The Unknown

Michael Christopher Brown, 2010

Michael Christopher Brown, 2010. 

He was leaving to go to the North Pole. That’s what he told me on one of those afternoons in which you can tell in the air, and even in the shapes of the clouds that fall is already here. We were in the coffee shop where we met for the first time and we were drinking exactly the same things as we did then: the best cortado double, and the best iced green tea of Park Slope, as he said. “I’m going to the North Pole” were his exact words. He was looking very carefully at the bag of green tea floating in the glass, as if by avoiding my eyes he was going to escape my questions. All kinds of questions popped into my mind “what are you going to eat there? Do the polar bears have stories to tell?” But the only one that I managed to ask was “How long will you be gone?” –  “Two months, maybe three”. I was also leaving for two months (maybe three) to my hometown in Venezuela.

My mind was an express highway during rush hour but instead of cars there were questions marks. While he was sipping his green tea and actually believing that it would help him to counteract the two slices of pizza he just ate, I was trying to understand why the North Pole? I was leaving to go to my country, and he was leaving to go to the coldest place in the world. He was leaving to a place that I could only picture through some NatGeo TV Show. My inability to imagine the place where he was going to be, made it seems even farther. For me, the North Pole was inaccessible – even the idea of it scared me. Fear paralyzes us; it pushes every important part of our spirit to a corner, to a dead end.

By the time I came back from my thoughts I had almost finished my coffee, but a foamy heart shape still remained in the bottom of the cup. I pointed at it and looked at him as if speaking without words. He smiled.

We left the place and afterwards I realized that the North Pole was for me what my country was for him: the unknown.