Category Archives: English

Nick Barlay and Our Common Scattered Ghosts

When the pretty blonde facilitator asked Nick how one would actually pronounce his name, he said a sort of Baerlae, with the stress falling somewhere in between of the last two vowels. He pronounced the name carefully, yet with the bored politeness of a person who has been answering the same questions for the better part of his life. Where do you come from? What did you learn growing up, as a child, as a teenager? What did you do to get here? All questions which undoubtedly he asked himself, even before a material second person was in the room with him, on the other side of the table holding  a pen and a writing pad. And the exact same questions which he asked the ghosts, at the point when he realized that his answers were shaky at best.

Who are you? You can’t know who you are until you know who your parents are, who your grandparents are, who your great-grandparents are, and maybe even who your great-great-grandparents are. Or were, the tense of the verb can have different connotations. I strongly believe that even if a person is no longer alive, this doesn’t erase what they did at their appointed times on this Earth. And a person is not defined by their profession, by their relatives or by their surroundings. What is a person defined by then? Can you even define a person? Barlay seemed to somehow seek however not the answers, but the minds which sparked the questions. He goes smoothly back on his lineage, ending up somewhere in the beginning of the 1800 with the names of one or another of his great-great-relatives.

And yet names and the dates are nothing, they are shades of wind scattered around and played around by winds far stronger: wars, immigration, death, birth. The objective data can pin down a life, can shatter a bit of its illegibility, unfathomability, beauty, but that’s it. It can’t do anything else. It can’t tell you about how their eyes smiled in the sun at the beginning of spring, about the miles they walked back in snow to their family, about the secret taste of a strudel which still remains a mystery. This is where the real beauty of a person lies, in moments and in the memory of those moments. Those people must be shining up in heaven now looking down at these books and their words.

And after all of this, Nick’s answers were still shaky, I imagine, because mine are too right now. I have questions in my head which point to a somewhere far in the future or far in the past. That big question mark hangs in the air over my head like the sword of a Damocles who, unlike the one in the Ancient Greece, has no idea what might occur if the thread is cut. Life is not ended, but the joy of it might be. So let the thread be there, as frail or as solid as it may be. Looking at it makes me feel that my own personal quest is far from over. I want to make my people shine too up there in heaven.

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Cliffhanger: Red bricks (2)

Previously:

Part 1: The mystery box
Part 2: The story of the box

The thing when saying a story (here the word can have multiple meanings) is that you, as a storyteller, redefine reality. Continue reading

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Cliffhanger: Red bricks

Writing a story. Sounds easy enough. After all, it just means bringing a thick clot of a conjecture of people, places and happenings into the realm of the realistic and probable. Like when your mom asks you why you’re late coming home from school, she is almost ready to indulge into accepting an unplanned late arrival of the teacher as a good and plausible response. Yet your answer is that Continue reading

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Review on reality

Imagine yourself cozily rolled in your favourite orange blankie reading fairy tales. Just for kicks, just to go back to those old times, when you would read them not because you didn’t question whether they were real, but because they were automatically real. When reality itself would slip between your fingers like melted silver and turn into blue mountains hiding forbidden places and sparkling rainbows at the foot of which a treasure, just waiting there. When everything out there, at that blurry line of the horizon seemed within the reach of your trembling hand. Your steady breath across the pages would make them real.

The comforting reality, where the bad guys would receive their punishment and the good guys and beautiful maidens would get married and live happily ever after. Then imagine a thunder cracking the clear sky, bringing rain and mud in this little perfect world. Imagine it being torn by crooked trees, by poisonous flowers, growing wildly across the paths where once the sun used to rise to no end. Now you are in the world of the Crooked Man and of John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things.

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These tainted fairy tales lie in a frame, like the letters framed by tree branches which have grown thorny and wild. David, the main character, is just the means, the train which the reader uses to land into the world which is no longer known to him. While walking along David, you meet characters which might remotely remind you of those times when reality was not questioned. A physically and psychologically deformed Snow White. A Hansel which leads himself into perdition because he is not capable of learning and adapting. A group of army surgeons which find their end and the hand of an almost mythical figure, like fallen from an unrated horror movie. Sometimes the stories are too harsh, too bloody, lacking any humanity or trace of mercy. They send a cold shiver up your spine, find you hoping that David will be able to guide through this forest of deadly characters. Alive.

These twisted pages are their own metaphors for reality, too. Their own metaphors for growing up.

