Reading From Departure

Peter Lewis

She was reading from the book during a journey to the suburbs.

The train moves at an uncertain and discontinuous rhythm, making frequent stops following tracks by the river, the park and finally to its destination- during this journey the sky no longer appears of use as it draws close to dusk. She reads: He who knows one of their towns knows them all, we few shall learn a lesson here. And: In tact and manners true, and hopefully we'll hear love's tender language too. To the accompaniment of the author's words, her voice attempts to copy the sense of antagonism the words carry to any undertaking, as unreliable: Repetition and recollection, she writes in a notebook, are the same movement only in opposite directions; for what is recollected has been: it is repeated backward, whereas repetition properly so-called is recollected forward. And, I had already long since felt an uneasiness, even a gruesome feeling about this journey. Now I am beginning to have another's feeling. Having returned only to make some modest attempts at drawing and writing concerning monuments she had written a note inside the motionless stone in which resides the museum. The photographs of statues differed in her recollection. She wrote: The mist enveloped her memory, like a hill-fog. She had missed the moment when the unearthly early morning atmosphere first came into view. Now it spread out virtually everywhere beyond the broad daylight to cover the whole sky. As a foreigner in a foreign land, these landmarks were continuously offset by a fake remembrance; an exploration that always led to a feeling of profound disassociation, familiar, and yet that imbued each place with the comfort of an unpleasant sameness. One afternoon, this particular one, a certain dull light recalled something from the past, a spider in the garden undergrowth feeding its young, but the signals of its enchantment slipped through into the boredom of allegory, and she was able to retain but a trace of the sticky web and its perfume. She reads on: These pale images of frozen youth, golden visages of experience, are brewing in heaven god knows what mischief. After a careful rectifying of the details, descriptions of a gold painted head dumb against a cold sky, the spider web catching droplets of the trickling of melted snow, reference is made by association to the mutable sign's now clearly impossible utopian, abstract implications. Having noticed in the blur of the photographs, in the distance, several ruined monuments recalling ancient Greece; a series of columns broken at various heights, a gaping portico, fragments of architraves and fallen capitals, half recalled in that distance, by a dull black eye looking back at her.

She continued: Far from here, too late, or maybe never, for I know not where you flee - you know not where I go. A sense of prohibition from enjoying these images as they were meant to be was upheld, one assumed, from an authentic desire to not yield to their heavenly scent; whereas in fact she, at least by the logic of affirmation, was not remotely interested in the ancient principalities, and it would be catastrophic to attempt to make a boon of disinterest at any rate, to combine the two antimonic principles of happiness: that of the gilded eternity of statues and that of the discomfiting 'yet again' of her flesh, and escape the confine of reason. The reluctance yielded, accidentally, or against her better judgement, a small fissure in the form of a device in which the credibility of the narrator herself and the protagonist, another narrator, were seriously compromised. His unreliability can be due to psychological instability, she thought, and from a powerful bias, a lack of knowledge, or even a deliberate attempt to deceive her, the reader or audience. Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreliable. Was he, categorically speaking the former? And she, the latter? Or the other way round? A disembodied voice? An unreliable witness? He made an attempt at a definition, intuited from his readings, as the nature of the narrator is sometimes immediately clear, he mused. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to his unreliability. A more common, and dramatic use of the device could be employed to delay the revelation until near the story's end. The twist ending forced a reader, such as himself to reconsider his point of view and experience of the story. In many cases, the narrator's unreliability may never fully be revealed, only hinted at, he smiled, leaving one to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted. He reads on, at the same time: The nature of the narrator is sometimes immediately clear. She made an attempt at intuiting a reading [...] for instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to his unreliability. A more common, and dramatic use of the device could be employed to delay the revelation until near the story's end. The twist ending forced a reader, such as himself to reconsider his point of view and experience of the story. In many cases, the narrator's unreliability may never fully be revealed, only hinted at, he smiled, leaving one to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted. He reads on, at the same time: The nature