Hungry City

My first supper in America was a bowl of ramen. It was January, and New York a freezer. Tucked into one of the city’s box-like compartments, hidden by scaffolding beneath another shop in the Midtown area, was a crowded ramen place found via Google search. My roommate and I went there together. We did not know each other or America yet. Inside the small, bustling restaurant, alive with customers, steam clouds, pan sizzle and impatience, she told me it was her first time having Japanese food. I took a picture of her slurping noodles to send back to her boyfriend in Morocco. Do you like it? I asked her. She said it was interesting, and she giggled, slightly bewildered by her mouth, as her face reddened from hot broth, and her glasses assumed the look of a sauna.

I thought a lot about ramen after leaving New York, where I initially only spent three weeks doing a jazz studies class at NYU. I didn’t necessarily think of the thickness of the broth, or the level of heat rouging my lips, or the varying satisfaction of saving the soft-boiled egg for last, but I always remembered the choking hazard poster. In every restaurant I ate in, most of which were ramen spots near campus, I was mesmerized by the often elaborate, even beautiful illustrations of an asphyxiation taking place on a poster somewhere inside the establishment. I had never seen this anywhere else before. Was there a choking problem in New York? What was so hard for Americans to swallow?

There is a boy I knew who spent a lot of time talking to me about ramen. A few years ago, I had felt that America had swallowed him, and I could not reach my arm into the country’s throat to fish him back out. I resented his foreign chatter on the phone about the “fall” season, about brick buildings and buses to Boston. They were not mine; I was unfamiliar. But I loved it when he talked about ramen. In my off-beat time zone, first in my childhood bedroom and later, my college dorm in the Gulf, the thought of him bent, often alone and perhaps thinking fleetingly of me, over a large round bowl, swollen with noodles and broth and vegetables and meat and the hot, bright happy running out of an egg yolk, comforted me a lot.

Like any complex meal, ramen is built much like a furnished house. Upon a foundation of meat-based or fish broth, the cook scaffolds with what is usually a Chinese-style wheat noodle, paints the walls with soy or miso, adds fittings of chashu (pork), nori (dried seaweed), menma (bamboo shoots) and/or other vegetables like scallions, and finally, decorates with seasonings and a classic boiled egg. Enjoying a bowl of ramen, to me, feels like investing in a relationship –  unpacking a suitcase and settling in for a bit.

Since that first winter day in New York, I have returned to the city twice more, over the summer and now for the spring. Over lunch with my friend the other day, I talked about how my experience of consuming New York has largely been shaped by Asian hand. That morning, we had gone to Brooklyn to visit the Museum of Food and Drink, or the MOFAD lab. They were running an exhibit on the emergence and presence of Chinese food in America; walls had been constructed out of stacked Chinese takeout boxes, an enormous fortune cookie machine stood majestic in the corner, and a whole wing was dedicated to displaying taxidermy models of the various breeds of chicken used in Chinese-American cuisine.  I was impressed by the thoroughness and thoughtful clarity of the exhibit’s curation. During my sophomore year of college, I had taken a curatorial practice class in the art department, and since then had developed a deep fascination and respect for the curator’s task of shaping a clay-like historical narrative, using both text, found objects and physical matter. I began to see curation as a similar process to writing and editing; both worked with the raw material of narrative and history. Both had to take deft scalpels to stories, which together, like Kurosawa’s Rashomon, eluded a singular truth, and subsequently perform a surgery from which a complex storied product had to emerge.

What this exhibition specifically got me thinking about was the curated chronicling of hyphenated histories. While reading up about ramen earlier at home, I had learnt that its origins lay, much like most origins do, in a migration route between two (or more) cultures. It is widely believed that ramen was actually adapted from the Chinese, and brought over into Japan by Chinese immigrants. The first specialized ramen shop was only opened in 1910 in Yokohama, Japan, after decades of history in which it was primarily a Chinese offering, sold simple-style in small restaurants and mostly at portable street food stalls catering to local workers. Today, ramen has been developed, even arguably perfected, by Japanese chefs, and is, for the most part, considered a staple and highlight of Japanese cuisine.

