Don’t stop

I think I was 5 when I realized that I had a slightly major defect in vision. You see, normal people, when they look at a rainbow, they see the magic of language break apart into a slippery slope of indistinguishable contradictions, as for me, colors are like words in a dictionary, messed up and different: I cannot understand why red and pink are more similar than red and blue. And because of that I grew up knowing that the way I see the world is very different.

When I was 16, my brother, who was 18 at the time, walked with me all the 25 km from the top of the mountain where we lived, to the closest town, where I was supposed to find a job. It was my first time out into the world, so my brother poured on me, as we walked, all the conventional wisdom. “There are four gods in the world”, he said, “and every day, only one of them is true. We could not find him, unless he wanted us to”. My brother went on ranting: “science is what we know, philosophy is what we don’t, and magic is how we turn one into another. But magic is hard work. And of all spells, the most difficult is a curse. You see, a curse is a spell so long that it can fill a hundred volumes, and takes decades to utter. Unless you take every word of the spell and split it between people in a large crowd, then, you can destroy a life in a matter of minutes.” 

As my brother went on … “to avoid a spell you have to” … all I could think was – what a bunch of nonsense! So I let him talk by himself, and wondered at the large stone buildings raising up downhill, and the metal cars moving in perfect line with the edge of the town.

We went to the city market, and there I saw people walking hurried north-east-south-west, supposedly searching amongst the 4 gods to find the right one. The moment we entered the market – my brother confident, and me, with eyes scattered – the crowd suddenly stopped from their running. They could tell that I was different, and that if I haven’t been cursed yet, I had to be cursed. As if they’ve been expecting me all along, they all came in a circle around me, chanting. In a matter of minutes, the spell was uttered. By the time we arrived home, I could see only 10 meters around me. Beyond that, the world was filled with a thick foam of darkness. I tried to move through the night cloud but it was filled with scary thoughts and filthy smells.

That day, I told my brother – “I will shake off this darkness!” but he yelled with despair “It can’t be done. No one has ever undone a curse like that. I told you to look straight. I told you not to show any fear. They saw you were weak and now … you’re lost to the world!”

“No, I have a plan. I will shake off the darkness, I will go into the darkness every day and I will write a story about it. Day after day until I will shake it off completely and finish my book.”.

“You’re crazy!” he said, and then went away. Every day he would come to my 10 meters circle of light, and bring flowers and sweets and magazines. And every day I grew more bitter because I could find none of those things in my darkness. And when I asked him to stop coming he brought me books and news of his new job. And when I asked him to stop coming he brought me a TV and talked about his friends and parties. And then I got really angry because he wouldn’t stop and I pushed him against the stone.

There was blood. I looked up at the sky and for some reason, none of the four gods was watching. I couldn’t stay home anymore… But I’ve never before spent more than a day in the darkness! 

I don’t remember the first month. It was mostly fear. Finally, I started writing again in my book stories of what I saw. You see, my darkness was not like the darkness of a blind person. It had corners. It had texture. In between the thick fog there were bubbles of fresh air. It was like watching the moon appear and disappear between the clouds except my moon moved like a balloon spitting out air. Now I’d see in front of me an autumn leaf pop out and then disappear, and later on a mustache suspended in a jiff in the empty air, or a pair of high heels rushing. Or a dog cuddling at my feet, who would go out in the river to swim, and then come back to shake the water off my feet. We walked together for days: the dog was homeless , so was I. One day, as we were walking around, I realized that I could see the grass, I could see the roots of trees, I could see the legs of people, and small children playing. But every time when the dog went away I was surrounded again by darkness. And when the dog would come back, I could see everything up, but only up to my waist – I could see the world through the eyes of the dog. As we walked together, one day I saw a woman who was beating her hands gently against a row of white little boxes that were sitting on the top of a sort of big black board. A most beautiful sound came out of it, and the music touched the ceilings of the building, reached to the sky, caressed the faces of people, and through the eyes of the music I could see everywhere. When the music stopped, the darkness would envelop me again. So I did what everyone of you would do: I went to places where music was everywhere.

