Bad Weather pool, Rotterdam 2019.
Courtesy of researcher: Carlos Salinas Rodriguez.

Katherine Macbride
~ The Weather*

I am sitting in the consulting room. The person is taking my history. There are several breakdowns in communication going on. Medical records are not here, neurotransmitters are too slow too fast, words are failing, words cannot be made. I’m speaking Dutch but the clumsily adopted language is not the main issue, my mother language is differently unreliable in the cognitive fog where I don’t trust what I am saying. Making words makes my head hurt. There’s been a fire in the frontal lobes that the tears are misplacedly trying to put out. In one of the several long moments where the person leaves the room to bring back another paper with a different communicative power—a prescription, a phone number scribbled down, my almost empty dossier—I receive a text from  a colleague asking if ‘rotterdammer’ is spelled with two ems in English or one. I text back the following day to suggest keeping two and to ask for time off work.

The next time I see the health professional whose job title is a perplexing simple noun and whose employing company is a workshopped adjective, she asks me about work and money and I talk about self-employment. I get too many emails advertising Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, followed by an email from Witte de With asking me, Katherine, to give on Giving Tuesday. I haven’t sent an action email in a while.

An early sign of the storm is when I hear the shipping forecast on the radio when I can’t sleep and I’m sure but not sure that it says the storm will lose its identity and then I’m not sure but sure I’m losing my mind. Other warning signs are chat group paranoia and marking of but not responding to emails. Text messages are burning. I don’t go to the Kick Out Zwarte Piet protest because the storm makes land the day before, but I see the texted photos and the official pre-action emails reminding me to wear warm clothes followed by their lengthy post-action siblings—reports on counter protests and policing that are a litany of violence and aggression told in a language of non-violence and legal fees fundraising with a planned debriefing to come.

The structure for this column was agreed in a time before the last weeks when the weather felt different. There was residual heat from the fossil-fuel-fried summer, at least in the skin’s memory, and the frontal lobes were holding on, poorly maintained deluge defences. The structure for this column is a weather report, writing the weather based on what arrives to my inbox and app interfaces, seeing what this data stream is saying when it pulls me under as a flood or arrives in a single beautiful droplet that magnifies something of the world. The form will change with the light, the blowing wind, and the wetness; the atmospheric pressure, the sea levels, and the water table. The weather understands the weather as personal and political, locally and unequally experienced but inseparably global; indicative of underlying patterns yet open to flurries of the unexpected, out of character or time.

*Rotterdam, early December 2018

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