I initially imagine that migration route between China and Japan as a hyphen, the same kind of hyphen that lies between Chinese and American in the MOFAD exhibit’s title. I’ve been thinking about the symbol of a hyphen a lot lately, now that I have spent a significant amount of time in the US. It often seems to me that America is choking on this hyphen.  But the hyphen itself as a term can be contested, an unequal see-saw between two identities, those identities themselves clouded with ambiguity – after all, what is an authentic Chinese identity, let alone American? The hyphen hides, too, or rather sidesteps, the historical shifts and differences of power dynamics between the identities being hyphenated, and how those change once joined together by the hyphen itself.

Before arriving in New York in that snow-full January, I had never really reconciled the “hyphens” of my own existence – born as an Indian citizen, I grew up entirely in the southern African capital of Botswana, eventually moving to Abu Dhabi for university at the age of 18. I knew I had grown up and formed a slow identity while straddling more than one culture, both of which I had not really learnt to accept or love, but just sit in, perplexed into a discomfiting stasis between them. Going to America has burst that still yolk of a bubble, and I find myself thinking almost incessantly about the routes, the thread-lines, between these different locations and identities, that exist and connect simply because they do so inside me. I initially imagined myself as a collection of hyphens, but due to the slipperiness of that term in today’s age, I am forced to reconsider the structure of how the places that make me me, actually connect with each other, both within and without me.

*

This spring, I worked as an editorial intern at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan. AAWW began in a basement beneath a Gap store on St. Marks Place in 1991. Frustrated with having to explain and unpack their work and identities to a largely ignorant mass of white literati, a small group of Asian-American writers formed a new, magical subterranean world in which they could collaborate and validate each other’s creativity and hyphenated states. Over 30 years later, the problem of the hyphen remains just that, even within this essay: a problem. But the community that carries what America has deemed for them a scar, an unhealed wound, the eternal mark of an outsider, has grown bigger and stronger.

I worked for two of AAWW’s literary magazines: A World Without Cages, which documents writing by incarcerated Asian-Americans, and Open City, a journalistic initiative documenting New York’s immigrant neighborhoods. It was quite late into my job that I sat down to read the novel that I assumed the latter magazine was named after: Open City by Teju Cole, published in 2011. Not a long read, I gulped it down quickly, in a matter of 2-3 days. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it quite incessantly.

Open City is really an opening into the mind of a Nigerian-German psychiatrist named Julius. I would describe Julius as a cosmopolitan. The entire book is an act of both literal and mental roving – Julius spends a lot of time walking around New York, and for a brief but powerful segment, Brussels, and lets his mind travel with him, crossing the borders of the present into the past too, which is Julius’ childhood in Lagos, Nigeria. Both these physical and intellectual wanderings are colored with Julius’ heightened intellectualisms and intense philosophizing. For instance, seeing a disabled man within the maze of New York City prompts a long-winded foray into Yoruba traditional myths and fantastical interpretations of the disabled. Because I, as a reader, spend so much time absorbed in Julius’ headspace, the act of walking through New York is shaded over with his presence ­– I become Julius. Not necessarily a biracial psychiatrist of course, but a cosmopolitan, and educated, mind. While reading the novel, an instance of eating the infamous Brooklyn Blackout at a bakery, voted the best chocolate cake of America, triggers an absurd thought of my brain itself becoming the sponge cake, eager to absorb as much sweet lushness from the layers and layers of culture and diverse narratives from the palimpsest that is the ‘cosmopolitan’ city.

It is true that I often feel a kind of desperate hunger to understand any cosmopolitan city I inhabit. There is a strange urgency in me, like the persistent press of a full bladder, to visit every single neighborhood, to understand the inner workings as quickly as possible, and to feel the security of knowledge, of yes, I know this place, I know the subway routes and the odd stories of a local or two, I may even have written it down and immortalized it, and therefore, I can lay a claim of belonging to it, somehow. This logic is faulty, of course. But although I have become aware of this, and learned to curb myself, the hunger itself still stays. It is a hunger to resolve the tensions of differences, sometimes so disparate to the point of inconsequential or bizarre, within my own brain. Or in other words, I seek for hyphens to make connections between things that don’t reconcile within my head. In this way, I also become Farouq, the Moroccan clerk-cum-political philosopher that Julius meets in Brussels. Farouq is enchanted by Edward Said, and his fantasy, or dream, is to figure out how people from different places can live together while keeping their own values intact.

