Friday, 27 March 2009

Landing at Orly, Paris the day before was uneventful. The passenger bus from the airport took us along dull, curved highways for some time before entering the city proper, its roads slick with black rain, the persistent drizzle seemingly haven driven all its inhabitants away. As we passed walled parks and curving ascents of nestling apartment blocks I saw almost no-one. Into the Metro and into the treacherous underground, so different from Berlin's subterranean trains, but in ways I cannot fathom. Perhaps it is the light from the carriages as they are thrown against the close walls, luminous, ghostly graffiti streaking past. All the words are written in white, like those deep-sea creatures who have no light and therefore no need for colour. Every now and again arches and tunnels peeled away from the main tracks, running out to different destinations.

What is it to arrive somewhere? There is a learning of course, but also a shattering of expectations. Where does the fatigue associated with travel come from? Is it not from a heightened state of anxiety, a preparation for mental rewiring? When streets look different to how your imagination conceived them, a dual process takes place in which structures are reformed and associations are made. The process of remembering is impaired, perhaps, in those who expect too much, who expect a lot and – inevitably – are challenged in their assumptions.

Could it be that I, who remembers so little, can fall behind this as an excuse? I remember so little, because I am fearful, because I try to predict everything? Every new place is a disconcertment, an illusory negative of what presided before in my head. Obvious, then, that I should remember very little – my act of experiencing is one of rewriting and replacing rather than absorption. An act in which erasure precedes information is a process with one step too many.

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