The streets outside were busy, but the café was nearly empty. Old men sat in corners avoiding each other’s eyes. A dim light over the counter showed a waiter wiping a slow cloth across a glass, and a bored girl leaning on a register. The Panacea Café, he thought, was the sort of place you went after you’d betrayed comrades to the authorities in exchange for your freedom. He sat in a corner booth under a tired airconditioning unit and ordered iced tea. The varnish on the chairs had almost scratched away. The wooden laminate peeled from the edges of tables. Masking tape held a glass pane together along a crack. The iced tea came in a clouded glass, and had no real flavour. What he had written in his notebook had no real flavour. He paid the bill and left.
The writing did not come. It was a pressure in the back of his head. He visited a stationery store and bought a set of ten green notebooks and a pen. He chiselled words into them like they were made of granite: each one taking half a day or more.
Fear is an animal. Sinew. Deep growling. Short fur stretched across tendons. The stretching of limbs. Elbows of bony small stones prominent. Hungry. Eye hungry. Salivacious. The carceral stare. Oblique movement. Rotating shoulders. Padding. Languorous. Snarling.
By this stage, he’d given up writing in full sentences, preferring the abrasion of small phrases. Where did this come from? Under what circumstances did he mark himself? Remark. Remarkable.
Piles of books on the carpet next to his bed. Like a machine he pecks down and finds one and opens it and scans a paragraph or maybe two and then thinks of another and pecks down for that and scans another paragraph. He is afraid. Afraid he has nothing and it is an animal inside him.
Writing falls into aporia. The space between the intention and act. Inscription. The impossibility of language. Who was he? The concept did not meet its materiality.