Salsa for people who think too much

I write because it lets me predict the future. Yet for the first time, I had no clue where this story will bring me. Maybe it’s because, when I started, I was mature enough to understand that:

I’m Perfect!
I’m Smarter than you,
I’m Faster than you,
I’m Better in every single way,
And for all I have done
Let’s be honest,
I deserve more than you!

I was somewhere in this cheerful mood, when I went to my first salsa class. Now I have to confess something: I have never, ever danced before. Not even under the shower. After I took the first beginner class 3 times, the second beginner class 3 times, the third beginner class 3 times, moved to intermediate, and then came all the way back to beginners, I realized … there must be something wrong with the teaching method. So I decided to come up with my own. Salsa … for people who think too much.

Lesson 1 – the upside down umbrella

You dance in a circle, switching partners. By the end of the class, you’ve done the full tour twice and you get a pretty complete and consistent image of yourself:

You’re frowning, you’re angry, you’re thinking too much,
you’re counting, not counting, don’t do it as such,
so wait for the next one, next time, boy oh boy,
now?
Now you’re not good enough.

Let’s skip all the blaming and get things straight – Yes, I’m the guy, Yes, I’m supposed to lead, it’s all on me. Yes, I really, really wanna do things right. Yet here I am, stopping in the middle of a move because I forget where the freaking legs are supposed to be, stuttering back and forth a bunch of times until I think I got the rhythm right (and I look into her eyes – nope, I didn’t). Here I am – hating myself for every clumsy little move, and I put in my google calendar that the next time when I go, I won’t just talk about my mistakes, I’ll make people compliments, but I can’t. I guess that was my first salsa lesson – you cannot make compliments when you’re frustrated.

One evening, at a salsa party I saw a really strange thing. In the middle of the stage, a chair, and a little kid sitting on it. Two larger, heavier kids, were pushing him from the sides, trying to see if they can fit him in smaller space. I could read on his lips, he kept saying, if only I could disappear, if only I could disappear and these two assholes would bump into each other, if only, I could disappear… I ran off to help, but the children vanished.

I looked around, and on my right, there was a girl, who I asked to dance, and for 2 minutes, I forgot all about my salsa mistakes. All I could think of was her hair. Whenever she turned around, her hair raised, weightless, like an upside down umbrella. I didn’t say anything. Back then, I feared that making compliments always has consequences. Instead, she looked at me and said, in the sweetest possible way: you think a lot, don’t you ? It might have been a compliment.

Lesson 2 – the alien

I land. I watch the dancers float on the stage and I am amazed. I make contact with the humans: unbelievable, we have the same five fingers. But what do I say? On my planet, the whole world lives inside my head, but here, your world is too big, and I cannot carry all its emotions. I am … a mirror. An emotional amplifier. You want me to be myself ? If I share the dramas that live inside me, they would crush you. So I break the loop. Instead of reflecting emotions, I transform them. I become a drunken clown, that turns fears into jokes. A colorblind poet, that paints the world with words.

That night, I left early, exhausted from too much thinking. I reached the entrance, and there I saw a man, sitting down, his legs closed, flipping one coin over, and over again, never happy with the outcome. After he flipped the coin a thousand times, I found my courage, and went back to the dancing floor.

Lesson 3 – What did you wanna become as a grown up?

When I was a kid my dream was to become Michael Jordan. My plan was to sit in the sun, all day, until I would turn black. I was pretty sure that if I’m black, I’d play basketball like there’s no tomorrow. So, if right now I am just one shade of brown darker than the average white guy it’s because, well, I gave up too early. But now, for serious, when I was a little kid, what I wanted to become was an extrovert. Many years ago, I used to go to parties, I wouldn’t talk much, but I would say bye – to people I knew, to people I didn’t know. It was the easiest thing to do – I didn’t have to have a half-an-hour conversation after that goodbye (although that seems to happen all the time lately and I love it). Somehow, doing that has become a sort of tradition for me. Because for me, goodbye, is when people get to know me: I am … the child who didn’t disappear. I am the man who flipped the coin a thousand times, the coin that every single time showed, in reflection, his face, to realize that I am … you!

