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I'm Not the Director!

Dreamed October 1961 by Federico Fellini

I am the Director of an airport. A very large plane filled with passengers lands in the middle of the night. I get ready to greet the passengers from behind my table in an immense terminal room with glass walls. Beyond them, I can see lit runways and the large shape of the airplane that has just landed. I get ready to greet the passengers. As the top man in the airport, I also run the Immigration Office. They've all deplaned. Tired from the trip and sitting on benches along the walls, they all wait for me to gesture them over to my table. Dream sketch by Fellini: he dreams he's director of an airport but denies it to a mysterious traveler.

One of the passengers strikes me more than the others. He's standing over to one side all alone without luggage. When he approaches my table, I notice he's wearing a fancy, worn kimono which gives him a stately, raggedy appearance. Everything about him shows and is, in contrast, like him. The definitely Mongolian Oriental features express great, regal and miserable dignity. It could be the face of an Emperor, of a prophet, of a Saint, but also one of a gypsy, of a wayfarer, of a strolling player who's become indifferent to disdain and suspicion through long habit to mortification and misery. His hands hidden in long sleeves of his kimono, his eyes closed, the foreigner waits my decision in silence.

I am overcome by an indefinable feeling. This character fascinates me and communicates a kind of restlessness I cannot control. The other passengers over there say nothing. They're a dark, silent, indistinct mass. The airport terminal is immense. The passenger is motionless, standing straight in front of me with his greasy, dirty hair; with the kind of smell vagabonds have...the ugly smell of wet rags, of soaked leaves, of dirt. And, at the same time, with that strange, disturbing aristocratic glow. He opposes my discomfort and very emotional insecurity with the definite, inequivocable reality of his arrival and presence.

What should I do? The man doesn't speak, doesn't ask for any intervention, doesn't ask questions: he just waits calmly with the confidence of someone identifying himself with an unavoidable event of destiny. It's true. The circumstance doesn't concern him, it concerns me. I'm the one who must decide if he can enter or not. He did what he had to. Now it's up to me. All he had to do was to arrive and now he's here.

The suspicion that the situation is so inevitable increases my discomfort, my state of malaise. I stammer some hypocritical excuses, heat up assuring him I'm not really the Airport Director and the decision doesn't depend on me. It depends on other, more competent, more important people. I stall, try to avoid the situation, keep coming up with justifications and childish lies which are less and less convincing. I'm more and more embarrassed until I become silent, seized by a confused, suspended feeling of shame. A great silence falls on everything.

I feel as if so much time had gone by... the unreachable, impenetrable, dusty and gleaming Oriental is still there in front of me, waiting. But for how long? I've lowered my head and stare at the little rectangular plaque on my desk with the words "THE DIRECTOR" on it with a discomfortable feeling of ironic self-pity. Are the others still there? And the mysterious passenger from the Orient? Is he still waiting?

I don't dare raise my head and slowly form this thought: what am I afraid of if I do raise my eyes? To find the foreigner still there or not to find him at all anymore?

SOURCE: Dreamworks: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly (v.1, no.1, spring 1980, p.5-7)

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