Conversations seem to fall into familiar patterns even on sun drenched streets that peel with a decades of paint. They do say that there are no new stories.
Where are you from? What is your name? What do you do?
The familiar opening lines are well known, often heard, and sometimes irritate the hell out of me. I occasionally claim to be Raoul, a fisherman from Santiago, just to break the format with a laugh, just for the hell of saying something different, but my face never quite fits. There is no escaping.
I feel pigeon holed, pinned down, by those few quick questions obliged to press myself neatly into a pre-allocated place, to make my own slot and sit in it, passive, patient, to wait to be known.
Of course, the reality is that here many people’s English extends no further that these few formal openers. It is my ignorance that forces them to speak awkwardly in an unknown language. My irritation is as much with all that I cannot express, as with the simplicity of the little somethings I’m asked for.
I want to be as I am, to speak myself as I am. I am trying to make myself new. But it is all to easy to succumb to the same old conventions, even 5000 miles from home, bathing in the beauty of an inky black night, to talk about work or the weather.
It is easy to let the words be routine, regular, instead of letting them riot, run amok, mad, bad and in that space somehow much more creative.
My work sometimes feels like a black hole a conversation can fall into, like a weight that will drag me kicking and screaming in its wake.
It sounds interesting, kind of sexy. I attempt to debunk the glassy gloss, to tell it as it is, messy contrary, wonderful, awful. But that is not a quick story. I rather fear I might be becoming a bore as I try to talk myself out of the corner and back into the room.
I am here to be happy, but also to ask what life could be, and I wonder whether my words give the old world power, whether they will haul me back in, and hold me tight. I wonder whether they have trapped.
One night I sat up chatting with a rather beautiful Argentinian guy, with eyes you could get lost in and not care too much to be found. He has been travelling for two years, busking on the sound of his sax, living life so boldly that he makes me feel that my wildest kind of crazy is at the very dead centre of the grid.
We talked. I tried to explain. He said that he was not sure he believed all of my stories. I replied that half the time I am not sure that I do either.
Sometimes it makes sense to doubt everything, to say nothing. There are world’s best undone before new ones can be begun.