Michael De Cock explains

When you called me chéri for the first time, a shiver went down my spine. It was not a pet name, thrown at me from a distance, but a word, meant for my ears only, that cut through Brussels’ cold winter air. You repeated it a couple of days in a row. And for that same number of times you made me believe that the word was meant for me, and not for all the men in this city. And each time I didn't know where to look, my eyes sought out the tiles on the doorstep. However vulnerable you may be, it is on the street that you are the strongest. There’s no doubt about that. A female colleague told me with a smile that it is probably only in these few streets of the city that men are not only hunters, but also prey.

By the café on the corner of the street is where our paths usually cross. I never see you by the stately facade of the theatre, standing beneath the entrance like some of your colleagues do, but in the narrow street between KVS and Théâtre National, on Jacqmainlaan. You wander around there in that anonymous piece of no man’s land, in the shelter of the grand boulevard. It’s a strange piece of the city, with a small garden and a piano on the street that denote an urbanity that is as hopeful as it is naive. Do you feel at home here? Many people hate this city, but many of those who know it love it. I belong firmly to the second category. Gerardo Salinas, city dramaturge in this theatre, who grew up in Buenos Aires, explained to me that you have organic cities and orchestrated cities. Brussels is clearly an example of the former, although it must be said that this luxurious, unfettered sprawl also has its disadvantages. Ugliness and vulgarity, to name but a few. And just as it is crass to be infatuated with ignorance, so is it crass to be infatuated with losing control.

We go out into the city with the theatre. And we bring the city into the theatre. I wanted to tell you that, even if it’s probably irrelevant to you out there on the street. You are the first part of the city to walk towards me. When I throw open the doors of the theatre, then I see you. Or sometimes, now and then, I sit in a local cafe after a rehearsal beside one of your colleagues, part of a group having a quick break and discussing everything and nothing. In a certain way, you are a symbolic piece of the city. A symbol of desire and loneliness. Intimacy and anonymity. You are not at the top of the social ladder, and neither is the person visiting you. I sometimes dare to believe that deep inside, it is more loneliness than passion that drives them. Or am I mistaken in this? Anyway, in the big city it is impossible to be more anonymous than when with you. But let us not paint an over-romanticised picture of you and your colleagues’ presence in the streetscape. It’s tough outside. “And what image does it create for those young people of the great city who are now already supposed lost, sir?” someone asked me not so long ago.

Sometimes I am overcome by an immense sadness. I already experienced this as a child. It’s not a thought, there’s nothing causing it; it’s simply a wave that washes over me. Have you experienced this too? The fear is about something deep and fundamental. But sometimes I am also filled with a lightness. I recently went to watch my daughter’s football match. She was playing against a team in which Stacey and Chelsea were playing. I cannot explain to you why this gave me a sense of joyous fulfilment. It was as if time and space no longer seemed elusive and endless, but were coinciding in a single moment. And my seven-year-old son wants to be an inventor. He’s been saying that for ages now. Rocket shoes, or air shoes. Shoes that allow you to fly, abd dusaooear very quickly. Where do these kinds of children’s dreams come from? And when do they get lost? What did you dream of when you were a child? Do you have children? And can you combine them with your work? If you’d like to, then we could meet up sometime for a chat, for lunch perhaps. I’m not such a big fan of it myself, but in my sector people love going out for lunch and having meetings. You can also respond with a letter, if that would suit you. Letter writing, it is a tradition that having gone out of date, much to my regret. But then again, you may simply cast me a sole word in the sinking spring sun.