Foxx is right, of course. We can never leave, and we travel towards a destination that we can never know.
Strange how moments last so long, always with us long after they’re gone. They linger, and return. Coming and going on the tide , taking different forms.
We are all ‘several different people, leading different lives simultaneously’ and we step incidentally, unconsciously and accidentally between them.
Our experiences stay with us, as memories, regrets, photographs, notes in journals – becoming more or less tangible according to the tides of situation. It is inevitable.
I am led gently into the city inhabited by an Earlier Man, walking through it as if it were an art gallery, where the smells and sounds are exhibits on the walls in a network of rooms, where sea and sunset become one, the future dipping slowly behind the horizon of the past. I can hear a translucent piano. Delicate notes, hesitant, with the softest of echoes, as if the pianist is cautious of breaking the keys.
She is alongside me for a moment. Almost there. A trace of perfume brings back the memory of laugh. A photograph. Her silhouette moves across the dimness, temporarily cooling me.
The sound of rain and passing cars. Systems of Romance. Dancing, like a gun. Shattered fragments. The Garden. Some kind of miracle.
I am utterly absorbed. The narrative, with its measured tones of frustration, regret and despair is faultless. Repeats my own and reflects my thoughts. There is longing and sadness – a man looking for something that he has convinced himself is there, but you suspect that he really knows it has gone. The passion of a lover perhaps, an empty relationship. A phone call that will never be made. Standing in the dark.
Memories. Ghosts. Rooms. Music.
Ah. Music. More intense now, and somehow familiar. I feel like this and I experience it as he reads – the jolt of reality as if awakening from a dream. Every avenue seems uncertain, though a little more tangible than it did previously. Solid shapes are forming in the dim, underwater light – there is an ocean within and beyond the case I am holding. I can breathe the ocean, and see automobiles slowly sinking down to the sand. Mermaids. Sirens. Lovers
There is an urgency in this story, and I detect now a sinister, more challenging tone. The despair of the earlier passage has been overtaken by movement and a sense of purpose. The balance between reader and pianist is an immaculate judgement – as one swims free of his skin, the other rises, lightens and increases its intensity. He moves towards the surface where the water is thinner, and cleaner, and brighter. Sunlit notes flicker as if made of glass, like tiny fish.
I am sharing the immensity of his story – vast cities, oceans and era. Constructed and carved from living rock. Nature’s concrete. I am no longer aware of whether I am still below the water or above it? The abstract hymn of the ocean, carried on huge, tidal bass notes that form an ever changing current of sound. Architecture and Desire. Merging. Fading…
I have become outside again. I must have somehow drifted here, into a decaying, shifting city, where all has become strangely insular. There is a storyline, a corridor instead of a vast hall. Direction is encouraged.
I’ve been here before. When I was a man and she was a woman, gentle and unassuming. I wore my favoured Grey Suit, and it envelops me again, with anonymity, memory and invisible feelings. I feel relaxed, calm and confident. The fabric of the suit is a map of my Lost City, the place where I began. An Earlier Man in my clothes walked here, through Oxford, London and Paris. The cartography of my lifetime. I have been lost many times, fallen through numerous transparent rooms, lived through a million different scenes, all woven into the tiny coloured threads of fabric that make up this apparently colourless cloth. Lt 030. There will always be, somewhere, Some Way Through All These Cities. Escalators, elevators. Paths, avenues, highways.
And yet I am still here. Someone walks with me, her child fingers twined with mine. Sitting on my shoulders.
“Carry me daddy, take me where you have been. I want to see the world.”
So we return to that city. Buses, taxis, trains and cars. A feeling of dispersal, of fractals. A distant kind of longing, evoking in me a feeling of bewilderment and complexity, and yet I am nagged by a curious realisation. A kind of awakening. A glimmer. Far more than just the geometry of coincidence. Is it, well… what was that. Some sort of… plan?? Phrases are repeated from across the time, which moves around within and beyond us in utterly immeasurable ways. It is neither linear, nor accountable, neither does it move at a uniform pace. I detect a change in the weather, and feel the wind now colder against my hands. There are leaves and litter swirling in doorways and across my shoes – and that is exactly how time moves. In that erratic, swirling, eddying, flickering kind of way. Like Smoke.
Within these minutes are threads and hints and glimpses and huge slabs of the blatantly obvious. Themes that have been woven into the me fabric for the last thirty years. Different genres and medias have become picture frames on the walls of an immense archive, chapters in an ever-changing story. They are here, and there. And then gone. And then they return, taking different form and leading off in new, unforeseen directions.
The realisation I felt as the albums I listen to reach points furthest away from where I started was that, whatever this story is, it must never be published. The journey must not be allowed to end. It cannot become real until it is truly, absolutely, over.
There is an increasing sense within me that everything has been part of some vast cathedral or ocean of design. An experimental lifetime, a living archive.
What will happen if one day The Quiet Man becomes a tangible piece of product? A book whose final chapter was was written long ago, but when its author was uncertain how to lead the plot to its desired conclusion?
A shadowy figure will step out and hand it to us with a distant, knowing smile and in the sudden glare of the shatterlight, the man will dissolve.
We will open the book, in our eagerness to possess, and it will of course, crumble into dust between our fingers.
In the meanwhile, we can only marvel at the cavernous space inside this gallery, the delicate complexity of its layout, and behold the immaculate presentation of the artefacts inside.
Infinite, in all directions.