Epilogue

If to be broken,
Is to live in a world,
where only the satisfied are fed,
and you,
you’re so hungry,
that you learn to pretend.

If to be broken is to live life,
like it’s a Mario game,
never making it past the first level,
always falling down into that first pit,
because for some odd freaking reason,
in the those twenty something years of your life,
I had no idea,
that THERE’S A JUMP BUTTON!
that I can skip over pain,
jump over yesterday,
live like a child,
never right,
never wrong,
too small to make sense of any of this,
but still taking the jump,
the bold leap of faith,
and hoping
that one day
I will learn to fly.

Thinking that maybe, maybe the happiest moment of my life
Is right now,
And right now, I am split, spread out,
between the lines,
Between you,
Letting go,
With so many walls torn off,
With nothing to fear,
And nothing to defend,

If that…
if that…
if that is what it means to be broken,
Then broken is what I want to be!

The King, the Two, and the Search for Home

Most sources say that, in the beginning, there were just two of them. Honestly, I think that’s quite unlikely. There must have been millions. We won’t have time, however, to look into all of their stories. So I picked two of them, at random, a man and a woman.

To understand what their world looked like, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone for a moment or two. Don’t worry, it’s safe. Make sure you’re in a place surrounded by other people. Don’t read any further until you’re in the middle of a crowd, in a café, or watching through your window as people cross a busy intersection. Are you there? Ready now! Look at that swarm of known or unknown faces, and imagine, for a bit, that they’re all naked. Keep at it for a while.

As odd as it may sound, that’s what their world was like. In the beginning, they were all naked. Not once or twice a day, but all the time. Not just the two of them. The whole million.

They did wear clothes, though. It wasn’t their bodies that were naked, no, only their minds. Innocent, with nothing to hide, with no self-critical inner-voice, they all lived in … some sort of eternal moment. And the most amazing bit was that, everywhere they went … they felt like they belonged.

Although grown up, in the prime of their life, the two were really bad at communicating. The funny thing was – they had no clue. And so it happened that one day as they roamed around the world, they encountered a group of storytellers, and joined them. The first time the two shared a story, it sounded a bit like this: I … umm .. went to work … and … then … I … came back. Umm, that was it. The storytellers could have looked at two, stuttering, and said, you guys, you have no chance, go away and try something else. Instead, they saw in them people who are yet to learn to think in words. After just one month, the two left the group, now both of them master storytellers.

And so they grew, and bloomed, and everywhere they went, they felt that they belonged. Until one day, when they heard that a stranger from another land was roaming in their neighborhood. Rumor was that he was a man of great standing, distinguished in his speech by a prominent hiss, who tried, without success, to poison people with dangerous ideas. And there he sat, one day at dusk, in the middle of the woods, right in front of them, relaxing on the branch of a tree. His eyes strange, his voice a hiss, his mind covered in “clothes”, so they couldn’t read his true intentions.

You are beautifully perfect, man and woman, he said, you are as perfect as all the other beings, and as happy as all the rest. There is only one thing that you are missing, and that thing only I can teach you. It is a secret hidden from the beginnings of time that I can bestow on you, on one condition: that you will listen to what I have to say.

Ok, said the man and he looked cheerful at the woman. The only thing he could waste is our time, and since we live in the eternal moment, we’re pretty safe, I think.

Let’s give him a chance, said the woman, he has been traveling around, offering free advice, and nobody even dares to listen to him.

You have spoken wise words, my dear, said the stranger, his hiss now turning into a load roar, and his stature raising high above the trees.  I will teach you the greatest wisdom of all. I will show you how to distinguish between good … and better. You… you guys, you waste too much energy with all that team spirit, help each other kind of attitude. Focus on yourselves! Focus on your defects! And learn how to fix them! Become better than the others! And wear some “clothes” for heaven’s sake, you are disgusting. I cannot stand watching into your true emotions, and listening to your true thoughts.

