Clarity

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Paper Boats

Folded carefully, the boat will float.
Resting on the water’s surface, the boat will become damp.
Soaking over time, the boat will sink.

Water rusts scissors. Water erodes rock. Water drowns paper.

Look around. The world has been carefully crafted and prudently packaged. We live in sand castles. We sculpt and shape our surroundings and then pat ourselves on the back, because our life span is a single grain compared to that of the earth, and we won’t live to see the tide come in.

Make a paper boat. Watch it bob up and down on the surface. Feel calm, maybe even pride. But be aware that the boat will be swallowed by a wave so soft that its foam will never grace the shore.

My Invisible City

Sussurat is a city of dust and air. Varying ratios of each make up the walls of the homes and the grounds to be roamed. The inhabitants float through life, with an evolved sense of delicacy and prudence. Trees aren’t blown in the wind — they whittle away until more dust settles. Pages of books are turned with whispers and stories are written with the tickle of plume on parchment. Life goes by in a dreamy drift until the day when the Outsiders arrive. With one clearing of their raspy throats, the city’s foundations crumble. Upon finding a shapeless mass of air and dust, they leave, convinced that there was nothing there to begin with.

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Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili – my new favourite book.

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? A name tells you more about the namer than the named, given that the name is often given before the name-giver gives birth to the named.

The other day I read about how some data buff in an open-plan office with laminate flooring can determine your wealth, intelligence, and beauty from your name. The letters on your passport are powerless, but the choice and arrangement of them allows the buff to categorise your parents into a specific cross-section of society. He has the right to do so because his parents moved in a circle which permitted them to call him ‘Atticus’ — it’s not his fault.

Ask your question to the father who calls his son Mikel, rather than Miguel, because Franco is dead, or the mother who shortens her son’s name from Mohammad to Mo because Western society isn’t quite as tolerant as she had hoped.

They’ll know what’s in a name.

Conversations

Real conversations don’t come along often.

anecdotal diarrhoea
the driest drivel dribbling
the me me meaningless

the smallest of small talk

Not even registered by the scales of the memory,
a light breeze blows into one ear while the words trickle out the other,
leaving nothing behind, they get tangled in your hair,
but you’ll wash them off in the morning with the soapiest suds of the silkiest shampoo.

Goodbye. You should’ve said it.

Until today, when the old lady with the twisted toes turned to the student with the Roman nose and asked him,

‘Are you enjoying your book?’

her voice soft above the clacketyclack of nails on screens.

He was taken aback. We all turned. Shocked. Disturbed.

‘I’ve just started it but so far so good.’

They had nothing to give and nothing to lose, yet that was the realest conversation I’d heard all day. The commuters avoided her eye contact. Some shook their heads.

But only after did I notice that the clacketyclack had stopped.

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The City of the Sea People

I haven’t seen the sea yet but I know it’s nearby.

Anchors on ankles and waves on wrists give the game away. Girls with bodies as waxed as their boards push by. Boys flip and flop, but stay in one place: they’re chilling, bro. They talk about the sea as though it were a drug: with a heavy dose of respect, a tinge of fear and an evident addiction.

Not even the tepid waters of the Mediterranean could ease the July heat in Barcelona. It’s a wet, heavy heat that forms a barrier not unlike a strong oncoming wind, slowing down the pace of life to a barefooted wander. So that’s what I did this month in Barcelona: I wandered. I got lost in the windy alleyways of the Born district, I was led by locals through the greenery of Montjuïc, I metro-hopped until my travel card ran dry and I walked the coast without a plan. I traded in my maps and guides for Catalan kindness.

The more time I spent with the locals, which, as the necessity of sleep was overruled by the exhilharation of wandering, became around 20 hours of my daily ration, the more I adapted: the longer I left the salt festering in my hair, the less I worried about tan lines, the more I relaxed. You know that feeling of panic when you’re floating in the sea and you’re obsessing over what creatures might be licking their lips at the sight of your ankles or over your fear of the rising waves or over the possibility that your legs might tire of treading water before you make it back to s
hore? You might not but I definitely did. Until one day when I was bobbing up and down in the Mediterranean, I realised that the only thing I could focus on was the hypnotic ripples on the water’s surface.

All throughout July, I looked around me and saw people living life. They were soaking up each day, drinking it through their pores until they felt it in their bones. In Britain, there are days when I wouldn’t even make eye contact with a stranger in the street. In Barcelona, I got on the back of his motorbike just to feel the droplets on my face as we raced down the backstreets. No questions asked.

August comes and they plan their migration to the north where the waves are bigger and the sun is cooler. I’m heading north too, but I’d like to think that what Barcelona gave me, I’ll take with me as a souvenir.Anchor | Monica Burns