brussels story

The skinhead had no face, he was all head. He took me to the ocean somewhere in Belgium where we roamed the dilapidated bunkers. Thick concrete slabs, although fallen, had created a geometrically imprecise organism of their own. We crawled between the empty spaces created by the fallen concrete. We made a campfire and smoked Moroccan hash while my skinhead told World War II stories. That night the skinhead and I went for a walk on the beach. He told me about the white supremacist conferences he would travel to in the south of France and Switzerland. He told me that European countries were too small to handle immigrants, and that he was fighting for the renewed prowess of his country. He said he didn’t mind the fact that African people existed, he just wanted them to go back to their own countries. It was very dark. The Bunkers made dark silhouettes that looked like perpendicular mountains.

I had no language that I could use to rebuke him. I had nothing to say. The next afternoon I sat quietly in the kitchen watching his sister drop crabs we had trapped on the beach into a pot of boiling water. Those Europeans, I thought, really know how to cook. I am haunted by that silence. I became determined to never again be speechless. I did not ever again want to be baffled by my own lack of language. Never again would my vocabulary fail me. Apathy and silence became equated in my mind. To exorcise this ghost I came to believe that language must be used to articulate silence. Tunesia, Morocco, Algeria were all colonized by the French, skinhead. The united countries of France. They have made new homes in Paris after their countries crumbled into dictatorship and war. They are still living the effects of colonization. As colonizers, Europe will never be purely European. I know this because I live in America. Cultural hybridity. Political Integration. These words are a part of my vocabulary.

annemie maes and kristin prevallet (excerpt of the peopledatabase)