Saturday, April 16, 2011

Too late - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An unattractive angle, by Arty Smokes (CC)
There is a counter at the end of the hall, a check-in book on top of it and a man behind it. I've just given him the money for the room fee and I'm waiting for him to give me my change. My eyes absentmindedly scan the list of names, countries, and check-in dates on the book. I'm only partly curious, mainly killing time. I suddenly sense that the man is looking at me and I think that he's trying to catch my attention to hand me the bills. When I look up I notice that he's just staring at me, a harsh expression painted on his face.
"You are not allowed to read that!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean...I didn't think it was not..."
"If it's not yours, it's not yours, and you don't read it..."
"...but it was open, right in front of me..."
"This is confidential information, by law we are only allowed to show it to the police."
He managed to shut me up. I take my money and leave, upset, hurt, without being able to express what I feel, to make him understand that he doesn't have the right to scold me like that...sometimes it takes so little to neutralize my self-defense system.
That was back in the year 2003, at a budget hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I could have forgot the incident in one hour, but for some reason - like others of the same type - it got stuck somewhere on the bottom of my mind. Now and then I find myself thinking about it, all the words that arrogant guy deserves to be told flowing out of my brain, refuting every possible argument of his.
"If it's not yours, you don't read it!"
"And if you don't want people to read it, you just don't leave it open on your desk, turned towards them."
"This is confidential information, by law we are only allowed to show it to the police."
"Well, then what you did is even worse, as you are putting on display something that YOU are supposed to keep out of the guests' reach"
And then the final touch, the one that will humiliate him to such an extent that I will almost feel pity for him, while his thick and shiny mustache will be shaking and he'll pout his lips, unable to say a word.
"Do you think that I am being hard on you? Then you didn't have to be hard on me first. You don't want me to make you feel guilty? Then you don't make me feel guilty first. You don't want people to scold you like a child and disrespect you? Then you don't scold them like children and disrespect them first. I don't think I need to continue, you finally got the trick, right?"
But I was hurt, and he was not, and as I didn't say anything he thought that he was right and I was wrong. And I hated it, and after so many years I still think of all this. And I'm not even sure that if it happened again I would eventually know what to say.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Counterpoint, by William Stabile (translated by William Wall)

Image from the cover of Ghost Estate, by William Wall
This is one of the poems written by my friend William Stabile that I like the most, beautifully translated by the Irish poet William Wall and included in his latest book Ghost Estate.


there are moments
precise moments in my evenings
in which I cease to be a man
I traverse seasons in a few minutes

I shed thoughts in spirals
lines of certainty half-truths
as the wheat sheds its husk
at the first biting wind of September

but then you come hair the russet of apples
& you gather just the husks
senses tuned to the thinnest frequency
the truth survives in counterpoint

William Stabile 
(translated from Italian by William Wall)