I wear it as a hump – this China of mine. I walk down a street, look around and suddenly feel it as a burden that I'm not really fond of. I remember it, and then I feel it too.
Like a mole on one's face. I take a look at a mirror and I see a self unlike the one I saw before our first encounter.
As an aura. Underneath, I feel glances sometimes filled with incredulity, sometimes filled with cheerful curiosity: look what this guy has to drag along!
Covered with its moss, I watch attentively, letting the muddy waters flow by me as well, without touching me.
I'm fidgeting, wide awake, sensing it as something inseparable, as a shadow. When days are foggy. When it rains too. I'm fidgeting while asleep, looking for a cold spot on my pillow so that it can rest, a warm part of the blanket, so it does not freeze. I'm looking for a soft place to put my hump down, so that it doesn't chafe me, so that it doesn't wake me.
Is this love? Or just an ordinary story from the life of any of us? A story of meeting and parting. Of encounters and farewells which, rounded and complete, follow one another like Buddhist prayer beads, important even when they are tightly strung on a line traversed by one’s fingers without thinking, equally important when they break free from the line, when they fly apart and hide under furniture, concealing themselves in a dusty corner, beneath a shelf with books I now seldom read. And when they suddenly return to the palm of my hand, into the opaque glass of lost memories, into the past of days drifted away, in every bead of the memories I read both her and myself, both China and Branko, from the start.
What a couple!
As if she wouldn't renounce me, like a self-respecting lady, at any attempt of inappropriate intimacy! Sure she would. But it doesn’t matter. Just like the stories I tell myself about her, wrongly convinced that she should be understood, utterly comprehended, that mysteries hidden behind a face powdered with an ancient civilisation should be fathomed… I tell them because of myself, knowing that’s how it should be, that they have to be told, that words ought to be wooed, pushed relentlessly one towards the other, bound together with saliva like swallows’ nests, unstuck with one’s nails like limpets from sea rocks, choked and allowed to flutter like kites playing tag with clouds. Words should be compelled to realize the intentions of this choreography themselves, to propel themselves into a harmony which eventually discovers that beyond the chaos of events there is a tranquil spring of clear water from which it is sweet to drink.
This is the reason behind these stories.
— Branko Merlin, China: an Unended Dream