of the narrator is sometimes immediately clear. She made an attempt at intuiting a reading [...] for instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to his unreliability. A more common, and dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story's end. The twist ending forces the reader to reconsider their point of view and experience of the woman's story. In many cases the narrator's unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving the woman to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted. Odd, she remarks, thinking out loud, then reads on: She takes daily walks to the Thames, following the old canals and towpaths that run along the edge of the water, in following tracks of his memories, under the shadow of the immense bridges that dominate the now clean, old industrial city. As she sits on a bench she begins to recall, or so the narrator tells us, writing all this down in a notebook collaged from newspaper headlines, kept for their prescient knowledge of things before they could exist or happen as foreknowledge; foresight randomly inscribed with quotations, which she keeps hidden, variously, under a newspaper drawer-liner, under the damaged linoleum floor of her room, or up the chimney of its disused gas fire, but mostly kept in the damp cardboard boxes in a disused freight container in the park. What is the name for everything, she asks herself, that ought to have remained forever hidden but has come to light only to think like the others, to antagonise forced prediction? And to prevail against unfamiliar occurrences? We are all confronted, at one time or another, with choices as to what sort of life we will lead. Here then she repeats and sums up. During the endless train journey that take her across from X to X, she notices for the first time that the person she calls 'double', or cliché, other self, one with the unremarkable gift of second sight, the inward thinker, for the sake of argument to simplify matters, an allegorical twin, or again, less theatrically, her professional ally, fellow traveller, who at the same time assumes the role of her character that appears everywhere in the film script. As she reads presently and understands from the newspaper's headlines, she makes a list keeping in mind an arbitrary order. Of the citations: she writes these in black ink and a sable brush, sometimes changing the brush. Words came easily from pages open as if by some other hand, so that often the name Alexander would appear written over its own printed one. Alexander, she repeated, invoking in the sound the colour of the murk. Alexander again, thawing. She writes: To veil the divine, to surround it with a certain strangeness in the familiar, thereby revives the aboriginal, but as Alexander's obsession, repeated but never quite perfect, thus forcing the logic of necessity. The train moves at an uncertain and discontinuous rhythm making frequent stops sometimes in the city at its edge and en route, in non-descript and deserted countryside. He arrives after a long hike through the park, at the place where the container is kept. There is a shrill grating sound, like a steel blade being drawn across a sheet of wet glass. The door is being forced opened from the inside. The traveller reads further whilst this operation continues, of his possible movement forward in time: he remembers. As I was walking, one hot summer afternoon, or was it raining that day, through the deserted streets of a small town in the suburbs, or was it a boat trip on the river which was unknown to me, I found myself in a quarter of whose character I could not long remain in doubt. Nothing was to be seen inside the windows of the small houses, and I hastened to leave the narrow streets at the next turning. But after having wandered about for a time without enquiring my way, I suddenly found myself back in the same street, where my presence was now beginning to excite trepidation. I hurried away once more, only to arrive by another detour at the same place yet a third time. Yet the place now seemed unfamiliar. The boat navigates chartered water where the Thames flows, under blackened bridges. At the story's end, bored of superficial understanding, reading from the inside out, he makes a sudden decision, even if the character that he has been associated with does not; he opts for one solution over the other, only to read he had forgotten that he is reading. He speaks out loud some comforting lines. Each literary work consisted of three dimensions. He speaks of his impressions. The verbal aspect is divided into two domains: the utterance itself and its performance. The latter aspect can be found in the concrete sentences and often used to be discussed in terms of marking his point of view. He had no opinions, but the point of view was there never the less. The second dimension, he read, was called the syntactic dimension. Here his focus could come to rest on the internal relations in the work, half uncovered in the container, or in the remains of an imagined corpse, hidden in the detailed undergrowth of a bush, unchanged, as it would have more or less appeared once before, where a murder had or not taken place. It can be all marked and underlined as equally logical, temporal, or spatial, she thought.

