Monday, November 13, 2006

Brussels

They put my uncle's face on a stamp. He is a philosopher of freedom, equality and public transport, and last year he served all three by putting on a helmet and zooming through the tunnels of Brussels on a motorcycle, his ginger beard stirring in the wind. He leans forward into a better future, but meanwhile he's a thin, sparse man, all joints and ironic smiles: the air of the present doesn't sustain him. He turns down a second helping of quiche; he doesn't partake of the almond thins. He reminds me of a character in an Asterix comic, a yogi from India who ascetically turns down all food at a lavish banquet, accepting just one caviar egg which he balances carefully between finger and thumb.

My mother and my aunt go shopping and argue. "When I was born, she said she wanted to cut me up and flush me down the toilet," says my mother, holding a dress up against herself in a dressing room mirror. Ancient animosities still fester. In his underheated study, my uncle considers the task of saving Belgium from itself: its two warring languages, its inconvenient borders, its imposing EU buildings just around the corner. Downstairs, my cousins chase each other around the table wielding cutlery, and grow up to love each other. My mother thrives as the little sister, looking younger and more beautiful by the day.

In Dar es Salaam I date a Belgian carpetbagger, a salesman of advertising space and hope. My affections are divided, or at least uncertain. We finally sleep together the night before he leaves for Venezuela. C'est la vie/leaver dea as slaaf. I miss the cities of Europe, their smell of brick and cold water. The Belgian carpetbagger texts me from the airport with a compliment and an email address. I never write.

4 Comments:

At 2:27 AM, Blogger Tom said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:04 AM, Blogger Tom said...

"Europe is the dearest graveyard. Dear corpses lie there"

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Eskimo said...

That's lovely, who said that?

 
At 5:35 AM, Blogger Tom said...

that's dostoevsky that is. Brothers kara MAZ ov, as they say on the bee bee sea

 

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