Thursday, 20 November 12:45 AM
Mercure Hotel. Room 606
He stood up. He was actually quite big. I’d imagined him puny. He came down the auditorium steps. Found a spot next to the piano. Now he wasn’t so far away from us, from me. His initial bashfulness vanished the moment he started reading. The moment he entered the realm of literature. Disclosing his own, still so young. He stopped quivering. Resolve triumphed. As did poetry. The words that he had written, and now read aloud reached us, clearly, swiftly. I heard them; I did not understand them. Were they in English? I believe so, but it doesn’t really matter. Sitting about two meters away, I was blown away. By him. A boy in the young crowd at the International School of The Hague, where we visited this morning in order to talk with them about writing, about books and about mixing languages, inside and outside of you.
He belonged to the group. Now he was on his own. Himself. Standing upright, he took shape. He revealed himself. With the words of his maturity. His words, filled with what makes him unique, the budding of who he will someday become, of what he will someday understand. Tomorrow… tomorrow already. He expressed himself openly. Addressing the jury that we were assumed to be.
I was no judge. I was, I repeat, blown away. By him and by those who I recognized in him. The tormented allure of adolescence: that was what I saw in him; that was what he made me think of. Myself, at his age, incredibly mixed-up, barefoot, all too often with an empty stomach. Myself, the one I would have liked to be, him. At his age, I dreamt, just like him, nothing like him. I dimly could make out a boy that resembled him: myself and my look-alikes. In another language, certainly not Arabic, the language of control, of my illiterate mother. That dream came true this morning. I’m not a boy anymore. I’m still only a boy.
I’m English. I have no name. I am nameless, without a first name. I am that English boy who immigrated to The Hague. Unwittingly. Raw material. Tracing the lines. Finding love. Within. Taken out. Misunderstood charm. Carefree charm, this morning. Rebel? Clairvoyant? Poet? Arthur Rimbaud?
Gus van Sant was interested in young people, and he definitely has a point. I’m going to have to look up his films again: My own private Idaho, Gerry and Paranoid Park.
Of course I didn’t talk with him. What would I say? Should I give him a bit of advice? What bit of advice? He didn’t need me. He’s on his way, his own way. I envy him. I liked it at the International School of The Hague. For a moment, I thought I would want to stay there, work there as a teacher, as an instructor. Crossing over to the other side. Conveying in another way.
Again I am dreaming. That’s all I do. Writing, in my head and especially my heart, writing my stories. My loves. Adoration.
I’m falling asleep. I’m writing in my sleep. In bed, under the covers. I think of the English boy again. All of the sudden I wish I were Oscar Wilde. I dig in my memory. I search and find this memory: the English chap that looked at me. Just before noon. It only lasted for two seconds. That’s fast. That’s long enough to be inspired.
PS. The translators here compare notes on their work all the time, speaking openly about their techniques. They are undaunted. That surprises me enormously. The writers that I know, including myself, adhere strictly to their silence and superstition. PPS. Such a shame: tonight I missed the performance by the wonderful singer Alela Diane. PPPS. In the hotel restaurant I stole a bottle of Sourcy mineral water that I think has an exquisite design.