Saturday, December 26, 2009

The effect of a gesture - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I walk down the streets, uphill and downhill, looking for an inspiration and for something to eat. I find them both around a corner: a pan mee soup, in a small Chinese joint. A typical place, gloomy air, dirty floor: perfect for a soup, just what I was looking for. I could have gone to a shopping mall, some aseptic place, well lighted, modular, tables made of colored Formica. No nice sentences here, and very few smiles, but the little you get is authentic stuff, it shines of shyness, of half made glances: jewelery with carats, humanity from the mint. I use the chopsticks with a steady hand, I patiently lay the noodles on the spoon, then the ground meat, the vegetables, the anchovies. I spoon the soup out with lateral moves. I focus on the juice, the spices, the fragments, it's a swirl of flavors, pungent smells and texture. On the way out I stop and stand under the awning, the sky of Kuala Lumpur is a sponge of lead, issuing opaque layers of lukewarm liquid. The owner asks me where I want to go, then she says something to one of the waiters. He takes an umbrella out of a table, then we cross the road, skirting puddles and cars. I arrive to the shopping mall excited and embarrassed, a group of Indians are heartily laughing. I feel a smile grabbing hold of my face: I must look ridiculous behind this movie of gum. It's an idiot's smile, with an oyster effect: it's moving slowly, pulling open my jaws, like the tool of a dentist, installed and screwed. It's an idiot's smile and I can do nothing about it: the effect of that gesture will last for a while.

Image "Singing butler" by Jack Vettriano, from

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