I wrote the following on a wet, rain drenched, wind blustered evening in Manhattan this may. It has languished in My iPhone notes until I arrived in Paris with no WiFi. This is pretty much exactly as it came to me, then.
Being as I’ve taken to writing about knowing cities, I felt like this was quite an interesting first impression of a place. Expect thoughts on Paris to come.
Walking along the avenues and streets feels like crisscrossing the electric grid. Off grid, on grid, always on grid. And I’m never really sure how it works, or where I’m going, or how far anything really is, even though the streets don’t wind away from me, and I increase or decrease sequentially always.
Looking down the avenues feels precipitous. Like you’re on the fold of a page, and the downward sides fall away from you, and you’re standing on the ridge, balanced. It’s the most vertiginous place I’ve ever been.
On top of that I am tiny. The scale of it is so tall, and in each street I am a tiny atom, bouncing like Brownian motion through tumultuous crowds, buffeted, ceaseless, tidal. Bursting out onto roads via crosswalks like riding waves. I, a city surfer, rolling on the beat, surfacing, descending, delving, diving, coming up for air, gasping, reeling, running.
Like the blues, like Gershwin, I am the clarinet solo, rising for air, reaching the sky, spinning.
Except somehow, today, I felt like I was learning to ride the waves. Surefooted on the concrete surface, I felt like I walked on water, street furniture flotsam and jetsam on the surface. Asphalt ocean, streaming through the grid, covering everything, and the New Yorkers riding the waves without checking their footing. I will always have to check mine, this is not my city.
The city folds away from me again, and I balance on the ridge. What If I’m not really on it at all. What if I’m balanced on it. What if I fall?
I lost my mother on a walk at home, once – in that interim period between Christmas and new year. I wondered this thought then: What if I am a ghost?
I think about it when I’m travelling too. Sometimes I’ll be doing something like riding a train homewards, gazing out of the window at the sun sinking lower into the horizon , listening to Heroes at the point where David Bowie sounds like he’s going to cry, and I think I’m going to cry too I wonder if I am real at all.
In the distance, where low banked clouds always look as though they’re blocking out the sun, shafts of light pierce the gloaming grey, and in the blurring nature of the blues springing up in the landscape itself, I seem to see myself out there instead of in here.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m gone from these places already – and every visitation is a revisitation – an upward spiral through my life. Perhaps I’m always already a ghost – moving through my life in a meandering pattern from childhood to my deathbed and back again – like in quantum leap Sam leaps between the points of his life – I am leaping through the points of mine. Always already a memory.
Perhaps all the times I feel I am a ghost, are all the times I will return to in my last moments. Perhaps this is just a comfort that I might get to relive all this again. That life might not always have to end.
I felt like a ghost in New York. In our hotel room in Manhattan, whilst she was out getting something for dinner, or just seeing the sights, or spending some well earned moments alone, I fell asleep facing the mirror on the door. I couldn’t shake the feeling once I’d woken that I wasn’t really in the hotel room at all, and that whilst I’d been sleeping, my reflection had been watching me sleep. For, when I opened my eyes, I instantly made eye contact with it. Looking at me, looking back at it, my own face, my double looking out of the bed in the mirror right at me in my own bed.
I wished she would come back. My corporeality were thinning away, and I wondered if she never came back at all what would become of me. Where would I go, and what might I become? Locked in the loop of looking at myself looking at myself. Looking at me, looking at me.
The door opened.