Jul 2, 2010
We have been, we are, travelling. We are in a state of travel. Dispossessed, half-asleep, gripped by other worlds (Moroccan spiced coffee, of which my bag now smells, and the distant Irish troubles of the 1920s, of which I have been reading), totally and utterly outside the moment and space we’re actually in.
We are however capable of looking towards the future: what will we have for dinner? Probably Chinese, or else pizza – and someone will deliver it swiftly and practically wordlessly to our house, and we will not say shokran, nor will the man who delivers our dinner expect anything, or see any disparity (class, colour, religion) between us and him. Our street will seem miraculously wide and the drunks exceptionally loud and we will for awhile miss (or at least unconsciously feel the lack of) the five calls to prayer, particularly the one just before dawn. Perhaps we will wake then, each of us, silently, without even knowing the other, too, is conscious of the quiet hour. We will hear the yelp of bicycle wheels or the moan of an errant car alarm, and then, comforted by this intrusion of noise, we will sleep again, through the dawn, too late, wake bathed in hot light, angry, minds elsewhere.
There is no possibility of jet-lag (no time difference, not that I was ever even vaguely aware of the time as we traipsed through the medina), but we will pretend that we’re travel-weary and in doing so, convince ourselves that we are travel-weary and jet-lagged after all, and people will know how to interpret the haze in our eyes, for we will say, ‘Oh yes, we’ve been in Morocco’. I despair of how that will sound – arrogant, perhaps? Though we hardly mean for it to.
It’s just that the way time moves alarms me. On the way to the airport, we say glibly that it hardly seems a week could possibly have passed since we were on the way to the medina, and I’m reminded of a dream I had shortly before we left, in which we departed and then suddenly I found myself returning, thinking, ‘but that was so quick, and we hardly did anything we said we would!’
Everything, really, is a variation of that dream – how else did I arrive at the age of 23, when just yesterday I was 20, and travelling back from Fés with a newfound lover, making lists in the back of my notebook of the furniture I would have to buy in order to furnish my apartment in Boston when I got back in September; and crying at the ending of John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things, when really I meant to cry at my predicament, at the seeming impossibility of being parted by an ocean (not to mention a thousand yards of red tape, a thousand pounds, a thousand moments of yearning and wishing and resenting) from my love. Three years ago? No, that was three minutes ago, or else three centuries ago. We live always on dream-time, moving through molasses, or being propelled at the speed of light through our own experiences.
…and here we are now. Replicating the journey physically at least, though now I make no lists, because the house in Oxford is already full of our things (mostly our books), because I have a visa that makes my life there valid. “Oh September, where did you go?” is the refrain of the song I’m listening to, and oh how often I find myself thinking that! Without even knowing which September I mean. Perhaps I mean the first September I ever saw – how would I know? And what difference could it possibly make? It was September and now it is not and soon enough it will be again – this is an inevitable, unvarying truth. Leaves will fall again from the cherry trees in our garden and I will sit mournfully in my study and say, “Oh June, where did you go?” – wondering how the green could fade so fast.
Speaking of which, where did June go? For already it is July and Wimbledon is nearly over and soon our friends’ son will celebrate his first birthday, when this time last year he was only an idea, crouching in his mother’s body, a being who both did and did not exist as we took a break from our investigations into the life and writings of P.G. Wodehouse to eat cold fruit and watch the tennis, while outside on Plantation Road the elderly shuffled past, gasping in the heat, sweat forming in the ravines of their facial wrinkles. September indeed!
(Later I think how funny: for although we’ve been travelling all day, I am now inexplicably, unexpectedly, in England, at home, as if I had been moved like a chess piece from one place to another, as if the time and space between there and here had been erased.)