A table for the ephemeral
Once you leave your home country, you are incurably ephemeral. The mind commands the body to live in half-formed places with transient conditions, for it secretly believes that allowing yourself the comfort of settling down will seal your destiny for good, cancelling the probability of going back home.
A week ago, speaking in the mute language of objects, I paid tribute to my Ikea bar table for our three-year-long collaboration and solidarity. Objects do have a silent heart; be it wooden or metal, the heart is still fragile enough to be broken if their loyal service is not recognized appropriately. Three years ago, I put this black lady together myself. Despite her unique temperament due to a missing screw, she managed to keep herself and me together while writing two books, several articles and a diary of leaving my country. While I was in close contact with this four-legged, slender, black lady, several people from several countries have said and written that I lived in Croatia, in exile. In fact, I was perched at this bar table in a Zagreb apartment. Eventually, however, my spine deformed while my body was trying to adapt to her wiggle. After a rather elaborate description of my back pain, the doctor I went to recommended me to buy a table, “a proper one, maybe.”
But my dear doctor, once you leave your home country, you are incurably ephemeral. The mind commands the body to live in half-formed places with transient conditions, for it secretly believes that allowing yourself the comfort of settling down will seal your destiny for good, cancelling the probability of going back home. Buying a proper table had too heavy a meaning to bear. When transient, life as a whole has to wiggle, as does everything in it.
I must have said these things in the mute language of things; she didn’t even say, “Excuse me?”
After excruciating negotiations with my back pain, I came to terms with my reality and reluctantly started searching for a table. It took me three weeks to buy the table, not because I am hipsterishly meticulous, but because it was a long process to convince myself that I can leave the table behind if I am kicked out from this country as well. Also, some time was spent persuading my vicious daemons to allow my flesh some comfort. Daemons are crumbles of god and devil for those who do not have a traditional faith, and it takes a long time to organize that crowd. Not to mention that I had to think, too, about being a woman, about not being allowed to have personal space, and not knowing how to protect it even when you finally have one. I remembered my child-self trying to create a space of my own under the dinner table using pillows as barriers, only to draw pictures and murmur to myself. Finally, after all this utterly unnecessary contemplation, I went to a non-Ikea shop and bought the table in about ten minutes. It is a dwarfish table accompanied by an equally pygmy-size chair. The first day and night I was ecstatic, to say the least. It was only the second night when I managed to stop watching the table from afar and sit at it with a glass of wine, with Cecilia Bartoli singing in the background. A very intimate meet and greet session, as it were. But you know these wooden tables; they have dark brown eyes looking at you, asking difficult questions:
My dear ephemeral woman, why did you wait so long to grant yourself the smallest of comforts? Why did you have to match the mental pain with the physical, like the desperate girls who cut themselves? Your unceasing mea culpa rituals are not only meaningless but also deforming, and not only physically. Don’t you think it is time to forgive yourself, dear transient woman? Alas, the world has already been and still is harsh on you, no? So tell me, where does it hurt now?
This four-legged, buxom, brown lady with numerous eyes is a talkative one, I noticed. In response, I explained about the imprisoned friends back home and the guilt I have to carry about not being one of them. Does it count to share their physical pain even when they are unaware that you do? I talked about Odysseus’s untold fear of returning home without a victory, defeated, empty-handed. How big a victory legitimizes the journey back home? I told my new table about all the etcetera of the last three years that can only be told in the warm and silent language of the wood. To my surprise, as much a chatterbox this lady is, she turned out to be an understanding one. She closed her numerous dark brown eyes, and when she opened them again, I heard her say compassionately, “It is alright, my dear. It will be alright.” With her invisible smile she asked, “So shall we?”
So we did, and here is the first thing we wrote together. Soon we might write a real piece, a proper one maybe.