His words pierced through their souls and broke their wholesome hearts. Envy and pride spread like a contagion. In one year, one year only, Cain, their older son, killed Abel, jealous that the younger was loved for his better spirit. Their daughters were kidnapped because they were more beautiful than all the other women. Their house, which showed behind a window, the very first and most beautiful rose in the world, still unwithered, their one and only house, was robbed, and the rose never to be found again.

Paradise was not taken away… It slowly disappeared. Nobody, nobody was naked anymore. And as if things were not bad enough already, the woman and the man were punished to live forever.

Quick and sure, the whole of mankind became greedy and stopped caring about the earth. Temperatures rose, and people ignored the warning of water levels rising. And then … came the flood.

Through the whole thing, the man and the women watched, in despair, humankind stripped of kindness. Through the night, when they were not dreaming all the nightmares of mankind, one could at times, hear them whispering … home, I want home.

Many ages passed, centuries. Every cycle of history was for them a commemoration of the beginnings. Every “promised land”, every hope, was followed by an exile. Worn down by the burden of time, their hearts withered, and the two forgot, for good, what it was like to feel at home.

And here they were, many thousands of years later, in exile, serving at the court of the greatest king on earth. For all the wisdom they have acquired over millennia, they have earned their position as advisors to the king. It was the middle of the night, when the king called the man and the woman, in an terrible mood. I had a dream, and I demand to know what it means, said the king,  What is the dream? they asked. I do not know, but you, who have dreamed all the dreams of mankind, will surely be able to dream my dream. And so the man and the woman went to sleep, and they both dreamt the same dream. They saw a big statue, with head of gold, chest of silver, belly of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of clay and iron. A rock came out of nowhere and smashed the statue from its feet, and covered the entire earth. And as soon as they woke up, the man and the woman ran off to the king to tell him the meaning of the dream. You, king, and your kingdom, are the head of gold. But your kingdom will not last forever, after you will come another one, and then another one. And at the end of times, a rock will smash all kingdoms, and then, we’ll be home. But the king said, Nooooo! My kingdom, which is the best kingdom, will last forever, I will make the world great again! I will conquer everybody, and then make them feel like home! I will restore paradise! And grumbling angrily, he went out, and ordered a huge statue to be built in front of the palace, one made entirely out of gold, with a big wall around it so that no rock could topple it down.

When the king calmed down from his anger, the man and the woman went to him and said: there was one more thing in the dream, which we didn’t have the chance to tell you. Come, we’d like to show you something. And they walked up to the nearby mountain, and started climbing.

On his way up, the king was sweating like never before. Sweating because of his many clothes, sweating angrily because he could not keep up with a man and woman thousands of year old. Slowly, they got to the mountain top, and up there, the king, the man, and the woman, discovered, in awe, one thing that neither of them has seen in their dream: a person, naked, the first naked person they have seen in ages, with emotions so true, and thoughts so pure that they shined through her eyes.

That was when the man and the woman remembered again what it was like to be naked. What it was like to be home. To belong. And their withered hearts started beating again. Drawn to that image of humbleness, the king took off his crown, and, as he did that, a little rock slipped from under his foot, ran down to the statue he just built, ran through the wall, hit the statue at the bottom, and it toppled down. And the king asked, confused, wait, I thought you said that in the dream, the rock will destroy the statue at the end of time! And the man and the woman answered: this is the end of time, from now on we live in the eternal moment…

I don’t know what became of them afterwards, but for that moment, for that eternal moment, they were home.

And if at times, you see me speak naked, it’s because I feel home. Home is where you don’t know anyone, but you still feel you belong, home is where the people around you are naked, home is where mom makes soup.

Descartes didn’t think enough

There is one downside to being a superaware cameleon,
I have no energy left for joy,
When every drip of blood that flows under my skin
Goes into asking:
What’s wrong with me this time around?

Oh shit,
my hands are dangling awkwardly
as if in an out of the body experience,
I guess I’ve always looked like an astronaut on fast forward
navigating the void space between my mind and others,
without the gravity of confirmation.

