August 3. Beauty at Smolenskaya.

Lice have attacked me. I know now where the itching is coming from and go to a pharmacy. Pointing at my head and saying the Russian word “Botsch” is enough to make the woman open a drawer and get me a Glaxo-box with a lot of Cyrillic on it, and funny pictures of what I identify as lice. I try it out on the toilet of my next coffee place, there is a little white comb and I guess you have to put the cream on it before you pull it through your hair. A moment later, the teeth of the comb are full of dead lice. It works, I win. We all win. I would have liked to have a conversation with one of those lice, but that seems to be impossible. What is there to say anyway?


Society forces us to tell merely success stories. We have to understand our lives as blots on the strata of success narratives. I see a violinist on the Arbat street today, holding his instrument against his round belly, and I remember my thoughts about the success narrative.

I am hiding from the flatmate of my couchsurfer. Is this me? After all those months, all those terrific experiences? Deterioriated. Still traveling feels better than whatever I used to do before I left. At least I feel alive. I wrote a note about this on my hand, I read the blots of ink on my skin in a coffee place with mindless music and busy people suffocating something I cannot name anymore. You should not be hiding from the flatmate of your couchsurfer only because he obviously doesn’t like you and asks repeatedly when do you go for good in broken English, his voice is like a serpent, strangling anyone with goose down sensitivity. Why? I have been considerate and lenient toward the guy. When do you leave for ever? When do you leave? I leave when I fucking die you louse, you, you, I leave soon enough. We all leave soon enough and yet you want to speed up the process? I don’t want to be in a place where someone doesn’t like me. Have to go. I take my backpack and leave with Sam. Find the way to Smolenskaya station, try to eat some food. Must grow fatter so that you don’t need to worry. I want to have chubby arms and a chest with meat on it. Coffee diet is no good. This city is so busy, the people scare me. They all work long hours to pay their rent – rent in Moscow is astronomically high. They can check out but they can never leave. What would I do if I were one of them? I would go. Buy a book about edible mushrooms and live in a forest. But I am not one of them. Somehow, their ignoring me can’t compete with my ignoring them. The writer is back, there must be no superficial chit-chat about the silent gris facades our shadows scratch when we travel the world. There must be life, Janus-faced life with its ugly drooling mouth wide open and its sensuous seductive mouth close enough to our ears to keep us going on and on. Behold, where can we find beauty? It must be here, I ordain her to be here. There she is hiding between the purple pansies in the big flower pots. There she is in the elegant wide swing of the tram’s electricity cables. There she is in the rims of the passing cars, in the pictoresque scattered clouds, in the reflection of those clouds, in the gestures of the smoking women, in the arrows on the bulging asphalt, in the cyrillic letters for “rubli” on the car billboard spanning the bulvard, in the fan-shaped arrangement of paper napkins in the paper napkin holder, in the empty garbage bag punching forward gently or abruptly, blown by the wind of the evening traffic, in one of the seven Stalin skyscrapers at Smolenskaya that I see when I look out of the window of this fancy café. There she is on my decree, there she is and there she ought to be. And now anybody ask me with their lips and nostrils contracted in surly contempt when I leave forever? I don’t care.

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Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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