Near the end of Open City, we learn of a disturbing ‘plot twist’ and our perception of Julius, and the thread letting us dangle as marionettes within his brain, is suddenly, violently snapped. It feels as if I cannot trust my own mind and its machinations anymore. Because I realize I have become not Julius or Farouq but the cosmopolitan experiment, and in one small shocking instant, it has failed. A sour, almost metallic taste fills my mouth, such a vivid physical sensation, as if to counteract the abrupt mental upending that has just occurred. As the sun spills onto the Bowery, as if from an upset jug, I walk down the street combing over the entire novel in my mind, simultaneously using and questioning the critical toolbox I carry with me, one constructed and afforded by elite education, the same kind that gives Farouq and Julius their Paul de Man, Said and Derrida. Farouq and Julius, to me, are failed cosmopolitans, and seem to mask this failure with the very theoretics that enables their cosmopolitanism to take shape. And if they are failures, I re-arrive, finally, at the question that keeps frothing inside me since I’ve come to this country: what am I?

Open City is also a novel full of silences and gaps. Recently, my friend Jiun, who is a history major, wrote a piece about how stumbling upon the history of mi koo buns, her Malaysian childhood breakfast dish, prompted her to think about how people, and bodies, carry layers of both loud and mute history, and are thus, archives. What was to her just a nostalgic traditional food, actually carried a violent history: “Decades ago, a young man who joined the Malayan Communist Party’s guerrilla army was caught by British soldiers and sent to prison, where he was tortured into a coma. His mother prayed for him every day at the River Goddess Temple on Temple Street, offering lotus flowers with incense sticks. One day, all the florists in town were out of lotus flowers. Desperate, the mother baked some Mi Koo buns, carved flowers on them, and presented these at the altar instead. The boy survived his coma.” The palimpsest of historical meaning within the “mute mi koo bun” has led her to a research process that reveals more silence and censorship than she could have initially imagined. And she is recognizing how much this silence speaks about our failures in history. In Open City, Julius spends much time discussing the histories that are both literally and metaphorically buried in New York City: Wall Street sits atop a mass grave of African slaves – an event an academic friend describes as a “double burial.” Another day, I learn at a poetry reading, where I have come to engage with a specifically literary, creative-critical crowd, that that site of the Bowery Poetry Club sits on Lenape land, forcibly taken from Native Americans, another buried history that Cole mentions in his novel.

Open City sees Julius discussing how everyone views their own selves as the center for calibrating what is ‘normal; in other words, we are the heroes of our own stories. It reminds me of the Rashomon tale and our inability to arrive at, or simply the non-existence of, truth when there are multiple narratives of the same thing that all regard themselves as the center, the right, the truth. If I am trying to become a cosmopolitan, to string my hyphens together into something meaningful and ideal, and accepted first of all, then how do I reconcile the Rashomon effect with my quest? How do different people who all think they are right and splinter in the face of difference, live together successfully while still retaining the shifts and differences in their identities all bumping together constantly? How can my cosmopolitanism work when it must face history, and engage with the violence that is so often silent, so often buried, within that history? How does cosmopolitanism not worry itself to death when history is always hovering over its neck?

One day at the AAWW office, my fellow editorial intern holds a ramen night to use as research for a piece on the significance of instant noodles in contemporary life. A bunch of us, each carrying purses of different hyphenated identities, bring in a variety of noodle brands, from Mama to Maggi, and sit for three hours boiling water and exchanging bowls of disintegrating noodle bricks. The office sputters with the hissing of kettles, and the slurping of broth. Over discarded plastic packets, strewn books and stray chopsticks, we talk about the role ramen has played in our lives. I tell them Maggi was an occasional childhood luxury whenever I visited India, and that I lived off ramen when I ran out of all my money while living in Paris. I had spent several days in an utter daze, thinking only of food and the want for filling myself. Later as I go home on the 6, lips scarlet from heat, I realize that, in a way, my hunger has never left.


