You find that you have been taking a subconscious inventory of the crashed prison camp: cement barriers; the lackadaisical saunter of guards; towers with empty eyes or mirrored windows; razor wire assigned in spirals; other spools tumbleweed’d into wayward stations; discourse of passes and privileges. Something’s missing. Then in Akka clarification. The group assembled to hear from, speak with BDS founder, Omar Barghouti in the open café area of the walled city. Umbrellas and chairs arranged for twenty-some. Mid-talk, waves of white smoke begin to curl over the walls in the sea breeze. Waves thicken. Alarms in the café sound off. Our eyes run, some pull shirt collars up over their noses and we finish the conversation. Later we learn the fire had been deliberately set, grass on the outside of the walls was burned. Amid questions of timing, you climbed the walls and saw the sloping patches of scorched grass. While Omar discusses and clarifies—“It’s the rights movement . . . all considerations are practical, these are not theoretical questions . . .”—smoke thickens obscuring the cafes across the emptied square, fire-flight impulses raise you up in your chair a few times. Something comes alert in your hamstrings. Like the dark center of an open eye in increasing light, the scene’s radius closes down around us. A gradual curtain obscures the distance, blurs the blond stones in the crusade-era walls. In hair of your forearm, first, then next to you on Michael’s shoulder, and just to your right in Ahdaf’s hair: tiny notes swivel in the air and land. Caught on us, close up, flakes of ash move like gills in faint breaths, in smoke-filled wind.
In a very beautiful essay called “The Light of the South West,” Roland Barthes wrote: “I enter these regions of reality in my own way, that is, with my body; and my body is my childhood, as history created it.” You know that no seen—which is to say imagined, which means living—territory can ever be secure; it falls, the path of that plunging territory is the fluid, fluted core of one’s identity. In part, it’s the violence of nations to still that spinning. How often by power applied at the border. Citizens, always imagined by each other, might hope, and work, to pilot such a human motion, a living spiral. Motion across—in defiance of—borders. Gravity is a constant. Momentum equals mass times velocity. You’ve done the math. You’ve seen all this before. You’ve never seen anything like this. Borders on the map of one’s body.