Tuesday, October 5, 2010


In Brussels, there's a beautiful old film museum, with two projection rooms, and three screenings a day. (or at least that's how it was back in the summer of 2001). For two months, I lived in those projection rooms—everyday, I chose from the selection, up to three, no less than one. The most familiar sight in my Brussels routine was the men who worked at the museum. One was dark, straight-toothed, and never returned my smiles. The other was taller, blond and wore loud colorful ties that smiled along with him.
The only other place I visited on a regular basis was the small grocery store across the street from my father's apartment. There was a butcher and a produce guy, but I forget which was which. One of them was tall and sharp, the other short and stout, and they yelled at each other a lot. I remember telling them I was Canadian, I also remember the cheapest thing to eat in Brussels was leeks.
Otherwise, I spent most of my time alone, writing music and experimental prose, and familiarizing myself with my fathers record collection, which consisted of exactly 2 greatest hits cds: Bob Dylan and Jacques Brel.

It was before midnight, I was out for a stroll around the block, to clear my head before going to bed. A bus pulled up alongside me, opened its accordion doors to let me in. I don't know what I was thinking; I must have decided this was a sign. The bus went all the way to the film museum. Did I know this is where it was going? I'm sure I did. My mind was racing, much faster than the bus, I was going to change something important. The bus ride was a long one, despite the empty streets.
I got off near the museum. That neighborhood was dead at night, with large courtyards and steps leading from one garden to another, and government buildings, and cold stone walls--it was September--stone grounds, stone steps, all light gray, or cream and empty. One thick black line, a paved street cutting through the stone, which I crossed, towards the museum. In the museum, the tall blond man was closing up, bright tie dipping in the cash register.

I squeezed into the heavy door. He looked up, annoyed that he'd forgotten to lock it. I'm sure my words stumbled, I was nervous. Did I know he was going to be there? I must have.
What did I ask him? I can't remember, not exactly. It was exactly the kind of moment I've experienced so many times, running to a place before it closes, to see if they've found my favorite hat, or my wallet. And that's what I remember feeling—the apologetic shyness that comes with making a very small request, and the toughened quickness that comes with being told no—trying to act like nothing happened.

I saw him later, while I was wandering. Yes, I'm sure of it; his classic figure moving through the dark street. I have this memory, a small desire to hide, the image of his back, the strangeness of our wishing each other a good night, again, someplace else, a little absently. I remember him telling me how dangerous it was for me to be walking alone, at night. I can't remember if he told me this on the street, or in the museum, but I remember walking that night, until late.

1—a young man is wearing a bright tie
1—a woman who looks like a giant bird physically accosts me after a David Lynch film
1—another movie-goer, whom I only saw twice, is annoyed with me, comes to his door in a bath-robe
1—a beautiful one-eyed homeless man walks up to me in the metro and takes off my glasses
2—Brel and Dylan sing about love that was never there
2—I spend a summer in Brussels, alone
2—strangers are looking for something, they follow me, its dark
3—the bus opens its doors
4—I tell myself that something important is about to change