Photo by Aditya Romansa

ode to kali uchis

you remind me to feel like
शहद, and i don’t need to translate
myself. you’re not afraid

of your body like i am
trying not to be, in the light
pouring into my bedroom, i do

dance to your music, feel
like i can be lovely, brown शक़्क़र
thick and holy and soft, tequila

miel y cafe, una mezcla;
you make me comfortable
with using my tongue, here

and there, i am so strange
in places, cloud born for sailing
i think i could taste

down to the pit of a cherry, smack
my sweet lips on society, dreamgirl
unpinnable, quick as a cigarette

temper, teeth sunk in the neck 
of a book, stories
make astronaut out of me, shoot

that little girl up to space,
factory where dreams are made, use
that crushed syrup of strings

and voice salted to caramel;
in my language, काली means darkgirl or
the divine feminine; i am called after her.

Image from “After the Storm” music video by Kali Uchis ft. Tyler the Creator

Ode to Growth: Interview with Moonga K.

When Frank Ocean first burst upon the shores of mainstream music, he brought nostalgia — quite literally. At the time of mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra’s release, a young boy on the cusp of 15, submerged in the angst and mis-belonging of puberty, listened to the track “American Wedding” from his room in Gaborone, Botswana.
“‘American Wedding’ really affected me. I discovered nostalgia. It made me realize I just wanted to tell stories,” says MOONGA K., now an indie-soul singer based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What was the nostalgia for, at such a young age? For MOONGA, it was the memories of his reggae-head dad, soaking in the offbeats and lazy happiness of the genre. And then there was his mother’s gospel. It was the TV blaring vh1 and ITV, where MOONGA learnt the blueprints of soul and RnB, as well as the zigzag emotions and ego that come with a celebrity musician’s lifestyle.

“I thank my parents for their freeness with music,” he states, reminiscing on the varying influences he absorbed throughout childhood. “I got obsessed with Robin Thicke. Then there was Aaliyah, Usher, Beyonce of course…Bilal was a big one. I watched him on Def Jam poetry and his voice was something I came to aspire to. What else? Erykah Badu. Her records were always playing. Gavin Degraw.” The slew of such powerhouse artists remain as beautiful stains on MOONGA’s own style. The blues and black soul are important characteristics of his music, which are vehicles or mirrors of the same grit, pain and passion once encapsulated by these artists and genres.

MOONGA describes his musical career so far as admittedly tumultuous. He started writing songs at just seven years old. “My dad had a garage band that practised everyday and so I was kind of inspired by that. It was difficult for me to find authenticity in my music at first. I would end up just unknowingly copying stuff I’d already heard.” But his talent was recognized frighteningly fast. A group of young men ran a recording studio across the street and soon became like big brothers to MOONGA. They taught him basic skills about recording and writing. “I was always writing poetry when I was young. Singing it was a difficult transition. But I learnt along the way.”

A self-described “ambitious kid”, at 14 MOONGA found himself failing biology. High school was a tumultuous and terrible time. But literature class was the one place of solace for him, amid the hellishness of grades and greed to fit in. Although students knew him as the “singer,” doing local shows often in the city, he was also a prolific writer. Teachers lent him books that continue to shape his way of thinking and molding stories — James Baldwin, Maya Angelou.

“My dad always made me aware of my blackness and the beauty of that blackness. In a very western-influenced environment, I was always reminded of my place as a black man. Reading Baldwin made me feel like i could be a figure like that,” he shares. A figure who used the mode of narrative, whether on the page or in music, to parse out his own identity and sense of place in the various habitats he found himself in.

Although born in Zambia, which remains the source of his ethnic roots, MOONGA traces the trajectory of his growth to his time in Botswana, a small, calm country that sits above South Africa. He lived here from the age of 3, before moving to Joburg for university. Botswana is a majority-black country but has a robust expat community. A former British protectorate, the country, like most, retains the faint stink of aspirations to whiteness and a Western lifestyle. MOONGA attended an international school, which exposed him to multicultural communities and mindsets. Even in a society that exerted pressure upon his beliefs and identity, he gained a strong sense of empathy, the kind that sought to transcend racial and cultural impositions and boundaries. Moving to South Africa as a young adult was an even more beautiful experience; it further opened up his attitudes and gave him new perspectives with which to approach different people and situations.

