Sometimes I get the feeling that the world outside my bedroom window is disappearing. A dog barks in the near distance and I can imagine it being carried away by the dark arms of time. First only its barking is erased, there is nothing to return the echoes, and then gradually every hair on it is erased. In the midst of this loneliness everything becomes subject to de-emphasis.
Let us go down to a place called Mandrakos.
I know I have walked down this street a million times but fifteen years later it feels like I am here for the first time. The classic nostalgia does not get to me and apart from someone who once knew me by my surname everything else conspires to exclude me from this place. A lot of memories stayed behind, some will come to me when I’m writing but it is usually the same event from a different perceptive. It’s like trying to remember a movie you watched while you were young, you try to remember the details and the narrative but they never congeal; always a few details of faces retracting back to the background. Those movies were a defence: I was a storeaway in a time capsule where the destination did not matter.
The arrangement of houses is the same. The highest house is a one story building, a combination of wood and MRM mabati. It doesn’t become immediately apparent, since all attention is directed on what is directly ahead of you, but this low lying tenements give you a wide view of the open sky and you can hear your synapses working hard to connect this image from another one in the archives.
These could be the same dogs and cats chasing each other in the alleyways, there is no way of telling. I think dogs and cats never really leave this world. I always see the same dogs and cats wherever I go.
Nothing stirs in my mind. The smells are not new because they have always been there wherever I go. I walk to the other sections until I make a 360° and I am back at the church. Holy Trinity Catholic Church. I was baptized here, the assistant to the archbishop also anointed me at these very steps. There is an old photograph of the event at home and in it I am looking to the side instead of the podium. Even then I look like I was lost in some delirium of my own. I don’t know how possible it is to discern delirium from the handsome face of a young boy but there is something in my eyes that suggests chaos.
And then it dawns on me, what if the chaos prevented me from storing away any memories? How could it be possible to lie down memories like flowers in a garden to grow and bloomwhen my mind was in such a state? I was not in any plateau, not in any state where the seeds of memory could find a steady, fertile ground to germinate.
Of course, that is just one hypothesis. There is much that can be said as counterevidence. Mind you, I have been reading Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka On The Shore’. I cannot imagine reading two Murakami novels back to back. It takes too much energy and courage to explore one’s loneliness like that. But chances are I will pick up ‘Sputnick Sweetheart’ tonight.
The other idea, the antithesis if I may use the term loosely, is that there was nothing to tuck away in the archives of remember. There was nothing worth the trouble of remembering, I think to myself. How many waves break against the shore and how many have been recorded?
a) the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms
b) the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition.
It seems highly possible that I suffer from recall without recognition. I must have become a different person at some point because if I have any memories at all they don’t date back to that time. I can reconstruct some events and link them together but deep down I know it’s all just a farce, those events belong to that young man, not to me. When I walk down that alley I must’ve been recollecting the history of another organism that must have died, whose story involved watching dogs and cats disappear into the alleyways, whose late afternoons were spent looking out the window at passersby run to shelter from the rain, whose heaven was an open, cold expanse of clouds, whose nights involved dreaming about the arms of another time and another place.
There was this illusionist who carried around a defective device and charged ten cents for anyone who wished to look down into another time. He promised a sort of imaginarium. His dressing was peculiar, his breath awful. We all wanted to look into the device so bad because it afforded us the leisure of being lied to, we were desperate to be lied to. How busy we were trying to forget. A man such as I am cannot claim the leisure of forgetting. How certain I’m I that there was anything to begin with?
Once in a while I meet a stranger whose language reminds me of that time but I have made it a habit of ignoring such people. He offers to sit with me on a park bench. He looks at my magazine and strikes up a conversation. When his lips move his words are transparent, I can see through them. Then I realize that although I can see through the words I cannot hear them. Time conspires to torture me, to laugh at me.
Those clouds lingered above Mandrakos. I never saw them come but I always watched them leave. They were the burden of our collective memory. They were there to relive us of our inability to retain the rubbles of time. And what are we except the rubbles of time?
As I listen to Duke Ellington’s ‘Melancholia’ as idea comes to mind. Memory as .mp3. It works with music. The power of music to induce nostalgia, to remind us of our existence, is contained in its ability to be stored exactly like it was at the beginning. The same arrangement of keys on the piano, never changing. That is what I need. A device to store the keys of my unending love for the obscure in perfect condition, a testament of my existence.
a) the fear and inability to deconstruct what has been.
The world outside my bedroom materializes in the morning. Dawn has been an ever present phenomenon that I have forgotten how to be wowed by its ability to give birth to the world outside my bedroom. Time can only offer to carry me in its travelling arms.
In an attempt to fall in love with myself I pick up ‘Eloisa to Abelard’.