Ports are places of many comings and goings. But there is a stillness and silence in them. Porto Antico, the old port of Genova in Italy did not smell like the sea. It smelled like a culmination of journeys.

“There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful.” ― Fernano Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet.

Culmination smells of emptiness. It’s what a writer experiences after finishing a manuscript. An estrangement from the writer’s protagonist ― they’ve spent several nights together in unknown deep embrace. And now, the book is over. The protagonist has either died or been given a new path. The conflict is resolved.

People walk out of the ship pulling with them a finished journey. I sit with my legs dangling from the pier. I’m waiting for a man to meet me. I don’t want him to come, at least not for the next few minutes. I want nothing to break my reverie with the emotional influx of this port.

The character of this port is slightly different from the others I’ve visited. It is an intricate ancient urn filled with the most modern vessels. The contrast is striking. There are too many boats, ships. Too many closely packed houses on the mountains. But very few people are in this urn. Except for these boats, everything else looks prehistoric. Inside those houses, I imagine ancient women in long white robes.

Slowly the sun sets. Now the man is next to me. But I am quiet. The houses on the hills in front of us light up. They shine like the animated eyes of wolves in movies. The boats become still. Even the waves. We may never see each other again, I say. He nods. There is beauty in his unexpressed emotion.

Relationships begin and end at ports. He leaves me and walks away to his ship. Once again, as a deep darkness shrouds the port, I let my legs dangle. Next to me my protagonist smokes a cigarette and mirrors my silence.


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