“I’m very opinionated and vocal,” he shares, his voice hardening with raised conviction. After graduating high school, he did a part-time teaching job at a local high school, where he found a lack of conversation surrounding social issues, especially those that surrounded young children still developing their own set of beliefs. “Mental health wasn’t talked about at all. Depression is still seen as taboo,” he describes. “I used to struggle a lot, and sometimes still do, but I didn’t have anyone to open up to. Now that I’m older, I want to prevent that from happening to others. A lot of the kids I taught were boys and they had a bit of a toxic masculinity thing going on, which was harmful. But they were just fragile children in the end. I tried my best to be a confidante.” It’s this same extension of trust and sharing that MOONGA offers now through his music. His days as a teacher may have ended, but that helping hand is still stretched out, like the metaphorical offering of vulnerability contained in African-American writer Claudia Rankine’s poetry. “There has to be an intersection, always, with my musicality and activism. I haven’t forced that; it’s been organic. I want to make shows that are safe for POC and LGBT communities. As public figures in the arts, we need to be vocal about social issues. We can’t segregate.”

Part of MOONGA’s musical platform is to let not only himself, but his listeners live and speak their own truths. Truth, that kaleidoscopic, slippery thing, is always refracted through everyone’s own differently-colored lenses. One event can have myriad interpretations. “I get messages from people who have had very different experiences of my music. And that’s fine, I want them to interpret things how they want,” he shares. “We’ve suppressed our vulnerabilities too long. Our generation has had enough.” And so, he seeks to be part of the catharsis that art and storytelling offer to people in helping themselves and others be more empathetic and compassionate.

This is partly why MOONGA identifies his target audience as mainly agemates, young people in their teens and 20s, dipping their toes, wide-eyed, into adulthood for the first time. “I make music for people who are trying not to care too much, including me…I’m not trying to be a role model. I want to be a person that young black boys can see and feel comfortable about their actions, and to be carefree while they’re at it. The thing about the arts is that we’re always looking for representation. I once found that in people like Prince. Prince was so free! He just did his thing. I’m still trying to figure that out for me, to exude that kind of confidence with my artistry.” And so, MOONGA makes music for the weird. Those young people who society may deem strange or outsiders, but still make the decision to not care about judgements, and to choose to be unapologetically honest about being themselves, even if they’re not sure of what or who that is.

Over time, the shy, troubled kid from Botswana has quickly matured into a more confident and outgoing artist, with music as his catalyst. “I’m more open to collaboration now, to conversations and input from others,” he explains. “At the same time, I’ve learnt to also be careful.” Ultimately, MOONGA strives to live and grow as his own artist, and is adamant about preserving his self-integrity and vision in an industry that can often morph into an imposing bully, mirroring society’s own troubles and injustices. “I tend to overthink a lot but I’m at a point now where I’ve become more nonchalant. I know my music will get to someone at some point.”

The next year holds possibilities for shows in different continents and the chance to encounter and work with artists from across the world. Close to September, MOONGA’s birthday month, is the release date of his next EP, titled An Ode to Growth, the sophomore to the previous RnB and pop-influenced Wild Solace EP. “I wanted to put out an eclectic work, to show my dynamic abilities. But I needed to decide what kind of artist I wanna be genre-wise. In this industry, you have to show consistent artistry. Wild Solace has helped inform my next project. The last 2 years have been a crazy rollercoaster of trying to show who I am with the music. And I think I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable with who I am.”

Find Moonga’s music on Spotify:

ars poetica

in the open city, i move like an eel. i am electric and curved like a smile razored. in the open city, i live on hot food and hot music. i distract myself from weight. in the open city, a man makes a rape inside the womb of a book, and fills it with hot air. the words never deflate. in the open city, a woman is free to lie. and i believe in wonderlands lying at the bottom of holes, and i believe in blackbrown alices that reach their destination. in the open city, translation is not sold in the shops like rope necklaces. in the open city, i fly without an electrical cord making me marionette. look there, some me has fallen and killed their darling self. in the open city, i am flâneuse venus never in retrograde, cinnamon brown flesh and moonless. in the open city, i am a queen on the chessboard, mobile as a dream or dictator. in the open city, memory is no cannibal but a child making jigsaw. in the open city, i can change colors. make blues into hot pink, my brains all alchemist.

Artwork by Sheila Hicks “Comets Sculpture, 2016-2018, (detail).” Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Noam Preisman.

mina port (abu dhabi, uae)

bodies froth
at the mouth
of mina zayed, oozing
sun

is a knife here, slits
into their flesh &
scales, debones
without asking
into plastic
wrapped sales:

for some dirhams,
men in shades
of flaccid arabic
dates, make feasts
out of creatures – common
oranges, fish, young

women, passing by
the smell, squirming
legs beneath skirts
pulled down by

those men, mirage
in their heads, glistening
meat, cut & priced
in rows like firangi
sunbathers
sweating on the lip

of this island: desert
smoothly filleted
by well-oiled palms.