And look,
the socks I picked in a rush
don’t match my clothes and I wonder,
before the whole pants below the waist thing was fashion,
did people wear them low to hide the socks out of shame ?

You see, the great Descartes said
I think, therefore I am,
But for all the 50 layers
Of hierarchical meta-thinking,
Self-fulfilling, self-deprecating loops,
I’d hardly say I am,
At best, I’m a bit lost.

To my grandlove

The last time when I fell in love,
I was counting in the wrinkles on your belly,
The ages of hunger, and of overweight…

It was lunchtime,
when I proposed.
But you…
You were too old,
and too slow
to respond.

The rest … is haze.

I think,
I just stood there,
Petrified,
Waiting for the first lightning,
To bestow on me the shape of time.

Carried down by winds to your beginning,
I could see all the future,
Which has already been.

Or maybe,
Maybe I just left,
Moved on, away.
And now I’m falling down with other raindrops…

I’m getting closer, close, to understanding…
nothing,
Reciting,
to a selfie stick,
and 7 billion cameras,
the timeless poem,
the hope of joy,
the breath of life:

Je
Roo
Nii
Mooo!!!!….

When I am done, my love, must promise you will hide me,
At dinner time:
I’ll be another wrinkle on your belly.

Chicago rain

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Be fruitful and ye
Multiply a dozen bridges o’er the river,
Build towers up into the sky,
One thousand floors of shining silver.

And whilst the rain fills up your hollow,
One million droplets of the same,
Thy shadows run, I try to follow,
A zillion people, with no name.

Until thou stop…
Against all odds…
Thy ghost forsaken to the now,
And then I learn,
Thy name,
Thy why,
From whence thou came,
And where thou run.

Switching gears

I can still remember the day when I first met Karl. He was a teenager back then. Many youngsters, at his age, are spreading their hands around, trying to create some space in a world that feels, let’s be honest, a little bit too crowded. And from the space they created, they are yelling to the universe: ‘we are here!’. Karl was … well, different. True, he was stubborn, like his peers, but in a quiet manner. In fact, that was his strength. Listening. And where most people have trouble following word after word, especially when they’re too many in a sentence, Karl had patience. Sometimes for hours unending. And there he sat, following not only every single word you said, but also your thoughts, your emotions, your subconscious, your unconscious, your heartbeat. It was as if, at his young age, Karl has already lived a hundred lives, and one of those lives was yours.

I will not talk about how difficult it was for Karl to convince his parents to let him study psychology. No, that’s not important for this story. I’m going to jump right to the accident. Of his uncle, Frank.

One morning, Frank was in a rush. He jumped into the car. Pressed the gas full pedal till it hit the floor, forgetting to check the gear. The car went fast into the wrong direction, hitting the wall behind. 2 months in the hospital left Frank a completely different person. And nobody could tell why … not the doctors … not his family. There were no signs of brain trauma. Not much was different, except for one very important thing. You see, Frank used to be a very successful storyteller, and the trademark of his craft was his optimistic, meaningful stories. Now everything was gloomy, negative, hopeless. And the worst thing was that Frank couldn’t tell the difference between his older stories and the ones after the accident. For him it was all the same.

It was because of this accident that Karl’s father decided to pay Frank a visit. As soon as they arrived, Karl’s focus was entirely on Frank. Through the day, Karl listened patiently to the stories, and through the night, he would roll in his bed, trying to figure out what … what … what happened with the storyteller? Until one night, it was about 4 o’ clock, when Karl jumped out of his bed with an idea. He sat down at the table, and started re-writing the stories.

First story (as told by Frank, in his hoarse, cancerous voice):

I made it. My daughter asked me to speak for her at the graduation ceremony. The lights are on. A sea of eyes, staring at me, eating my soul alive. I’m already sweating. I start to run towards the exit. Fast, hurry up, they must not catch me. I jump into the car. The engine starts, the gear is in reverse, I need to see the danger with my eyes, they must not catch me, I don’t care about what’s behind. I drive like there’s no yesterday, sharp turns, the rubber squeaking. And the eyes … the eyes are following me everywhere. I get lost, it doesn’t matter, the eyes are still fixed on me. Another sharp turn, I crash into a fence, and find myself in front of a jar of jam. The clock is beating 18:30. I’m a dreamer. Where is my memory? I’m late, I’m always late. I go to sleep. I am so tired.