45 years passed from that time. I’m sure none of you will believe me. No one ever believes me when I tell them about my age. Most people give me 25 years, unless I’m sad. Then only they can see my true age. The truth is, I’m 70 now. And if it weren’t for something that happened 2 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dared to tell this story.

I went back to the mountain I grew up in, to the church where the preacher was telling the same old story ‘There are four gods in the world and every day, only one of them is true… “. At the end of the service, the preacher came to me, an energetic man of 72, who talked with lots of joy and enthusiasm. His wife, who was sitting next to him, couldn’t take her eyes off him. I could tell they were still in love. And he told me about his kids and grandkids and grandgrandkids and how the two of them have met… But there was something strangely familiar about him. And then he told me how when he was 18, his younger brother fled far away home, with only a notebook in his hand. I felt a jolt in my heart, and wanted to run, he was my brother! “This is not possible – I killed you!” I said. His eyes became large, he hugged me and said – “none of the 4 gods was watching us that day – when the gods don’t see something, it doesn’t happen!” “I have something for you”, I said. And from my bag I drew out a book. “You remember the day I was cursed? I told you I will shake off the darkness, and write a book about it, and you said I was crazy. This is the book!”. He opened it up. He read story after story, his eyes gaping. After a long time, he stopped and asked me “what is this?”, pointing to a squibble drawn at the end of every story, a word that looked like a rainbow where all the colors were messed up and different . “Do you remember what you told me?” I said. “There are four gods in the world and every day, only one of them is true, we could not find him, unless he wanted us to”. That squibble, that is the name of the true god, I found her. Her name is ‘hope’.

The taste of time

When I was a kid my mother told me that the sky was a piece of cloth hung up by God, to dry. Most of the water would wither in the sun, but some of the droplets would crawl all the way down to the edge of the cloth, and there, just like a lover who meets his love after a lifetime of waiting, undecided where to start, there, the droplet would split into a billion pieces, and kiss the earth everywhere at the same time. And it would rain … 

We are thrown out into the world like in a game which we have to play to discover the rules. First thing I discovered as a kid, was that I could decide what things were.  

I could decide that water tastes like milk, and apples taste like bananas. So imagine how surprised were my parents when they saw me lick my fingers after eating that ugly mesh of boiled vegetables I always hated. It was the day when I discovered I could decide that everything tastes like chocolate. Happily for my teeth, I got sick of the chocolate taste after just one week. And then, I had a potatoes phase, a tuna fish phase, and one whole year where everything tasted like tomatoes with cottage cheese. 

When I was in school, to make things easy, I decided that French and English are the same language, so I had to learn only one. I decided that Physics was the night dream of people who liked to wear white coats, and the only true science was that of the keys pressed on my keyboard, where I could decide what everything was. 

Many years passed but that’s a story for another time. Fast forward to January 2020. I was in front of Duomo di Milano, in an open plaza, with doves flying tourists under the sky blue, and rocks crawling up and down buildings competing to see their king, the high tower of the church. And I, I was in this beautiful game where I could decide anything, and I was sad. And I couldn’t understand why… 

My sadness grew strong. I felt like I was fading, disintegrating,

As if I’ve grown a million eyes,
To watch the present,
And live forever in the now.

I watch it all,
My day, my night,
A tireless big brother.

For every single thing,
That goes under the sun.
Must have some meaning,
For another.

I’m keeping now a record,
Of the facts.
That I myself forget,
For the next day,
It’s all anew.

The past,
Is obsolete.

I spent that whole afternoon, under Duomo di Milano, following the passers-by as they walked, and wishing them to be happy. But somehow, accepting that I wasn’t the only one who could decide things, that anyone could make the rules of the game, didn’t make me happier. The sadness was still there, deeper and thicker. And then, all of a sudden, I knew why I was sad …I had no idea what apples taste like. 

I mean, I have had apples my entire life. But every time I ate them they tasted like something else. I wanted to know what apples really taste like.

It was February 2020 when I called my mom, and asked her what do apples taste like ?  

