On the names of things – Part II

There was a domestic dispute in the block of flats across from mine last night. I was washing dishes when I heard screaming and fragile things breaking and grunting.

It began in one of the apartments that faces mine, the balcony door open to the warm night, the argument therefore audible, and later continued in the stairwell. At no point did I see those involved – when it was upstairs I could see only the white of the living room wall; when it continued downstairs, I could see only shadows cast across the driveway by the amber light in the stairwell entrance.

It was the screaming, worried screams from a child or a young woman, that drew me outside, where I waited and listened. The men argued, something broke; the child or girl pleaded for her father to stop.

“You’re a dog,” one of the men said.

Most of their words, the low and guttural fighting words of men, caught in the thick night air.

“You’re a dog,” he said. “Dog. You’re a dog. Dog. Dog.”

When it is day, I see the man who lives in the apartment hanging his clothes out to dry.

On the names of things

Only when writing do I wonder about the names of things. I haven’t been writing so I haven’t been wondering about the names of things. Of course I have been writing, but not the kind of writing where I wonder about the names of things.


A young man squats out of the sun as he smokes and stares hardfaced through the glass fence of his balcony. The city is both ten stories below and stretching to the sky around him. The young man, barely a man, more a boy, rests his thin arms on his knees and lets the cigarette burn between his fingers. He wears shorts and a t-shirt that hangs loose around his neck and looks like he’s from, I don’t know, rural China, perhaps – somewhere he remembers as uncomplicated. I wonder if this way he sits, balancing on his toes and sitting on his haunches, has a name – in Chinese and if there is an acceptable English translation – so I can write it down and that would be my secret reason for writing this piece.