“When the quarantine will end…”
I read this words almost everywhere, hidden between the lines of some phone calls in which there’s not that much to say anymore these days. We may think we are talking about the future, but we have only evoked the past so far.
The letter I received from Leandre was a nice dive into the memories, as well as his promise to have a nice party when we all go back to Hangzhou. This words, instead of projecting myself into the future, made me swing and lose my balance throwing myself into the past. Leandre has been teaching in my university’s sculpture department for years. He wrote this letter while he was in the cafe behind our dormitory in Hangzhou and this triggered in my head a storm of photographs from the past. I used to sit in that Cafè, called Wa Café, very often and always carrying with me a heavy backpack loaded with too many books. Leandre used to show up at the Wa Cafè, sometimes with the little Emile, the few-year-old son. I remembered a morning Leandre had stopped to have a coffee before taking Emile to fish in a nearby stream, although the child, with his imagination, had already started his great fishing among the chairs and tables of the cafè.
These memories make me remember the street behind the dormitory, always busy with electric scooters and bellboys loaded with boxes and envelopes to take to the post offices a few meters far from the cafe and the grocery store, the one I was used to going to stock up on chocolate on some dull days. I imagine Leandre experiencing the routine just as he had left it, before leaving for the Chinese New Year, but also feeling it as a distorted reality because all of us internationals are not there to walk on that street or to absently smoke a cigarette on the sidewalks. I imagine that street as a scenography without actors, at least those who have been the main ones in my years of life in Hangzhou.
Thinking about the party we will do once we are all back, I can only recall in my mind the images of us foreign students sitting around simple wooden tables on uncomfortable plastic stools, the smoke of the roasted meat of the bbq and the litres of flavourless beer accompanied by soju, a Korean liqueur. Our parties were so simple and beautiful at the same time, they often ended in a long taxi ride just before the sunrise.
We are all feeling nostalgic these days, me in particular: isolation days has allowed us to think a lot about our past. That’s why words like I promise a good “after out-break party” do not make me think about the future, but they recall the past, hoping that, after this parenthesis of life, things will continue to be the same. I feel like someone has paused a movie and we have no idea what the next scenes will be, but we can only imagine them by reflecting on what we have already seen in the past.
Dear Camilla, dear All,
I am sitting now at the Wa Cafè, alone, drinking my first espresso after I came back to Hangzhou, it’s maybe the perfect time to write a letter.
Just two months ago we were here, with friends from all over the world, in a few weeks the world has changed and humanity is shacked.
We are all fighting now, in different places, but, even with the distance, we can support each other. You are now in Italy and I just want to send you the strength and the energy to win this battle.
Looking forward to seeing you after everything comes back to normal.
PS: I promise a good “after out-break party”
Leandre hand-wrote his letter and sent to me a picture of it.