On the phone, she reminded me that the sky was a piece of cloth hung up by God, to dry. Most of the water would wither in the sun, but some of the droplets would crawl all the way to the edge of the cloth, and there, just like a lover who meets his love after waiting a lifetime, undecided where to start, there, the droplet would split in a billion pieces and kiss the earth everywhere at the same time. The droplet never knew that the earth cheated on it so many times, and the earth would always forget. So every tree, and every apple was the fruit of a new love. And for some reason every time God hanged his cloth for drying, it was another one, the sky was never the same as the one before. At the end, my mother warned me, with the words of William Blake – “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” 

With that thought in my mind, I thanked my mom and went to Albert Heijn and fit in as many apples as I could fit in one of those big bags. I really wanted to taste infinity. It was February 2020. 

I got home, closed my eyes, and bit into the first apple. It felt like it was the beginning of spring, the grass was hard, and the grass was not sure yet what color it will have. I looked around, and I found myself in this labyrinth, pressing hard against stone walls. My sweat smelled like mint. I pressed for hours until I reached the middle of the labyrinth, and there, in the middle of it, there was a little bird chirping. I let the bird live, and then, keeping my eyes closed, I picked up the second apple. 

It was like a castle red with stones. In every room, molecules were dancing a different dance. It took me a long time to find the big hall of the castle. In the center was the biggest disc of solid light I’ve ever seen, surrounded by 8 black holes, that contained everything that was, and everything that will be. I was getting closer and closer to them, drawn by their power and then … 

I opened my eyes. The phone was ringing. I had 652 missed calls. The year was 2021, a whole year has passed. Apparently, everyone has been locked in their houses for an entire year. No one could understand why I didn’t answer the phone. No one could understand how I spent my whole 2020 biting through two apples. 

I was afraid that if I dig into a third apple, I will miss so many precious years … There was only one way out … I had to decide once and for all what the taste of apples was. 

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 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 will 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. When I reached the entrance, I saw a man, sitting down, his legs crossed. He was 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, I really wanted become an extrovert. I remember going to parties, where I wouldn’t talk much, but I would always say good bye – to people I knew, to people I didn’t know. It was the easiest thing to do – I didn’t need 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, my face, to realize that I am … you!


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  those twenty something years of your life,
I had no idea,
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.

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!

Story written with both hands

(published in NXS #2, Synthetic Selves)

I don’t know how others deal with it, but I talk to the hand. All day long. And the hand is listening. Both of them are in fact. In perfect communion, they embrace my thoughts, giving shape to all the nonsense that flows between my ears…. Set free those two teams of pointy fingers, and I am able to reach out to things and call them mine: an extended version of the self that feels confounded with the air in my room, a barely legible writing that looks more like a time-varying signal, the sharp sound of the violin I haven’t played in ages.

I talk to the hands while washing the dishes, when they are both covered in soap. At the hairdresser, when they are hidden beneath the barber’s cape. While I’m outside wandering through the city, and my hands, tired from too much walking, rest in the pockets. I talk to the hands at my desk, when they are both, for once, uncovered. Imagine that! The left sits on the mouse, the right rests on the keyboard. Talking to each other, the hands are trying to shape the countless universes dawning upon me. One hundred billion neurons. Hundreds of trillions of synapses. Should be a fine match for the mere one billion websites. More or less.

I remember vividly my first seizure. It was the day when I reached my first million. Of websites. Viewed. On the screen, a spectacle of light. On the chair, an earthquake. I thought, naively: this must be what freedom feels like, away from personhood, the ecstasy of a world connected, a whole body shaking in synchrony.

I try to do my thing. Talk to the hand. To both of them, in fact. And not one of them is listening. Moving above in the air, my hands take a life of their own, scribbling a writing that does not look like mine.

It took another million websites to experience the second seizure. And then a thousand. After a year, I couldn’t load a new page without shaking.

The diagnostic: my brain has grown to be a replica of the internet. One idea links to ten, maps to a hundred, creates a thousand anew, which are, of course, better summarized by a million others. An ever-multiplying hydra. A rock falling off the tip of a mountain, taking down with it, one by one, blades of grass, trees, pieces of land, the whole mountain. All of that amounting to a predictable earth-shaking contraption.

The one and only solution: split. The two conjoined twins that live together inside my head. Break the avalanche in the middle. Cut away the corpus callosum, and leave each hemisphere on its own. The decision was made. The scissors cut through. Or so they say. I wasn’t there. I was asleep.

