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Coffee table storytelling

In difficult times like those of Covid-19, even a coffee at the bar smells of rediscovery and freedom. This is the timeless and spaceless story of how I got to know the vital components of my being and, without having to choose, of the possibility of identifying myself in this and that.

A person that I respect so much, on our tenth meeting, looked at me with intimate love, while the fold of his satisfied smile put my back to the wall. It was at a coffee table in the city center when, during an argument, I said one word too many and he, before me, seemed to have understood me thoroughly.
“You are eagle and turtle, you are the skeleton and you are the flesh. You have no opposites because you are both”. Then he crossed his legs and tilted his head slightly to the right, reconciling himself in a very quiet state of listening. He possessed the wisest of arts; he knew how to release fantasies.
It was immediately clear and very simple: I was born on a spring day under the sign of Gemini and, as such, I had at least two faces, at least four eyes and multiple points of view.
Before I forgot about my own paralyzing amazement, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. I had spent so much time wondering what version of me I really was, that I had forgotten to consider that I could have been all of them.

Those words resounded like a mountain echo, which seemed to me to cancel out time and space. I found myself floating in a place that I recognized as similar to the womb: a primordial world without shape or color, where I could get away from looks and noises. I felt close to my origins and my original oriental belonging, until then too often ignored.
I remembered the tales of grandfather Kamal, his hands dancing on the rhythm of stories with very funny words, of which I didn’t care to understand the meaning. I remembered myself, having never liked to sit straight for too long, admiring him in amazement from the bottom of the floor, and then imitating his dances standing on the chair.
I felt more: I had the opportunity to observe myself in a new way, not as I was used to in front of the mirror, no. It wasn’t about the features or the right angles of the chin, not about the clothing or the hairstyle. I had to deal with the vital components of my soul, each of which, according to ancient Egypt’s tradition, was identified by a name, an essence and a function. I was Ba, Ka and Akh. It was warm, and in no moment was it necessary a gesture or a word to understand that they all existed in me, at the same time, and with the same intensity.

As a Ba, I was my divine part, totally spiritual, attributable to the personality of my soul. I was my image, my reputation; what others could see of me. I was amused by what I saw, and I felt a certain pleasure. I was Ka: my memories and feelings of earthly life. I felt in every place and in every time, close to many people, on the tops of cliffs and in cool woods whose I remembered the green shades and the smells. Like the breeze I was movement, and I was not afraid of death, because I felt an infinite life inside of it. Finally I was Akh, and I was something of another world. As slight as a flash of light, I approached the sky, heading North, where the everlasting circumpolar stars are. I realized that I did not have a body: I was eternal cosmic energy. I had no thoughts: I was what I had been.

I met myself five more times, and each time I allowed my curiosity to look at myself from above and below, to walk around me, observing closely and patiently. I changed my name every time: so I was Ab, Hekau, Ren, Sekhu, Sheut. I was allowed to be my heart, my energy and my own name. I discovered the first to be the seat of all my emotions; not the brain, not the stomach. Ab is the cradle of my memory and courage, my knowledge and thought. Hekau is the magical component of the vital energy that allows existence, while Ren contains the essence of my name, my identity among people, and my destiny. Curious to know that it’s not me who gives it life, but my manifestation reflected in the eyes of others, in a sort of invisible bond of my individuality with the social world.
Last I saw my Sekhu body walking, weighed down by a tangle that, with firm hands, was clinging to his weak leg. I saw him dragging my shadow Sheut, like a dark and impalpable burden. I wanted to take care of him, so I helped him break free, and invited him to dance. It was a silent waltz but, from the first moment, coordinated and lively. When Sheut joined, I became aware of her shyness because of the barely hinted step and the low gaze, as if she was blocked by the fear of judgment of an audience that I was not able to see, which made noise and confused the rhythm. It took trust and a bit of time for her to dedicate herself to me and Sekhu, but our dance did not take long to become a primordial dance free from fears and desires, which ended up involving all my vital components.

The feeling of scandalous tranquility that I felt among the care and attention of my essences, brought me back to the cradles of the womb, to that motionless swing that accompanied me until I opened my eyes again, when I went back to look, to realize that he hadn’t changed his position, that his gaze persisted attentively, and the coffee was still pleasantly warm. We observed each other in silence while, one by one, the noises and colors resurfaced all around. I was only twenty and my life stretched out in front of me. Perhaps influenced by those new acquaintances, I imagined her as a woman, naked in a soft, ageless body. And then I saw her in the love of her dark eyes, in that face that had never stopped looking at me, and in the wrinkles she wore with pride, hollowed out by tears and smiles of which I knew nothing. And in the simplicity of that hot coffee, in the wooden table that divided us and in the phone still in my pocket, I felt her strength and naturalness. I think it was then that I decided to prefer e-e to o-o; that it was nice to feel part of the world, of this and that.

Translated into English by Marco Grattarola.

Cover: Claudia Habib, Duo, Milan, 2021.

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Claudia Habib Author
Born and raised between the terraces of Monteverde in Rome and the Trastevere alleys, she has found no way to resist the interest in the city and the life that animates it. After studying architecture at “La Sapienza” in Rome and at the “CEU San Pablo” in Madrid, she moved to Milan to attend the Master in Architecture of the Built-Interiors at the Politecnico di Milano. In her coexist the curiosity and determination of a young woman and the enthusiasm of a student who is heading towards a professional career. She likes art forms and, of everything, details. Ah, she was born in 1997.
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