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NIGHT JOURNEY

MARIA NEGRONI

The Infinite Dictionary

An employee with an olive face checks my passport at an American Airlines counter. Evenly, like one accustomed to authority, he says:

“Your computer.”

I hesitate a moment, but his gaze is so tender. His voice a lullaby. Hard to comprehend what he does next. He takes my computer, passes it through his typewriter (which is much larger) and -- erases the memory! Beside myself, blind with rage, I demand to speak to the manager. I can barely breathe. I'll scream, turn pale, you fool, nothing can make up for what I've lost. The employee regards me, amused.

“When you left Egypt,” he says, “you lost everything then, too.”

His smile lasts an eternity. Like a wind in a painted landscape. Or ravens circling a bloody field. The manager arrives, good-humoredly, and turns on the computer. The screen begins to flame like a salamander. An infinite dictionary appears. Its first word is: Shams.

____________________________________________

1994, Maria Negroni. Translation 1997, Anne Twitty.

ARCHIPELAGO Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1997

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