In Transit 

By Lydia Mischkulnig, translated by Rachel McNicholl

Security begins at the gate. The official at the screening lane points at my belt. Now for the carry-on strip show. Please unpack, show us what youíve got. I add my shoes, my belt and anything with metal in it to the assembled items. He rummages in the inside pockets of my bag, fingering my make-up, pawing my wallet, pulling out my notes. Iíve already put my laptop in a separate plastic bin. He doesnít want to give back my notebook. He flicks through the pages, sullying my handwriting with his oily eyes. Discretion is not a word in his vocabulary. I canít tell whether he is thinking or not. He is determined to torment me because heís not in on my secret, and he knows it. How I hate having to frame my thoughts and hide my agendas so as not to be outwitted. Suddenly, he flinches. Some word has triggered a reaction. These notes are written in ink, arenít they? he asks. And in blood, sweat and tears? How much liquid has flowed into this paper? Does it exceed the limit? Beads of sweat break out on my brow. Are you finding this stressful, sir? What do you mean by stressful, sir? Iím a woman! Weíll need to extract it by suction, says the official. Heís studying me as if Iím in some kind of danger. He hands me a piece of blotting paper to mop my brow. The paper on its own would be fine, he says. Itís the writing thatís adding the excess weight. My mouth is already watering to help me swallow this treatment and my mounting rage. What does it say here anyway? I canít make out a word. He pores over my scribbles and takes a sample. This page here, he says. Rip it out, please. Are you out of your mind? Not in the least. This is a portrait of our times; all those bloodstains and watermarks. Thatís a suspicious amount of liquidity. Why donít you use a USB stick? Digital information is much drier. He turns an oily eye and my notebook goes into the scanning machine. You can see the outlines of the effusions on the screen, and the vibrations of the universe. The official checks the writing materials only, not the DNA of the ideas. You may proceed.

"In Transit" was first published in English in Angle, 1:2018
ed. Charles Crockatt and Fergus Cronin
Original title: "Transit", from "Die Paradiesmaschine" (Haymon Verlag, 2016)