The Old Familiar Places
posted Sunday, 23 December 2007
It was like drowning in memories.
Surely not that cliché about the whole of your life flashing by your eyes as you suffer death by drowning? I could rarely remember much about my life at the best of times – but like most people, memories of things reside on some back burner waiting for their turn to take a curtain call.
But my memories were fast asleep dreaming of things not themselves. Memories with memories of their own. False memories. My real memories having unreal memories as dreams. A concept I could hardly grasp.
I’d rather depend on the old familiar places rather than places that never ever existed other than in the pipe dreams of those very familiar places hatching up unfamiliar places for themselves. Unfamiliar places disguised as familiar ones. Unfamiliar, I claim, because, they never existed. Until now.
I look out from inside my head away from these thoughts on paper. And wonder if I am the same person who wrote them down. I look down again to read them – and the print has changed in the meantime. The words now say different things from what I originally intended. Except they seem to be the same words, but words with different meanings – and when they are linked together in what I can only describe as sense-patterns, they keep flashing from one narrative sense to another, like a pulse. Or a strobe. Memories strobing. Faster and faster.
Could I really be drowning in memories? The words seem to indicate that I am drowning in memories. Slowly enough to record the process. But too quick to understand what is going on.
People’s faces flashing by. Loves and hates interchanging. Various stages of myself stripped out in separate essences of self, none connected between. The only consistency is the ladder or tear in the very texture of the words as laid out on the page. They seem to be dividing like a Red Sea to leave an emptiness among the sense-patterns. A false syntax. A gap-strewn paragraph of thoughts and mis-thoughts. Memories taking over my mind with a force my mind can’t withstand even though it is the same mind that is creating this strange onslaught on itself.
One of the faces flashing by in the stream of consciousness I drown in is you.
Simply that. The whirling onslaught slows to a silent last gasp of meaning. A face I recognise. It starts out, however, as a face without a feature. A white empty plate or recently emptied bowl. Then gradually a couple of eyes prick out. Wide rolling eyeballs that radiate an expression of knowing. Knowing me, if not itself. I say ‘it’ because there is no other word for a gradually emerging ghost of a person.
Once it’s fleshed out by the ever-building flashes of identity that become stuck to it then I can begin to decide on you or he or she or me. I suggest me because I’m not yet convinced it’s not a mirror that I see flashing into a steady state of existence around my face. Steady state rather than an explosion or implosion of a big bang.
I look down at the words again. I leave the slowly emerging features of the face (your face? my face?) to thicken and define themselves.
I feel the words may give me some clue as to the true resemblance of the face to whom or to what. The face itself is deceiving me as well as itself. Only the words can tell. The words will tell me who it is. And I notice that the crack in their texture has widened as if the tectonic plates of the sense-patterns are ever shifting to reveal a more meaningful pattern that is a white shape rather than a set of words describing a shape. A real shape rather than a shape imagined by the words I write.
The whitening crack discards letters as if they are dead insects while it lays the paragraph into a flatland of nothingness. Alphabets fall off the edge of the paper like dead lemmings in full zombie flight.
I shriek inwardly with fear. I seem to be heading towards some old familiar places that I once inhabited but had long since put out of my mind’s memory for fear of returning to them in the full flood of true present memory. Memories that are forming as new memories even as I think them.
When does a memory become a memory? What is the time lapse needed to make a present event into a memory. A new unfamiliar place into an old familiar place. Place or face. Because a face is a sort of place. It has its own geography, its own secret alleys and hidden corners. Its own inhabitants sitting behind the eyes as if these eyes are windows to some apartments in a city’s high rise property.
The little people look from the two eyeball windows in the face, their own eyeballs rolling in their heads as they see some old familiar places for the first time. One hangs a huge rubbery nose between the two eyes as if hanging out a flag for a jubilee or something like a jubilee. A mardi gras. Or a fancy-dress festival that the city holds every year. The city is a strange one to them. It’s certainly not one of their pet old familiar places.
Faces that find themselves in a foreign place.
I have taken my eye off the ball. The words have escaped my pen into new uncontrolled configurations of syntax and non-syntax, with an ever-widening gap or crack that forces me to disbelieve that any meaning at all can bridge such a hiatus.
And, in despair at controlling the words, I have raised the head where I live, indeed raised it towards the ceiling, rising not with mere sight to see the rivers of geography in its cracked white plaster surface (otherwise blank) - but the head actually rising in the air along with the sight itself to see the ceiling close up.
Either my neck has elongated like a giraffe or the head has actually separated itself to float up towards the ceiling.
One particular crack in the ceiling is so deep I can see daylight through it. And my sight or the head that carries the sight escapes through it into the open air – and I am a mere speck of consciousness being wafted by the wind. At least I am safe from those words now. And from the old familiar places of meaning that each word familiarly contains, despite the horror that they would otherwise convey with the unfamiliar meanings that they felt themselves duty-bound to convey to the unwary such as I who releases them on to the page.
Each dot, each pixel of the marks is just another me. Just another beginning of a face. Drowning in memories, in anarchic thoughts and in the forgotten white airinesses of space where familiarity breeds contempt for any steady state or big bang. Because neither is right. The old peculiar place of dreams dreaming dreams that represent our existence, yours and mine. The place that launched a thousand … no, an infinite number of familiar faces towards their inevitable sinking and drowning in the white water frenzy of words.
I stop writing. Then true horror. Because I don’t stop but carry on beyond the end and reach a new end that still doesn’t stop me because the internet knows no ends, only a weave of spiders who try to break my fall.