The man who wasn’t there

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The man who wasn’t there was born on a rainy night. He had big, transparent eyes and long hair. The doctor told the postpartum mother that she had given birth to an elf. She already knew it.

The man who wasn’t there was sleeping with his eyes open and waking up at nights crying. The family cat, an indolent Siamese, was at his bedside to chase away the bad dreams and nefarious spirits.

The man who wasn’t there was late to talk and had a hard time learning to walk. He would rather sleep with the cat in his lap and when he woke up, he would spend many hours observing the shadows on the ceiling or he would make weird creatures using plasticine. He was giving them names too, complicated words which sounded like Kuenya and Sintarin and Falania and Cyrinthal.

The man who wasn’t there went to school, but he was writing the letters upside down. During the lesson he would draw angels on his notebook and during breaks he would observe how the bees were feeding on pears that had fallen from the trees. The teachers didn’t scold him because he was quiet and had big eyes. The other children would leave him alone because they had understood that he wasn’t there.

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One night his parents lost him. They sought him, they left no stone unturned, they called the police. In the end they spotted him at the festival, next to an itinerant artist.

The itinerant was making wire words, people’s, animals’ and dreams’ names. He was using no tool whatsoever. He was taking the wire and making loops with it, he was bending it, straightening it, polishing it up, till there was someone’s name in his hands or –sometimes- a line from a song.

The man who wasn’t there was engrossed watching the artist’s dexterous hands all night.

His parents told him off, but he wasn’t there. When they got back home, he began making his own words out of wire.

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The years went by and the man who wasn’t there spent more and more time on his tiny works of art. Those who met him thought that he was there. It seemed so; and often he really was. But those who knew him better, they were well aware that he wasn’t.

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When the man who wasn’t there grew up, he met a girl like him. She had big transparent eyes and long hair. She was drawing sad faces and was walking like a cat. The man who wasn’t there was charmed by the girl.

On a summer’s night, on a bench above the Aegean Sea, he asked her if she would marry him one day. She accepted. The man who wasn’t there put a soft drink can’s lid on her finger.

They got a baby with big transparent eyes.

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The years kept passing, just like they use to do since the world began.

The man who wasn’t there had set up a makeshift stall with his words, an itinerant just like his master. But he would rarely sell any of them. Most of the time he was giving them away and he was very happy to see the people wearing them on their chest, just above their heart.

The man who wasn’t there loved the nights and the rain. He loved the children’s laughter and the balloons with helium that escaped and reached for the sun.

The man who wasn’t there had some friends, very few, counted invariably on the fingers of one hand. When he was meeting his friends, none of them was there. And it was OK to be this way.

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Some days the man who wasn’t there was jealous of those who could be there, he was jealous of those who could do so well being there.

Some nights the man who wasn’t there wished he were there too, even if he hadn’t ever made a single wire word.

It wasn’t up to him not to be there. It was just the way it happened, being born with big transparent eyes, maybe because his mother wasn’t there too.

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The girl with the can lid’s ring did her best to help him be there. He wanted it too, but when he was, he was fading, he was becoming transparent to the point where you could see through him.

Every day he spent being there, the man who wasn’t there felt like another part of him was gone.

It was only the wire words that helped him bind his pieces together.

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Later, the man who wasn’t there figured out that there were also many people who were not there; and it wasn’t them that the blame should be put on, but “there” itself.

The people that weren’t there were not stupid, or cowards or incapable. They were born with an innate aversion to “there” or it could be a simple allergy, an allergy to everything that was spoon-fed to them, to everything that didn’t fit them.

The people who were not there wanted to create their own “there”.

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They created words, music, dances, paintings, food, ideas, inventions, equations, medicines, schools, science.

The people who were not there were building the world from scratch, just like they wanted it to be.

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I don’t know the way this story ends. It was an itinerant artist with big eyes who passed it on to me. Indian blood ran through his veins and his name was Itinerant Mountain.

One day he stopped smiling and ceased being there. His smile lingered on his face, as if he were the Cheshire Cat.

He only gave me these words, made of wire.

So, I have no knowledge how the story ends.

Maybe there is no end.

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The picture is a detail from Nelli Bloom’s painting.

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Translated by Alexandros Mantas
https://open.spotify.com/track/5S2egxu3QVuxhvqVELqxhH?si=0a957d50d5cd4543