Questions about a baoan (after Barthelme)

How long has the baoan been at his post? Does the baoan have a slight ache in his jaw? Where does the baoan put the cloth after he’s washed his feet? Does the baoan remember his dreams? Last night, did the baoan become briefly aware of the grainy texture of his pillowcase as he drifted off into dreamless sleep? When on waking the baoan sees out of his window the same quarter of grey apartment block, and the same half obscured pine tree he’s seen for the past fourteen months, does the baoan feel depressed? Does the baoan tell anyone about it? Does the boaan have a favourite song? Why does the baoan have a slight discolouration on his lower, left thigh?  Has the baoan ever won a competition? Does he own any certificates, where does he keep them, and in how much detail can he recall winning them? Does the baoan dread seeing anyone? Does the baoan enjoy a well polished surface? What does the baoan’s laughter sound most genuine? Does the baoan pay attention to the mist forming on the window of his hut? Has the baoan ever seen a beach, has the baoan met an architect or eaten tuna? Is the baoan afraid of balloons? Which word does the baoan use most frequently? When the baoan last spoke to his parents, how long was it for? Did he speak to one parent for longer? State owned oil firm Sinopec made a 500 million dollar purchase of a shale oil gas field in eastern Canada – does the baoan know about this? Does the baoan know who his country’s four largest trading partners are? Does the baoan regularly attend meetings? Who goes to the baoan’s meetings? When the baoan arrives at work, is there a small stack of cards waiting for the baoan to stamp? Does the baoan collect anything? Where does the baoan spend his days off? Has the baoan ever held or looked at a hammer? Has the baoan ever ripped out a page from a book? Has the baoan stolen anything? Did the baoan apologise? When and how did the baoan apply for his job? If the moment came, is the baoan prepared for the chasing, restraining and shouting which his job requires? Who cleaned the baoan’s clothes? What does the baoan think as he slips his trousers on?

Photo: Jeremy O’Sullivan.

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