Earthquakes are now what they should be, rare, less intense. Thousands and thousands of pages coming alive in between my synapses, without a shake. It worked. But something else has also changed. I’m talking to the hands. And the left does not seem to be mine anymore. Fast forwarding through the never-ending flood of information, it swings lavishly on the hypnotic waves. It takes the shape of objects around me. It touches every button, clicks every link, drags and drops things around, according to its own imagination. When the left hand is not sitting on the mouse, its middle finger scrolls through the air, pages and pages of content from my mind. Whether I like it or not, it randomly streams the subconscious, jumping between distant corners of my memory.

And the right hand, well the right hand tries to give shape to the nonsense that flows between my ears. With all the fingers rolling down the keyboard, it lives to tell the story. Or, better off, to make it. Sometimes painting in the color of dreams, other times, looking for logic in the puzzle of distant memories. Yes, the right hand is rewriting the story of the gestures made by the left hand, creating, according to its own imagination, meaning.

Left Right
Looks around for something new.
Celebrity haircut. President tweet.
The last season. The newest series.
Conflict. Peace. Incoming. Outgoing.
Red carpet entrances. *exits.
I need to read some history.
The hand starts all over again.
History? News
At the intersection of all things moving,
I count the beginning of moments,
with only one finger.All the while, my other fingers,
are catching water drops still in the air,
before they get lost in the sea.

Distracted by every other liquid passer-by,
the eyes have also
become part of a flow,
with no memory,
no judgement,
no color of its own.

In between the falling droplets,
I sometimes grasp, still in the air,
a glimmer of the sea.

It’s all anew,
I think…
I don’t remember.
The past,
is obsolete.

Left Right
I can never remember the time,
when people were still collecting stamps,
tabulating the symbols,
of letters not yet sent,
never to be sent,
many of them,
In my time, in my book,
I’m collecting just names, and their faces,
the post office has moved, from downtown,
and the faces,
the names,
are still waiting for letters…

Strolling down my collection,
a lone finger sends waves to the crowd,
moving back, moving forth, till it stops,
pointing one name at random,

It’s the first on the list.

Open window,
And send:
Worried face,
A thumbs up,
Then a quick middle finger,
Laugh out loud on the side,
Zipper mouth, dollar eyes,
Throwing up,
Then an eye roll.
The hand starts all over again,

Pointing one name at random.
It’s the second on the list.
I can never remember the time,
when I sent away my last letter.
The post office has moved, from downtown,
everywhere.Silent whisper,
has become our exchange.
With no words, only signs,
intertwined, disconnected,
by the beautiful,
grammar … of emotion.
Left Right
The hand feels the phone.
Presses the camera icon.
Turns on selfie mode.
Takes pic, pic, pic, pic x 100.
Browses through.
Deletes everything.
I need to eat.
The hand starts all over again.
Now takes selfies with food.
The untraceable shape of a room full of mirrors,
lures a light flashing from somewhere … from everywhere,
to multiply all the facets of my soul:
the pigments, the dark spots,
the light in the eyes, the shadows of the past,
into a hundred figures, all the same,
distorted pixels of each other.A voice, trapped to hear no one but the self,
searching in vain for its own complement,
calls into the hollow, glittering glass:

The liquid sand, frozen, perhaps forever,
shatters with the sounds of an earthquake,
enclosed in a space too small,
playing back the fading echoes of an old underground melody:
Mmmeeeeee, Mmmeeee, Mmeee, Me.

In between two corners of the room,
I discover another light, a smile, a new muscle memory,
large enough to stretch onto the left and right,
in between bites of food,
munching away the vowels still reverberating everywhere:

The curve sweeps into the past and the future,
a new image of who I was, the one I am becoming.

I am my own complement.


