What is Flash Europa 28?



Face to Face

S, Y, D. He looked around the metro car. He was eagerly anticipating the next station – the stream of people getting on and off – fresh merchandise whose labels he was keen to inspect.

Finally the metro train came to a stop. A young woman got on. He peered into her face and a slight smile spread across his lips. A vowel? He checked out her facial features again – straight thin lips, eyes aligned and set rather closely together, just like her eyebrows. Her cheekbones were impossible to overlook, especially because the left one created a protracted shadow – as if the painter’s hand had gotten away from him. He mentally connected the most striking points on her face. The lines that he drew in his mind formed the letter E. To these imaginary lines he inscribed his next revelation then looked away from the darkened window of the metro car in dissatisfaction. It’s not enough.

Into his field of vision entered a man holding the hand of his chubby little son. The boy was lapping at some pink ice cream, which was trickling down his pudgy fingers and dripping onto the floor. He had a featureless little face that filled up the centre of his round head. There was no doubt he was the letter O. The boy was being watched reproachfully by an elderly lady. The unflattering light of the metro car accentuated the contorted wrinkles on her forehead, her stern eyebrows with their ends curling upwards, and both corners of her mouth pointing towards the floor, where the boy’s strawberry ice cream was now coalescing into a sticky puddle. The rounded tip of her nose was the last point he needed to make out the letter M. A ripple of excitement shot through his body. He took a notebook from his pocket, jotted down all the letters he had collected on the ride and snapped it shut triumphantly. At the next stop he quickly got out.

The apartment door creaked annoyingly as he opened it and stepped inside. The flat was littered with crumpled papers. He swept away the ones on the table — except for the clean white one, onto which he intently transcribed all the letters he had collected. They had already began to take the shape of words. He composed them and then took them apart again in order to use every single one. He knew that this was the only way he could express the feeling that had been burdening him for so long. He had to borrow the words of others.

He wrote for a long time, as in a dream, but the pen finally stopped. He was almost alarmed at the deafening silence, which he became conscious of once his thoughts stopped running wild and the pen interrupted its dance across the paper.

He rose from his chair and headed for the door. But before he went out he looked at the paper once more, reading what he had hastily pieced together from the borrowed letters:

I’ll never forget the moment I first saw you and realized that I couldn’t decode your secret – your intriguingly beautiful face, your soft lips and the beauty mark on your right cheek. Please come tonight to the fountain on the square. I must meet you

He finished reading the text, but something was still missing. An ending? He read the lines again. His face brightened. He felt a sense of relief when the logical explanation suddenly became clear. Then and there she lost her magic. The enigma that had been teasing his thoughts and emotions vanished. Like a church restorer, he stripped away the façade and found the answer behind it – a fresco, which had been there all along only it couldn’t be seen, only he had not been aware of it. She was not a letter at all. He took the paper, balled it up and threw it into the sea of crumpled papers. She was what brought the story to an end. A full stop.


Artwork credit: 
潘星月, Beijing Film Academy

Our Partners

Flash Europa 28 is organised and run in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to China, the embassies of each of the 28 EU member states, The Bookworm, Literature Across Frontiers, and social media platforms in China.