Umbrela for the Sun, by Tomer Gardi

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Don’t expect my English to be perfect. I was made in China. I don’t know how you call me in English. I am like the umbrella, but for sun, not for the rain. I don’t know how to say.

In the factory where I was fabricated, they make umbrellas for sun, and umbrellas for rain. The materials are the same almost. There are these thin sticks, they are like bones. For the structure, they are. Then, there is the bigger stick, in the middle. This is to keep everything together, and to balance against the sky, in the hand or in the sand, sun or rain. Then there are also these little parts, connecting all the sticks. Like knees they are, or elbows. Then, there is the top. In this there is a difference. Umbrellas for rain have thin tops, from plastic, that will not let water come in. They make them in colors mostly dark. The top of umbrellas for the sun, like me, they make thicker, from different material, and with bright colors, to tell people what is summer.

To be at home in the world, humans need to fabricate, to produce things. This is now true for more than two million years. This production has now become for humans like an irrational habit. A belief. It is their nature. They produce, to be in the world at home. But they do not feel at home. And the less they are in the world at home, the more they fabricate. And they do not feel at home. And so they fabricate. More and more and more. And the world become like giant room for storage. Like warehouse or garage. Not like home. A garage, with no home next to it. And in the world then the humans don’t feel at home. And so they fabricate more things. To be at home in the world. But it doesn’t help. They do not feel at home. And when humans do not feel at home, they fabricate. To feel at home. They are repetitive. This is very sad. They are caught.

I will not tell the long long tiring story of my production in the factory. And the packing, and the waiting in the box, the transporting, the unpacking. Five or six times, I do not remember anymore, I was bought and sold, until I reached the beach. In a shop I was bought, for the last time, this is what I thought. A man came into the shop with two children. A small child, and her older brother. The man paid for me and carried me outside. The two children ran before him, chasing each other, playing. Outside in a parking lot we reached a car. A woman was sitting inside, where the driver is. Behind her was her big daughter, perhaps seventeen. We went into the car and we drove. We reached the beach. They left the car and walked to the water. They chose a place and they put me there, in the sand. Between them and the sky. In the shade I made they sat. I liked them.

The beach where I was taken did not look at all like the picture of the beach that was printed on my fabric. Look, the strange way my palm trees grow from water up into the sand. Look, my bright yellow and deep blue. The only palm trees on the beach where I was taken were palm tree reproductions. Palm trees drawn on plastic beach balls, palm trees drawn on swim suits. Palm trees drawn on surf boards, palm trees drawn on shirts. On towels. On sandals. A huge plantation of printed palms.

I shaded and I watched the people. What they talked and made. A shading eye, I was. A shading witness. Collecting memories. I don’t know how to say. The little girl played in the sand. She had a bucket that she filled with water from the sea, and carried next to where I shaded, to make the sand wet. She build a palace, she built a fortress, she played and learned the art of fabrication. Her older brother did not know if he should play with her or not. He took two little rackets and a small plastic ball and found a friend to play. The woman told her teenage daughter a story. A woman was tired of the city. The work. The stress. She had to go. And so she took a suitcase and a train and she went. She went away. After two months, she returned. She missed her life in the big city, she missed her friends. She got off the train and went towards the entrance. Next to the place where they sold coffee and sandwiches, she stopped to get something to eat. Her home she knew was empty. She lived alone. She was not there for very long. Where she bought the coffee she saw a sign. A piece of paper on a glass counter. In the sign was a picture of herself. On the sign was her name. It said she was missing. It described a place where she was last seen. Her brown eyes. Her short dark hair. Her centimeters and her kilograms. What she was wearing then. The sign asked for anyone who will see her to please call the police. Looking at herself, the woman took the sign off. She put it in her pocket. She started walking towards outside the station. At the gate she saw another sign. She took it off too. Waiting for the bus to take her home, she saw another one, and then another. She felt very strange. The next day she called her friends to say she was ok. She was just away awhile. Then she went to the police. On the way to the police she saw more signs, saying she was not there. She hated them. Everywhere she went on the city were signs like this. She took the signs off but there were just too many. Everywhere she went.  

And you? I heard you are from Montreal. I think. Or from Toronto? I forget. I remember it is a place in Canada. For you those cities maybe are different totally. For me, they are only names. Their sound is different, but they are same. Me, the beach where I was taken, was next to a place called Sdot Yam. It’s in a land some call Israel. Others call it Palestine. I call it broken sun umbrella land. The land has many names. It is in the arms of the beholder, if you allow me, a stranger to the English tongue, to try a little word game.

This was how most beach days went. The smaller children played, the woman and her older daughter told each other beautiful, strange stories. The man ate grapes or watermelon and read. One day the daughter told her mother this story. The Tower of Babylon that the humans built was a trick to trick god. The humans know god. God is predictable. Six days of original creation and an eternity of self multiplication. The humans built the tower. They knew god will get angry. God is constant. Let him destroy it. It was a trick. How to say. What they were really building were the Babylonian Basements. Huge under city. God in anger destroyed the tower as they knew god would but left the under city there. But what the humans did there after tricking god the daughter did not tell.

At an end of summer giving shadow, I broke. Not at once this happened. There was a crack, then one little part fell, then came rust. One beach day, a blow of wind. Is this how you say? A blow of wind? It tore me. I fell. The older daughter took me to the beach alone that day and left me there. I was broken. I could not anymore stand shade between the humans and the sun, protect. And also, autumn came. Soon time for umbrellas for the rain.

For months I laid then on the beach. I was content. I do not need to fabricate. Not like humans, I do not need to master. At home in the world. What is it, for you humans? Some objects are washed ashore from sea. I was washed ashore from land. I needed nothing. I was left alone. I was happy. I was quiet. I do not need to make.

A woman came. With her, came time again. She looked at me with interest. Why do they need to resurrect? I would like to ask her. She then went away. Then she returned. On the sand above me she put this device, with three legs. I don’t know in English how to say. On it, she attached her camera. She took a picture. She looked closely. She looked carefully. She took more pictures. Then she left. I would like to ask her. What did you feel, after you left me there?

I am an umbrella for the sun. Now, there is a replica of me. An image. Broken me. Lying on the sand. The sand printed on me is bright yellow. The sand on me and around and under me is wet and brown grey. Afternoon winter light is lighting it. Next to me are shells. The replica of me, the woman made it. She photographed more things. Then she went to meet a friend.

The friend she met, he is a writer. She brought him the images she made. To be at home in the world, humans have to make. She showed the writer friend her photographs. The writer friend, he has no money. Broke you say in English, yes? They wanted to produce something. So in the world they can feel at home. He looked at the photographs she took. He looked closely. He thought long . I will write, they will print, they will sell or give away.

He knew and she knew. But they are humans. They must survive. They have to fabricate. To feel at home in the world. They have to make. They have to earn. To buy food. To pay. So they fabricate. They fabricate this print. She fabricates the photographs, he fabricates this text. Soon it, too, will lie torn on some beach or asphalt, an off road earth. Perhaps, he says, he’ll never write another word again. But he is only human. You cannot believe this when he says.

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