The 'old' names for the three-tiered literary dimension is to be written in the pages between their decomposition, and composition. The third aspect, disintergration, on which the theory that there is something happening, whereas nothing is happening is at least a certainty, as it belongs to a semantic dimension. By returning to the scenes of crime he acknowledges the receipt of his own anger, and not an imagining. While he must painfully assume that universal themes exist, his self acknowledges that combinations and transformations may occur against her will. A conversation ensues between them. He won't listen to advice. How do I know who you are? And what? What did you see? A human being? Is she real? Can she be touched, or felt or hurt or wounded? Answer me did you see her today? And you, how do I know who you are? But what his antagonist states, is at the same time a question of their diffusion. He continues, the goal of knowledge is an approximative truth, not an absolute one. If descriptive science in the mechanical and empirical apparatus of a photograph or a tape recording, claimed to speak the truth it would contradict his reasoning of being. Hence, he asks, And you, how do you know who you are? Imperfection is, paradoxically, a guarantee of survival. All he does is describe a genre of phantoms, hesitating between the theoretical construction of all possibilities and the empirical classification of a number of texts. Since every new text changes shape as the genre, his work is never finished. It remains as a ruin, or a statue standing in for the collapse of its meaning. The corpse was imagined, he remembers now, only as a drawing, which resembled a fallen statue. There had never been a purpose in keeping the drawings, and the journey up river is not to be contemplated, to be completed. The traveller does not reach, nor desire to any longer, her destination preferring to retain instead a frail happiness. Who is the third, who walks always beside, inside, you? When I count, there are only you and I together. The one reading, the other looking, and the third, inside, conversing. But when we look ahead up the white road, the river, through the window of a train, there is always another one walking beside you, outside now, gliding wrapt in a brown or black coat, hooded, or bare headed, the girl reading on a boat trip, he remembers, that she reminded him of another from a time before, his mother's, which easily persuaded, if in the dress style alone. The body of a passenger was later discovered. Poor girl, victim of the modern age, the doctors said in the London papers. Although it was not reported, it could have been imagined as performed, and horrifically mutilated and drained of blood, uncovered in Maryon Park, just north of Greenwich, where Greenwich Mean Time stands, and moves the planet, yet still there, where it was inadvertently discovered by a photographer. The body later mysteriously disappeared. Again who is the one who disposed of the evidence? If for that matter, an event like that had ever occurred. No matter. The traveller now makes a distinction between the two kinds of experiences which have created the effect of a sense of deja-vu for him and an amoral and cold aesthetic pleasure in writing scripts to Beethoven's 9th Symphony: those generated by the events in his everyday journey to the river, the park and to a place of remembrance, a container; those generated whilst reading. His habit was to always accompany a journey with a favourite book. He surmised that these activities do not share the same set of conditions. Experiences, he muses, are related to estranging circumstances that seem to stimulate a certain sense of fear. He would want to 'snuff it'. These readings which superimpose themselves over the experience seem to make his experience a function of a fictional world in which he is destined to be at the mercy of circumstance. Put it this way, he could not see much future in it, or that something terrible was going to happen. But what disturbed him more was that there no longer existed the slightest proof of any objective truth about his most recent movements, even as they were unfolding and worse that there were incriminating recordings on video-tape of them, yet some long since erased by now. Each movement was redistributed into three destinations, and more and more as he read. The traveller moved into three or more realms, as the impressions were slowly eroded of the spaces in which his avatar moved. This was a memory not volunteered. He did not know whether a man or a woman was reading, in the book the traveller was not described in terms of gender. Let us not wait for the Phallus god to grant us his grace. He read, as she in the story, read always accompanied either to Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th or Johann Sebastian Bach's Chorale Prelude in F Minor]. But who is that on the other side of you? Woman will return to the body which has been confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display, the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and location of inhibitions. I am afraid, he warned, that what happened to me will happen to all of you. I am telling you this so that you know that you haven't gone mad. Again, he repeated. There is no question of choice, you must be drawn in, it may