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Saturday, October 17, 2009

coming home


On a footpath in Yemen a man with a dog kicks up dirt as he takes a fig to his mouth. There is no shade for miles and the sun in Yemen, I suspect, is a nasty piece of work. I mention this man and his dog because at precisely this moment – with the fig – I show another man to the door of my cube here in Rotterdam City, a skinny little dude whose appeals for help I've just turned down flat. As I push him out – it’s come to that – he tells me I smell of horse’s penis and that my mother will beget children without heads, and children – anyway, all untrue, of course, my mother is too old to beget (period) and I shower regularly even by Western European standards.


I understand Yemen has customs different to our own, and perhaps Yemenis are generally more impulsive. But what the heck! He held a clipboard with signatures in wild Arabic script سید ابو الاعلىٰ مودودی عبد الحميد كشك‎ and with a pen, pointing to a blank line, he suggested I add my own: Lui Labas

Do I commiserate? Of course. Will I pay fifty euros and sign on to his campaign? No.

You smell of horse’s penis; your mother will birth children… etc, all the way to the front door. Don’t get me wrong, I understand his quarrel. The man with the fig and the dog is his brother, and I understand a fig is too little to keep a man together – too little anywhere, but especially under that nasty, blazing Yemenite sun.

I didn’t take it to heart, though. I checked my armpits and wondered for a moment at the smell of a horse’s penis, but imagined it must be like its urine and thus not exotic in any sense; then I thought of it no more. My head was still full of bright orange suits, water in gazillion liters, the cry of gulls and Roman’s stories of vulva in Riga. So the man from Yemen was not enough to knock me off course. It would take much more than a bit of Arabic script and horse piss.

You see, I was sipping hotdrink with bigman when this ingrate came barging in. Even bigman – who needs no money and has no real concept of it – smiled when Yemen raised the fifty bucks. I’m not saying it was a scam. Yemen probably does have a sunburned brother down to his last fig. I believe it, but that’s not the point.

The point is – the point is – I was home. Home! Deeply glad to be home.

When I returned from the sea and saw the grillroom on the corner, the Turks with their smoky noses; when I heard JK’s chisels and the crackle of his experiments, my heart lifted like an air balloon. I forgave JK the three hour blackout between nine and twelve and the long tongue of smoke that unfurled from his top window. Of course I forgave him. At this moment I would have forgiven my own assassin.

I was happy.


Not a feeling that shows its face much in the open . Usually, it comes wrapped in something: a redhead with nice gums, a bit of fun down in Dubrovnik, a plate of goulash from home… but here, in my candle-lit cube on this October night (a touch of smoke in the air) it came just like that. Plain and dressed down, an all-knowing, far-reaching kind of happy, as if all the world was practically within my reach. I felt Rotterdam behind me, hugging its massive harbor, twinkling in the lowlands. And my sister Bee – spacebird Bee – I felt her too, abuzz, lighting stuff up as she does, right, left and center. Even my friend Drago, on the rim of the galaxy, felt near. And, of course, In the back of my mind I could hear the soft cling-clang of Brendan’s dumbbells and the sound of Willy Nelson’s Highwayman.

To you bigman, I said raising my mug. Big looked like a bear in the darkness - a bear with a mug - and then he raised his mug too.


Home. Yeah!