St. Gilles was drowning in the darkness of a late autumn evening and damped in a cold rain. That – plus the late pandemic era made the neighbourhood, otherwise lively, a half-deserted place. The pubs were open for those who could flash a safety ticket on the screen to the weary faces of waiters. The clandestine bars stayed more hidden, but that is another story. Sometimes a tram passed with its distinct heavy energy bringing people from a place to a place.
Two women walking down the Avenue Brugmann approached a small gathering of people with drums. Viva Cuba Libre! A young man shouted in a megaphone turned towards the other side of the street. “We are protesting against a recent arrest of opposition politicians,” the man told the women. No windows lit in the embassy building. A building in a row of others, a Cuban flag flaccid, limp, like a male sex organ after an intercourse. How can something so proud, even menacing, like a male sex organ and a flag, turn into a touchingly soft and damp thing? The penises of the protesting guys were safely placed in the warmth of the pants. How many executions, arrests, tortures were going on around the globe in many countries? Despite the sinister cause, the little party of boys and girls here was jolly, eager, and vibrant. Poor weather, good to be out anyway. Viva Cuba Libre. The women talked with them for a while and then continued their road. Towards Parvis St. Gilles; it was lighter and sounder at the square where poetry is read, beer is drunk and buffets serve delicious lamb koftas with slender art-nouveau building looming over the diversity.
The two women entered a spacious lobby of a community culture centre. Out of the rain, into a sharper light. They looked at each other.
“A glass of wine?”
The bar was a large square area with tables around it. No decorations added, no answers, for the moment, not even questions. When they finished their drinks and moved to the theatre hall, all changed.
Slam poetry competition. One, two, three, slam. They sat in the middle of a row not far from the stage. A spotlight fell on another slammer. One woman squeezed the hand of the other.
“What?” she whispered.
The verses of appeal, messages, naked vulnerability of standing in the spotlight with one´s own words, a voice, a measured time.
“Her who? It is another slammer.”
“One, two, three, slam.”
Black curls fell into the face of the poet as she moved her arms in a gesture of a welcome. Dark eyes under a dark curtain of lashes and brows, milk white skin against black leather pants and a black t-shirt.
“Her who? Has she stolen your Harley Davidson?”
“Stupid, shut up.”
“People will act like assholes, no matter how many eloquent verses poets throw in their faces,” the black and white girl slammed.
“A glass of wine?” Slamming was over.
The bar atmosphere changed again. The poets mingled into the crowd, some chatty, some spent and in need of solitude amid the crowd.
“What happened when that pathetic leather chick entered the stage? Where was she from? Serbia? Montenegro?” The woman teased her friend sipping a dark burgundy wine.
“We need to own our shadow. Not in a way like one looks into the toilet on her own shit before flushing it away,” she chuckled remembering the words of the slammer.
“Really own it, yeah. Who would flush down mystery and treasure?”
“All right, I got you. It was a good slam. Hit you more than others. Pierced into your heart. I bet that girl had a long knife stuck in her leather boot.”
“Yes, jealous of her talent.”
“There are more talents here. In addition, we all contain a talent. Need to dig it out. No, I am not envious of her. Just curious, because you acted so strangely and reacted so strongly.
“That poet,” she gulped wine and emotion. She is someone I once knew and then lost. The funny thing is, completely forgot about her. Now, she appears. For a reason.”
“Yes. Keira. I will tell you about her.”
The night grew older, and they were now sitting on a couch getting dry after a long walk in the rain from the culture centre.
“You wanted to tell me about Keira,” the woman sipped a hot ginger-lemon mixture from a huge mug.
“Yes, and I still want you. Tonight, or on another night.”
“You met with that poet where? I mean, before.”
“I have never met her, in fact. She only is a complete embodiment of… Of Keira.”
“Who is Keira?”
The woman sighed, tucked her hands under her thighs, for more warmth, for more contact, or out of anxiety. After a while she took them out – they were a bit more rosy and she will need them for gestures.
“When I was young, around 12, 13, I was terrible, messy, greasy, swollen, and clumsy, with pimps and freckles and… Well, you better did not know me then. Keira was with me all the time. She came with me everywhere on her motorbike, dressed in leather. Those beautiful shining eyes and curls you saw tonight always shone for me then. She gave me the courage to enter a room, either a classroom, or a doctor´s cabinet, because I sat in front of doctors´ cabinets a lot. Keira was self-secured, audacious and her joy was calm, not the hysterical laughter and the hot whispers of my schoolmates, Keira radiated a self-secured joy.”
“Wait… Keira is your imaginary self, is it so? Your alternant you? She helped you survive the awkwardness of puberty, didn´t she?
They looked at each other. Two young women in flash and 3D reality on a rainy autumn night in Brussels.
“Of course, she is. I loved her and she loved me. What bothers me right now, why have I forgotten about her? Where is she now? Why has she come revived in that slammer?”
“You grew up, you know that?”
“Yeah, I know. If we start develop the subject now, it will turn banal. Words ruin it. Don´t tell me I do not need her anymore, because now I am self-assured myself.”
The other woman looked caught, that is perhaps what she really wanted to say.
“Apart from being banal, it is not true. Keira is back.”
With the eyes turned into the darkness of the night, they both stayed in her own silence.