offer a way to break this deadlock, to establish contact with it. The old leather suitcases, grimy furniture, the piles of cardboard rotting, the half torn open boxes stored over the years, look back to the Victorian parlour typical of London's terraced streets and speak of the mortification of matter, which is fashionable no longer. The tawdry, moth eaten items too, for years buried away, which lie abandoned, covered in dust so many of the unwanted works, bring home something of a small personal disaster. I am the aboriginal, he repeated over and over. After the fall of darkness other powers rule than during the day. In the symbolism and myth of most the night is chaos, the scene of dreams, it teems with ghosts and demons, like the sea with fish and sea-monsters. It is female, as the day is male, and like everything it brings quiet and terror at the same time. She disagrees with the writer. I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs. The word unsaid must stay unsaid, though there was much to say. There was just one thing amiss - an organic hesitancy, in fact more or less of a stutter. All the noble conceits pall against the mundane tapping of a neighbour's relentlessly dull hammer applied to house improvements. Here we have further confusion- but also a more general unfixing of the subject; a ghost from the past, or from the future emerging from a church door; in a note it says, the following lines were stimulated by the account of one of her psychic expeditions, I forget which, a visit to a church, more disappointedly. It was related that the party of these psychic explorers, at the extremity of their convictions, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted on the 'dead patrol'. But not a spectre, just an annoyance, an irritation, corrected by one or the other. Note the newspaper features: the grainy black and white, the newsprint, he remembered it as if an artist had crudely written slogans over the text and copied and pasted these onto the walls to keep something out, these verses from a children's encyclopedia or bible story, like the terrified priest in a movie. Is this what civilisation and communication have come to? A political uncertainly, but also an image of the worn out psyche, its regimes, 'ancient world', 'ideal order', ideal, narcissist, what happens when the sacrosanct is broken in belief, which is perhaps, inevitable, idle, perhaps it represents a psychic truth in all its incoherence, the impossibility of coming at a total picture; it also represented some unchecked primitive aggression which in his civilised behaviour tried to hold back, and perhaps here he thinks he may see a different relation between fracture and breakdown and, indeed, doing so through to the open end of his story, to find its logical conclusion; he reads, upon opening the heavy door. The room was adrowse with light. All was still. The flitting horrors between dream and wake in his mind were already thinning into air. Through their transparency he looked back once more on the substantial, his familiarity of the city. His breath came heavily, like puffs of wind over a stormy sea, and yet a profound peace and tranquillity was swathing him in the stale air. The relaxed mouth, was it his expression he caught in the reflection, was now faintly smiling. Not a sound, not the feeblest distant unintended tinkling was trembling up from the abyss. And for a moment or two the young man refrained even from turning his head at the soundless opening and closing of the doors to the container. He read in the dim light, unmoved by the comings and goings of the artist. What beckons her ever closer to its edge is the insistence of the alien, she, on the subject's necessary relation to death, touches his body, like an animal, filling a glove with flesh, these relations which human consciousness and reason find intolerable are a comfort to her. The unclear is untouched, the border reached, its fleshy surfaces of demarcation or division between a proper hand and an improper object, shines from within and without her. It would be difficult to find anything left over of her body, in the undergrowth, or the detritus. The statue holding the secret intact even as they move the imagination, to mimic, in the river's reflections of the night sky, the disappearance of familiar figures, in dark light on a screen, a prescient warning of the apparition. These were the signs of the impending arrival, the one transmitted and received as a weak signal broken by continual interference, indistinct from the temporal stratosphere, holding the vertical and horizontal only intermittently, as the grain of a door opening slowly, and her figure standing clearly at the threshold of that door, seemed wistful, the bringer of unearthly paradise. Some thirty years earlier, she recalled and thirty years on, repeated the same dream of a contemptible future: She read. The future looked bright, very bright, if recollected forward, finding providence at its destination C. Then, she remembered, the dialogue lines to recite as if no longer in confusion. She read, Do you know where she came from? Leave me alone. You're afraid, well don't be. Don't worry I'm not going to think you're insane. Insane? I'm insane? Oh, you know so little, how can you make judgements? If only I were mad, madness would be a blessing.