, things became less and less comprehensible, up to a point in which they faded from view and became insulated from the actual grammar of experience and perception. How can I relate my personal experiences to the violent randomness of the world? How to find peace? What is peace at all? There were so many dark days, in that tiny apartment, filled with dampness and moist, and Louis was the only one who truly knew. There was Amin too, the Iranian soldier, who probably taught us more about forgiveness than we ever expected to know. And so many times I saw in those dreams, that person who was irate, so irate that ponds of blaze set themselves alight, on his skin already burnt. And then he would vanish, for good... And ironically, everything else would remain. Everybody else.
In the beginning I dreamed that I would return, and that just accidentally in the street, I would find him, and that everything, absolutely everything would be alright. The story would continue unmolested and that brief impasse, would be quickly forgotten as an accidental adventure on the path of happiness. But the break was too deep, like the ripping of limbs, severing of fingers and then burnt, the ashes burnt a second time and smashed with hammers, in order to ensure that nothing would ever stand afoot, able to recognize itself. I always wondered if he kept that book of Kafka, which was so precious to me. Perhaps the most precious of all. What if it was left behind in the closet of an apartment in New York? What if it simply found its way to the nearest bin? But curiosity overrides the pain. There's always more to give, much more. Infinitely more.
And there it was. That day. Sparkling white. Dancing among stars, the waters nearby, the hopes so elegant always, the things that never would end. So many other names, faces from old, a bursting crescendo, and the fires of truth. Sweet afternoons along the Golden Horn, as if we had never been alone, as if all of this never happened. There was no need for more. Those moments that contained and consumed everything. And when just I thought that there was enough time, all the time in the world, everything abruptly ends. But it wasn't final. There were no good-byes, no one cried at an airport (except myself), everything was yet due and expected. I'm yet to learn how to write. I'm yet to learn how to use language again. How to bring all this to life again.
We became other things, in other places, that made us from scratch, when we were dead, when we couldn't breathe, when everything was so cold. And that's why we can't figure out anything upon return... Our belongings are scattered, in the lives of others, and there's no clear or straight path to retrieve them. I owe so many letters, so many words... But how I wish I could pay them back... How I wish I knew that lies deep inside me, what once was overflowing with joy and now simply feels numb and unable to recognize these realities other than piecemeal. In the end of the day, I was once dead, thinking there would never be more, and yet there were so many more dreams in store. So humongous that even today they remain incalculable. Those dreams that leave you breathless each time you remember they were not just dreams.
I try to stay awake, somewhat against my will, to carefully observe, to rewind my own life, as something worth the effort, plagued by endless luck, unambiguously clear, serenely bright, like that day I spent alone at the Black Sea. I've departed from this land since so long, but only now I become acutely aware of my condition, of my being elsewhere, and my rapid sense of lost which is replaced by an ever so new discovery of new lands, of new ports, new islands, where I can break ranks. We've been far away, and returned, we're still far away. It all seems deserted, for a few hours, until we walk into the night... Where we can imagine the water, the ferry from Europe to Asia, the endless laughter. Even as the city was ravished by fire, it was still there, the endless laughter, glowing and blinking from one island to the next.