Image sourced from Yalla Abu Dhabi.

an evening meal with langston hughes, william carlos williams, christopher columbus & lady liberty

I.
i fell into birth
licked down like
sand tongue, salivating
water toeing
against continent; i got me
a country this way

II.
middle of the map;
supposed to be

III.
my dream is painted
on the pavement smeared
with dog-shit; metropolis
sunlight striping my coat
and my face, turned up
to catch like a baseball
glove, cratered with the
blow of dream

IV.
i don’t want to depend, least
of all, on your red
wheelbarrow

V.
have you ever seen the veins
of a carrot? fine
sanded like arms
of tired woman, come down
for dinner, my mother
calls.

VII.
i didn’t do it well
the crowning, so they cut me
out, islanded me;
i’ve been taking my time to ferry
towards lady liberty
and her sharp, sharp
head.

Washington Square Park

Adella wondered if it was getting bad again. She had read a poem recently that called identity a “wet shirt” you had to pull over your head every morning. Yesterday, it rained in New York. She lost her umbrella in a café. After walking home, she peeled off her wet clothes slowly, and shivered. Her skin felt cold. Adella was tired. So tired. They say that the first thing you should check is the fundamentals: are you sleeping regularly and enough? Are you having solid, healthy meals three times a day? Are you moving? Instead, Adella thought about the last time she had hugged someone.

On Friday, Adella went to get ramen with Usha, her roommate. The sun was out and they talked about wanting it to stay, to wipe the city clean and keep them warm enough to forget about layering. On the way to the restaurant, they passed Washington Square and decided to weave through the park to look at the pinkening sky and to feel people around them, relaxed and drunk on good weather. Adella thought it could be contagious. She could catch a good mood, cup it in her palms like a firefly, and make it stay. She wanted it to congest her lungs, stuff up her breathing, dwarf her thoughts like the pain of a migraine. Adella asked the spring to consume her.

They stopped at a booth by the fountain where you could read handwritten stories about strangers, talking about their lives in New York City. Over an old white lady’s shoulder , Adella read about someone’s rape. On the next sheet, someone had written that they were about to move to Paris for a girl. He didn’t even speak French but she was ecstatic, and “that’s all there is.”

Behind the booth, a couple was sitting on the ground playing music. They looked at each other often, smiling intermittently, their heads softly nodding to the beat. A large circular case lay open in front of them, with a shallow pool of coins at the bottom. Adella broke from the crowd and walked over to them. She secretly loved steel pan music. It sounded like rain, like light itself was raining, falling in cascading, polyrhythmic drops. It made Adella want to be in love. She was a little bit in love already, but being in love, as many know, is not enough on its own, like making a stew with only one ingredient.

The musician couple grinned at the crowd, and the man yelled:

“We’re just trying to pay for our brunch tomorrow!”

His hand broke from the melody to point towards the case with money.

“We’re not homeless or anything. Just trying to enjoy ourselves!”

Their palms fell gently on the pans, and Adella’s face craned up to look at the last gaps of light between the leaves, before night came.

There is a French film called Blue is the Warmest Color where the protagonist experiences a coup de foudre, a lightning bolt or love at first sight, on the street, while steel pans play in the background. As the two girls cross the street and look at each other, the rain of light from the drums pitches upwards, falling heavier but the sounds themselves thinning into smaller pinpricks. The sun is out. In an earlier scene of the movie, the protagonist sits in a French literature class. The professor asks the students, when you see someone, in a moment of coup de foudre, is there something less or more in your heart? Have you gained something or have you lost something? Adella thought about this question a lot. She had seen the film several times now.

The next day it rained again in New York, an irritating, indecisive drizzle. In her room, Adella found another poem on her Twitter feed. It talked about a study where baby monkeys “were given a choice/between a wire mother with milk/& a wool mother with none” and in the end, they chose “to starve & hold the soft body.” Adella took off her clothes, dampened, and waited for her limbs to warm up.

Image from the film “Blue is the Warmest Color”, dir. by Abdellatif Kechiche