How the West was lost
[A seed of an idea]
It’s the last chopper out of Saigon. Except in reverse. They’re clambering into Asia for their appreciating escalator of assets and desert. Singapore has a ‘shoot to kill’ policy for refugee rafts. The Twentieth-century dream of picket-fence respectability and a job for life is dead. Let’s embrace Asian fascism. History seems to have receded from the collective memory as quick as the haircut grated pink by the ‘men in black’.
On our way down our eyes meet for a fleeting moment. And we land on the factory floor, neck first – The Greek, the Italian, the Egyptian; a whole topoi of human life set to work in symmetry. The heather t-shirts not made far from there, once an optical white.
They come in their dozens, in hundreds to a shipping container with wind-up LED torches marked with the plastic-enamelled lands of their diaspora.
Here I am: On a raft with an epithantically doe-eyed man named Miroslav. He’s fond of monosyllables. But I am a rich one to critique. He reminds me of myself after I dropped literature classes – all stagnation, no enquiry. To be inarticulate is be mute. Going from knowing everything to knowing nothing. Two of the defining and the perhaps, only default responses of his fruitful larded language are ‘Is no problem’ and ‘You are a funny thing’.
‘When do you think we’ll make land?’
‘Is no problem’ A nonchalant faint smile creeps out from below the hollow, Slavic cheekbones.
‘You don’ think we’ll be here, forever?’
‘Is no problem’ I have no problem disagreeing. I have to wipe away the residue from the edges of my lips often, very often. Couldn’t this ocean be a possibility of refreshment? Well, couldn’t it?
This is not to say Miroslav places me in placid ease. The gentle lulling of waves don’t even preform this necessary comfort. His one penetrating, alert and intelligent eye (his left) framed by an angrily pink droop obscuring a deadened azure nebula.
‘Eye operation?’ Pointing in crude ‘patronese’ to my own.
‘You are a funny thing’. A seething sense of frustration tells to me to shut up, or the response that implies more than Miroslav reveals with ready enthusiasm. He doesn’t have a weapon, not a Stanley or a Swiss Army in sight, but his fingernails have been providing unsettling assistance for the past three of the four days of carving his name below the edge of our groaning vessel with Sistine-like officiousness. Perhaps I should do the same, for identification purposes. Mine were always trimmed, perhaps internalising a life of sedentary data-entry in which after decades of mental callisthenics my brain will toast its survival in its own grey milkshake. My smartphone will extol its final vibrating swan-song, in which in instant time I will be taken and recycled for organs.
Maybe we’ll end up on the coast of the UAE, put to work on maintaining whatever skyscrapers they have left or cleaning last night’s remains of the faux-spiritual playgrounds of the rich and thick cream of the international bourgeoisie. I really don’t know where we are anymore. Nor does it scarcely appear important.