As she walks the winding road, the traveler pulls threads from her clothes and uses the dust under her fingernails to construct the unknown city in her palm before she gets there. She hides this model from her companion, ashamed of its size. Finally, when she is done with imagining, she might look up and realize that she has arrived at the crossroads between the Twin Cities.
One city lies to the left. It creeps up the sheer face of a mountain and insists on silence from the incoming traffic. The quiet city radiates out from a large square and the people look at you from ledges as you ascend. They carve the day’s history into wood. An elevator glides through the throat of the mountain, swallowing some and coughing up others. If you take the stone steps up, you’ll find a young man smoking outside of an old theatre. You’ve seen each other before, in another city, but won’t acknowledge it, or see each other again. Later, you might come to a cable-car that will take you to visit one of the gods. Please remove your shoes. This city is kind to monkeys and dogs, though the monkeys will not always be kind to you.
The younger twin lies to the right. It tumbles into a valley and nestles among mountains that make it feel small. Some parts of it stretch sleepily along a turquoise river. The people tiptoe over bridges and carve their names into rocks. A waterfall rushes nearby, tempting travellers to take the dangerous path to see it. Later, you will be jostled up a mountain and someone will sell you an umbrella so that you can leap off the sheer face. You will float above the city, your feet swinging wildly until you touch the ground. There are rafts on the glacial river and sometimes the sky is thick with balloons. If you eat at the cinderblock restaurant, the night will unfold like bird wings while a man sits beside you, smoking. You will both look at the passing headlights, those small moons.
Between the twin cities there is the gap, similar to the space that exists between two mirrors when you press them together. You long to slither into that space, to see the mirrors reflect themselves, but your presence changes everything, no matter how inconspicuous you wish you could be.
Inspired by Italo Calvino
Artwork by Dayanita Singh “little ladies museum”