School run

I was asked to take part in a “project”. The following was meant to be a dialogue to accompany a “theatrical walk”. A tough write. It comes from the school run  that I did every day last year, it’s average – not as light as some days and not as heavy as others. The idea is wonderful. I see his vision, I just never really saw myself in it and certainly not taking strangers along with me on a walk through my own mind. I mean, I don’t mind sharing if it helps others understand but … I can’t do it, not yet. It was supposed to be about “twijfel”, it ended up socially challenged.  I don’t know if he’ll use it. Can someone else do it justice?

***

Veilig (safe) 3:26, it’s time. Jacket on. ID in hand, you must have it here on you at all times. Identity – it says that my name is this. It says that I live here. It says that I’ve been on this Earth for 37 years. Stop. Keys. That’s it, door open. Step out. Come on, you can do it – I like being in my fortress, I mean house. Come on. We’re off.

Gesloten (closed) There they are, my neighbours. “Dag” – niks. I see them everyday and everyday there is no response to my hello. The dog is as friendly as can be. Animals, aren’t we all just that. Where I come from, we say hello. We ask our neighbours if they are ok. They look out for us, we look out for them. “Good luck on the ice!” sarcasm doesn’t make me any friends. Neither does being friendly.

Tijdloos (timeless) Round the corner, along the water. Look at the birds building – building – building. Doing their thing. Up over the bridge. I’m going to pause here. These towers (torens not toren – some language mistakes are not easily forgotten once laughed at) have been here for hundreds of years. They are the last remnants of what was once a grand fortification: built to keep out. They are still here: they no longer keep out. They will be here, man willing, long after we are gone.

Zeepbel (bubble) We need to get across the market quickly. We’re in the bubble now. I love watching bubbles. They are so delicate and graceful floating on with the infinite swirl of colours light and free. One touch and they’re gone. Free. This is my bubble but I’m on the inside. Everything I hear is muffled. Everything I see is blurred together. Don’t stop. Don’t look around. Not here. Non-existent.

Heimwee (homesick) Home? What does that even mean? I have an address. I have a house. I’ve had several houses, several addresses. Look, it says 4:12: Brussels – Luchthaven. We’re going to pick up the girls to take them to house. If we want to go home we need to take that train. 3,686 miles. Family. Friends. Language. Life. There I am home. Here I am resident. You wouldn’t think it, would you that a simple sign could mean so much.

Onhandig (awkward) Ok, we’re going to be late. Let’s get there just as the bell rings. Standing outside waiting makes me feel weird. No one to talk to, there are the other “foreign” parents. They speak Arabic and Polish and they have their groups. I wonder if they’re really friends or if they’re just clinging to the familiar. Here she comes, all smiles. I better put mine on too. “Mama!!! How was your day?”“Fine, honey, and yours?” – I love this kid. And here’s her sister, less all smiles from this one but a kiss and a hug from her all the same. Right now, I feel like the luckiest person around. I don’t think they saw. To my children I am Mama. I am normal.

  • Stop: Can I tell you something? And you’re probably wondering what the point of this is. A simple walk to school can’t be all that bothersome. It’s not, not really, or it shouldn’t be. I can’t exactly put my finger on it either. Imagine yourself though, adult that you are with all your life experience making you who you are. Now, imagine that in one day it’s completely erased from everyone’s view but your own. You are at zero. What do you show your children? What are you in their eyes? Can you stay whole for them while being invisible to the city around you? We don’t have time now. They’re waiting.

Allesomvattende (all-encompassing) Look! This tree is gorgeous. We’ve watched it bare, bud, flower, leaf and loss. Magnolia. There’s a tree that stands in the garden at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather passed away a few years ago. We moved to Belgium to be with my mother-in-law. She passed away shortly after we got here. The cycle continues. Here – there. Tree or man, for all living things, it keeps going.

Gelach (laughter) Left, back to the station. Haha, what is that and what is it for? What did he say? Did you see what I just saw? These things are strange and we can laugh. Laughter helps us accept things that we cannot understand. If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry.

Zich niet bewust van (oblivious) Market? Oh, we’re over it already. I didn’t even notice.

Zichtbaar (visible) Here’s the bookstore. We can’t go in today. Well, we can see what’s new in the window. Oh, there’s the cat. Ok, for a minute. It’s hard not to give in. I love this store. I love this place. They see me. Seen. Spoken to. Person. Existing in the same space and time. Sit for a minute, the cat will come and say hello with his purrs and his paws.

Opgelucht (relieved) Back on the street. Straight. Left. Right. Over. Right. Straight. One last left. One last right. There is the park and there are the children. Everyday they are different. Everyday they are the same. All children enjoy the park. All children enjoy playing. They laugh. They cry. They come they go. We come, we go.

Home.

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