 

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All work, all play

I remember an early occurrence of work in my life. Looking back on it now and making a parallel to the definition of this word which sticks too often in my path now, I see that I’ve completed a circle. I ended up in the same point I started from. That childhood and those pale colours of memory seem to breathe new life in these present hours.

Various moments, various places, can’t exactly put my finger on every one of them. Hardly on any of them. Characters which my memory spawns drag question marks now, were they real? Reality as a time which has gone out of focus. Always three characters on the scene.

My grandma was always there, that’s for certain. She could only make her voice heard, my gaze was directed to the table, to the papers I was bending upon, to the notes I was taking, to the crossword I was solving. Always pen and paper. And me with my complete focused attention. Her voice speaks to an immaterial third person and words flow only like echoes now: “Leave her alone, she’s working”. She’s working. Those words protected me from whoever was trying to invade my pen-and-paper solitude. It’s worth mentioning perhaps that in my mind from then, what I was doing was not called working and I even defended myself against that. “I’m not working, just taking some notes”. Or “I’m not working, just catching up on some reading” But my defense was a weak one. Deep inside me, or not so deep, because a faint smile must have reached onto the surface of my lips, I was proud of myself, that someone thought I was working. Someone, looking at me, and thinking that my pen-and-paper games were work. Or that I was doing homework, that would be an option also. However it might have been, I was having fun with it, spending time joyfully and forgetting to have dinner, and someone thought I was working. I felt like I was getting away with it, cheating on the world and congratulating myself on it.

The contradiction grows strong now, or grows weak, I’m not really sure from which direction to look. It must be because I never regarded any of the jobs I had ever since then and until now as “work”. Those were just jobs. Even now when somebody says they’re working on something, I envy them because I always have the feeling they are just doing variants of my pen-and-paper games, secretly cheating on the world, without nobody knowing their secret. I even envy them because I haven’t had that feeling since those times which are now so blurry. I don’t think I’ve really worked since then, I’ve just been doing my job.

Maybe sleeping time is over, I should start working again. I want fun and joy to overwhelm me, I want to go back to doing my games and go to sleep smiling, feeling I’ve done something meaningful for the day. And maybe this is my way of getting those times back in focus again.

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The Green Light

I drank whisky yesterday. The deep, lightly stirred liquid was throwing shades of a red-orange while staring at me from the glass. Funny how the mind remembers and makes up things which are of the least importance. Especially when you want to focus on a single decision, on a single movement of your arm. I remembered having cleaned the glass thoroughly and the cheap crystal shining with purple shades in the late afternoon sun. I remembered waiting for it to dry, while eagerly measuring the kitchen floor with giant steps. 1 meter, 2 meters, 2 meters and a half. 1 meter, 2 meters, 2 meters and a half. The sun kept turning its face to the west.

Life is moments, its liquid and vulnerable joints amazingly drag you through the day, until you bury your cheek in the cold faces of the pillows. Most of the times you just slide, go with the flow and the inertia you so reliably built over all these years keeps you going. But sometimes, only sometimes it’s not enough anymore. Or, on the contrary, it’s too much. Not enough whiskey to darken your thoughts, too much screaming out of the television set. Not enough money to spend on the material, too much light oozing thorough the morning windows. Not enough sounds to make the voices shut up, too many chords of your spirit frozen for too long.

When the too much sees eye to eye with the not enough. It’s that moment when you open your eyes. It’s that single moment when instead of breathing oxygen you breathe the pure essence of AIR. It’s that freaking single moment when you touch the kitchen table and you feel the coolness of the glass against your trembling fingers. And your fingers are trembling because you had already opened your eyes, because you had already had that single intake of life. Intoxicating, nauseating, 2 mm away from lethal. Head-spinning, skin-crawling, earth-shaking.

I guess that’s what goes under the common name of inspiration.

The joints of life could just be days and nights and days and nights. Like they were until yesterday, until now. Or they could be real joints, they could connect the trunk to the branches and to the leaves. While the greatest vision of the tree is painted. And the earth underneath it is soaking with strength. Will you let it be lost? Will you close your eyes again?

I wanted to drink whiskey yesterday. I remember having cleaned the glass thoroughly and the cheap crystal shining with purple shades in the late afternoon sun. But somehow someone had poured poison in the bottle. It tasted sweet and the sweetness of its taste slowly ate away at the edges of my conscience.

 

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