The right sits on the keyboard, the left covers the mouse. The eyes are closed, just resting for a while… In my head, I can see the hands moving away from each other. Like in a game of Snake, where both head and tail are growing at the same time. Speed levels 1,2, and 3: it takes an eternity to move from one corner to the other. I don’t want to grow old doing this! 4,5 and 6: the hands are swiftly avoiding each other, like people rushing quickly through a crowd during the rush hour. Crossing my fingers and jumping straight to level 10: my eyes, though closed, are spinning, following the mish mash of gestures. And then silence. They finally collided. In a forced embrace my hands have come together again…

I’ve trodden many hidden paths, and stepped into the unexplored. But this is new. I’m talking to the hands. For once, the right is quiet, and the left is speaking. I’m talking to the left. And it tells me back its own alien story. It’s beautiful. Grasping, reaching, drag & dropping, swiping, scrolling, touching, feeling. The story of the one who wanted to live outside her own mind. But it couldn’t. The right has always tried to figure out why. It’s about time the left gave it a try:

In epilepsy, neural networks are characterized by hyper-excitability.[1]

A simple stimulus can lead to seizures, periods of hyper-synchronous brain activity.[2]

During an epileptic seizure, one may experience convulsive body movements.[3]

When seizures occur often and the condition does not improve with pharmacological treatment, surgical intervention is advised.

This may involve the resection of the brain area that is the source of epileptic activity, typically the temporal lobe.[4]

Or the removal of the corpus callosum, a white matter structure comprising most of the connections between the two hemispheres. [5]

Side effects.

Sometimes, alien hand syndrome, typically affecting the left hand, where the person perceives the hand as acting on its own, reaching for objects according to their affordance, as opposed to acting according to the person’s intention.[6]

Confabulation: Visual processing is crossed, the left hemisphere processes stimuli in the right visual hemifield, the right hemisphere processes stimuli in the left visual hemifield. In patients without corpus callosum, a stimulus may reach the right hemisphere, and the person may act on it, even though the stimulus didn’t reach the other, left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is responsible for describing behavior verbally. If the left hemisphere sees the behavior, but doesn’t know the stimulus that caused it, it will just confabulate, it will make up a story. [7]

I’m talking to the hand. All day long. The hand, which gives shape to all the nonsense that flows between my ears.

I am … the hand.

The … hand.

[1] Basic mechanisms underlying seizures and epilepsy

[2] Reflex seizure

[3] Epilepsy

[4] Temporal lobe resection

[5] Corpus callosotomy

[6] Alien hand syndrome

[7] Confabulation


Many people think … they know me. So I’ve decided that the time has come for me to step forward with the truth.

You see … I have a medical condition. I have a very good memory, I can remember all the names, but I cannot tell which one is mine…

It may seem like it, but I’m not here to make a confession of sorts. I’m here to share a story.

So I sat down one evening to write. The room was warm and cozy. On the table, my pen was scribbling the beginning of a story I’ve already written before. Soon enough, as it often happens, I fell asleep. And dreamed. In that dream, I heard a story. And the name of the story was: Confucius. Here it goes:

Once upon a time or, twice… I don’t remember, there was a lovely princess who lived locked in a tower, guarded by her stepmother, obviously… And high up there, higher than the highest clouds, there was a tini tiny window, that trapped a ray of sunshine into the small room where our princess lived. Now, what made her special, besides her beauty, was that her hair grew really fast and really long. Yet the stepmother was envious of her long hair. The old woman wanted herself to have the longest hair in the kingdom. So every day the stepmother would ask: “Mirror mirror on the wall, what’s the longest hair of all?“ And whenever the answer was her stepdaughter’s, she would go and cut down the girls’ hair. Day by day passed like that, until one day, actually, one night, when the stepmother died, suffocated in the length of her own hair, leaving our princess alone, locked in her room at the top of the tower.

She left her hair grow long, so very long,
To catch at least one lover, attracted to her song.
Who’d climb up to the window on her hair,
And save her from a life she couldn’t bear.

But who could know how long would take
For a brave prince a trip to make
To climb up to the window on her hair,
And save her from a live she couldn’t bear.

So she decided to sleep and wait,
And leave her hair fall down as bait.
She took some tea, fell down asleep
But didn’t plan to nap so deep.
And her pure song without a score
Turned to a loud and rhythmic snore.

And she slept, and slept, she slept the sleep of beauty, and dreamt the dreams of freedom. For hours, days, and years.