Re-written by Karl

It’s afternoon, I’m really tired, so I go to sleep. The clock is suddenly beating 18:30. Where is my memory? I’m late, I’m always late. I’m a dreamer. No time to eat, I dip a slice of bread in the jar of jam in front of me and jump into the car. I’m late, no time to open the gate, so I crash through the fence. All I can see in front of me are those eyes fixing me, waiting for me. I run towards the eyes. The eyes are everywhere, so I get lost. Oh no, I’m late, they’re waiting. I drive like there’s no tomorrow, sharp turns, the rubber squeaking, I run towards the eyes. The theatre is in front of me, the eyes are inside. The backdoor, I hope I didn’t forget the keys, good, good, they’re here. I run towards the stage. I’m already sweating. A sea of eyes, and there I find them. The eyes of my daughter, who asked me to speak for her at the graduation ceremony. Those kind eyes, they are my soul. They make me feel alive. The lights are on. I made it! In time! For the first time!

Second story (as told by Frank):

That’s all that matters. The beginning of the day. The ring is on her hand, and she says yes. I kneel down. Her radiant, surprised face changes into an angry one, once she remembers. I smile, a smile that could make a crocodile really cry. It doesn’t work. She hits me. I am once again late, 3 hours late. I walk away, discouraged. Well, I still have my work left. And I’m late there too. Why didn’t I take this day off? The boss waits there, impatient. Two words: you’re fired. Why, why me? Well, I still have my home left. Today is the day! The end of the day. I look around. My home is gone, no trace of walls, just the bed left in the middle. So I sit down. My mind, once full of thoughts, is now empty. Darkness.

Re-written by Karl

I can see only black. My head is empty. Until I wake up, and then, it’s full of thoughts. I jump out from the bed. Aaah, Today is the day! I look around, and it’s as if the house has no more walls, and I can see far far away. To the end of the day. Oh no, I’m late to work. The boss is waiting there, impatient. Two words: you’re fired. Why didn’t I take this day off? You know what: it doesn’t matter. I run. I run as fast as I can, because I’m late. So late. 3 hour late. She hits me. It doesn’t work. Because I’m smiling, a smile that could make a crocodile really cry. Her angry face, turns surprised and then radiant, once she remembers. I kneel down. The ring is on her hand, and she says yes. The end of the day. That’s all that matters.

It was silence in the room, filled with over 500 people, who were listening breathlessly to Frank’s story. Many people were checking their watches, not sure whether time went in reverse or not. Fortunately, in each and every case, time went forward, undisrupted, or so it seemed.

The people were so caught by the fictional story that they couldn’t tell which one was the real Frank – the story teller, standing in front of them, or the one inside the story. Just like you right now, they were confused, as waking up from a dream that was too much like reality, maybe asking … what is going on?

(yes, I know you’re surprised, but it’s true, Frank is the one who has been telling you this story from the beginning, and you’ve been sitting for all this time in a large hall, with 500 other people)

(Frank switches voice, and talks again in his hoarse, cancerous voice)

My life started in mid July, under the sign of cancer, an animal born to walk backwards. And just like the cancer, I’ve grown to live in reverse. Until somebody suggested that I was driving in the wrong gear.

The trick that did it was the following mantra: Cancer not am I. Ups, not that way. I am not cancer. Oh, and by the way … my name is not Frank.

(Switch to normal voice)

It’s Arthur.

And now, I’d like to leave you with three pieces of … I wouldn’t call advice … let’s call it something … I’d like to leave you with two pieces of something:
– First: Always check your gear before pressing acceleration.
– Second: have now a look at your watch and make sure that time is still going forward.
– Last: if you ever get the chance to turn your life upside down, do it, it’s totally worth it!

Hey everyone it’s so cool to be with you! The title of the story that I’m about to tell is: Reverse!