Understanding

November 13, 2007

November 13, 2006
N Train, between Astoria Boulevard
and 8th street, NYU.

Dear Papaito,

A thin screen of ice lies between It and me. I see it -I think I see it- slowly me..l…

t

..i..

…..n

g

.

Now a drop. Then another. And a third. That one slides down impetuously. The other follows leisurely. And this, the last one, tiptoes cautiously between the two.

This one is me.

Sometimes disconcerted, sometimes frustrated, sometimes hopeful, sometimes merely curious, I run my bare fingers through the surface of the ice screen.

I explore…Here it is smooth. There it is coarse. But everywhere cold.

This time I grope clumsily. I am a just blinded creature. And this time I seek with great precision, imagining my hands the hands of a surgeon. This screen is a life.

I seek for places where it may have thinned enough, that I may have a peek at It.

But not here. And not there. Maybe in between.

Yes, in those ephemeral in betweens, it seems the ice has thinned enough. Enough, and so much more, that the whole screen seems about to crumble at the touch of my fingers.

And I catch a glimpse of it. There! I can see its silhouette now! Joy oh joy! I can see!

I observe everything intensely. I look for clues, for signs. For all that makes sense. I drink the image in little sips, that no detail may escape me. I drink the image in large gulps, that it may last me through times of darkness.

And then… Excitement recedes. The exhilaration of having seen something melts away. The discontent of not having seen everything takes it’s place.

Such is al-Insan*.

I am al-Insan. I decide I must see it all. Understand. Know. Control. Grasp between my hands. Be a master.

And seized by my own momentum, I wish to pierce the ice with my nails. I shall pierce a whole, and tear it all down from there. For once and for all, this shall fall. I shall be united with It.

But I refrain.

I refrain partly because I know better. And partly because it would be useless.

Hay Papaito! Time would have looked at the ice screen, and laughed at my nails’ childish scratches.

Seconds, fleeting, small, and smooth like passing butterflies, can do what no hard nails could ever hope to accomplish.

I let out a sigh. I am al-Insan. I am humbled.

So I take a few steps back, and return to the armchair wherefrom I saw the first drop fall. From this armchair, that is the present, and all I know, and all I have for a home, I shall wait.

Wait for the humming of bees and the chirping of birds. For the roar of water released from its winter. For sudden beacons of warm light that will pierce this ice screen,

drop.

by.

drop.

J.

—-

*Al-Insan: Human being

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