In the meanwhile, far, far away, in the country of Neverland there was born a child who refused to grow up. And because he didn’t want to grow up, he grew forward instead, his back curving as a hunchback. The princess had already slept for too long hidden in the tower when our guy turned into a handsome 25 year-old, well, save for his hunchback. He didn’t have any friends, so he was really surprised when at his birthday he received a bag from an unknown sender. Yet even more surprising than the bag itself was its content: an old rusty lamp, a Persian carpet, a pair of lady’s shoes, a shiny knight’s armor, and a brand new horse. Don’t ask me how the horse fit in the bag cos’ I have no idea.

He tries the shoes and they don’t match.
They’re lady’s shoes, yeah, that’s the catch.
He doesn’t know, o poor hunchback.
And puts them slowly in the sack.

Then takes the armor, puts it on,
And plans to leave before the dawn.

The horse is ready, breathing fire,
The guy says go, the horse: yes, sire!

They ride along, and chase the sky,
To Neverland, they say goodbye,
They ride along, with wind behind,
Through sunny days, one of a kind.
They ride through deserts, storms, and rain,
With sadness, fear, joy and pain.

Until one day, one of a kind,
Our mighty tower they do find.
They hear music from up there,
A clear theme that fills the air,
It’s not a song without a score,
but just a loud and rhythmic snore.

He sees her hair, it’s grown so long,
And tries to climb, he’s not so strong,
And then annoyed, for such an ending,
He tries a trick, rather mind-bending.

He takes the magic carpet, jumps on it,
And flies up there, and there… and there … and there… he sees … Her.

For a minute he freezes at the sight of her beauty. He wakes her up. it takes about 5 minutes for her to figure out what is going on because, we’ll she’s been asleep for years, even decades. She’s now much older than him, yet, having slept through most of it, she lived less than he did. Time freezes when beauty sleeps, so she still had the face of a child and the mind of a young princess.

He tries the shoes and they do match,
They’re lady shoes, yeah that’s the catch
Hmm … Cinderella … is that your name?”

I’ve seen the mirror on the wall,
Snow white, you’re honestly too tall.”

You slept so long,
I heard the song,
Hey Sleeping Beauty is that you?”

Your hair grew, down from the sky,
You are Rapunzel, oh … oh my!”

And then she looked at him bemused:

Those lady shoes were perfect fit, are you the Prince?
Came all the way from Neverland, you Peter Pan?
I see a Hunch sits on your Back, from Notre-Dame?
A flying carpet you have brought, you Aladdin?”

It’s so confusing, who are you?”

In that moment, the two looked at each other confused and answered, both at the same time … “I have … a very good memory. I can remember all the names … but I cannot tell … which one is mine…”

Suddenly the guy remembers that in his bag there was the magic lamp. He didn’t have any use for it yet. Now was the time! He rubs it 3 times, and then the grand spirit of the lamp comes out, filling the small room where they were. And then the guy and the girl looked up to the spirit of the lamp and said: “My dear genie… we have one wish, but one wish … we grew up … with sooo many stories. With so many wonderful people around us. We learned to speak as they spoke, to act as they acted, to think as they thought. We learned all their names, but … we forgot ours… My dear genie, what is my name?”

The spirit of the lamp looked down, smiling, to the two beautiful … and confused … people in front of him, and answered: “I live to fulfill other people’s wishes. I have a very good memory. I can remember all the names, but I cannot tell which one is mine. So how do you expect me to tell you what your name is? But one thing I can tell you: the best story that you can tell … the best story you can be … is not somebody else’s. It’s yours!”

It was morning … or evening, when I woke up from my dream… I don’t remember. I have a very good memory! I can remember all the names, but somehow, I couldn’t tell which one was mine. That day I remembered my name. And it wasn’t Confucius anymore.

There is one thing you can try. On a random day, at a random time, go to one of your friends and tell them, Congratulations! And unless they think you’re a bit random, and, off, all the time, they will come to you and ask: Congratulations, what for? Answer back: For everything! Congratulations for who you are, for what you represent! For your story, told, or untold. For your fights, and dreams! Congratulations … to every single one of you … for everything!

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