Friday, May 31, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Eleven: The Boatman

The dream or hysterical sensation of a dream that occurred a few days ago has bothered, badgered and bewildered me. Adding together the glowing door to the opening of the third door and the woman who entered through that third door and spoke those words to me “why have you forgotten me?” all seem to constitute a portfolio of events that must point to my gradual lapse into unreality. Is this what paranoia is? I have only heard a few voices so far.

The worst of it all is that those things seemed real when they occurred and they intensify in their feeling of realness as the days pass. And with that intensity is beginning to form an even more intense feeling of longing for – something. Maybe the longing is for those events to have been real. That would be bad enough. But somewhere, still barely below conscious and rational strata, there lurks what I suspect to be the truth of the feeling.

That truth is that I want to return to wherever or whenever it was that those events occurred.

That is the irrational truth of the situation.

An event occurred this afternoon which makes me wonder if that phenomenon is in fact continuing. If it is continuing there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason for what has so far made up its component events.

I had the casement open as I usually do. Even when it is cold, which is most of the time now that October has fled and November is making itself felt, having the casement open lets in the sounds of the Seine. And that is reason enough to have the casement open. But it also seems to even allow the sights of the Seine to have more of a demeanor of immediacy. And since the wind flows in parallel to the front of the apartment building it enters, not as a direct head on invader, but as a sidelong pulse of freshness with a rather pleasant dash of briskness.

Fraîche, the French call it.

The open casement arrangement allows the river to demand my attention, as if such a demand were necessary. But that demand, on top of my already basic proclivity to watch it, makes the hours pass, sometimes, as minutes. It is a sort of hypnosis.

It was in that state of hypnosis that I noticed a change in the river.

It being November, the heavily overcast sky had been darkening for an hour or more. It was still light and I could clearly see everything that was occurring in my view of the river. There were barges laden with gravel – one had what looked to be coal – bucking the swiftly flowing down river current as they cleaved their way upriver, perhaps to the locks and the Canal St. Martin and beyond, or perhaps farther up river. There were tour boats, loudspeakers blaring in English, German, French, Chinese and Japanese, descriptions of the various sights that the boats were passing. The tour boats go both up river and down river. Up river they are outward bound from their pickup sites and they buck the current with the same tenacity as the working barges. Down river they return to their moorings to disgorge one happily toured crowd and to pick up another. Down river they fairly fly. The current, plus the thrust of their powerful engines, puts them down stream at an amazing clip. And in the midst of all of these larger craft there are frequent little boats with outboard motors – big horsepower outboard motors – with blue lights flashing. These are the police and they seem to have the mission of roaring up and then roaring down the river at frequent intervals with lights flashing and, I suppose, but cannot hear over the roar of the rest of the activity, their sirens blaring.

And to finish out the glimmering beauty of all of this, as the sky and river enter into full darkness, the motorway on the right bank becomes a massive array of little flowing red, amber and white pixels of light as cars make their egress toward places not in the heart of the city. And over all of this, as if to make the scene a fairy tale, Hôtel de Ville de Paris – the residence of the Mayor of Paris – spreads herself out along the right bank shimmering in multi hued refulgence.

“It is no wonder”, I thought to myself, “that I feel as if I become hypnotized when I watch these scenes. And what a privilege”, I thought, “to be able to have a place in space and time such that I can experience such a spectacularly beautiful form of hypnosis”.

On the occasion being described, just before opening the casement and becoming lost in the scene of the Seine, I had been writing. I had been writing for a couple of hours as I try to do every day between 1500 and 1700. At 1700 I like to walk back through the forecourt of Notre Dame to Pont Saint-Michel and over to Le Depart Saint-Michel for a quart to sustain me while I read the Economist for an hour or so.

I also get some chips with my wine order.

Then I return to the apartment and have some more wine and write some more for the blog.

Intertwined with the hypnosis of the river, as I watched it this evening out of the open casement, I had been thinking about the journal.

Since finding the sleep written yellow pages I have not thought much about the journal. There have been too many other things to occupy me. But for some reason on this afternoon, intertwined with the hypnosis of the river through the open casement, I was having occasional thoughts about the journal.

“Perhaps”, I was thinking,” it is time to start reading the thing. Perhaps there is something of value in it. Perhaps there is a reason that you have kept it. Perhaps there is a reason that you brought it with you to Paris”. Imbedded in those thoughts was a feeling. It was a faint feeling but it was there. It had something to do with the dream of the door opening and the woman. But I couldn’t make the feeling maintain itself or increase its intensity. Nor was I able to gain any focus on it.

And then I turned back to the casement and the river.

It was as if there had been some slippage slightly backward in time.

At first I thought that the overcast must have cleared substantially because, while not brilliant sunlight, it was quite a bit lighter than it had been moments before. It should have been darker, almost early night dark in fact. It was late enough in the day for that to be the case and moments before it had been on the brink of becoming quite dark.

But now it appeared to be as light as it had been an hour or more before.

“How odd” I thought.

Before I could foster that thought for long I noticed something. It looked like a large log that had been fashioned into a boat. I would have called it a dugout. There was a person in it. Even though the evening had become somewhat lighter, it was still gloomy enough that, at the distance from where I was watching, it was not possible to see with any clarity much more than the fact that a person was in the boat, probably a man, and wearing nondescript fairly bulky clothes. He had a sort of paddle that he pushed off from the stairs that descended to the quai at river’s edge from the quai at street level. And then he dipped the paddle moving the boat expertly into the current.

“How odd” I thought.

Before the paddle had been dipped a second time I was at the bank of the river. An instant before I had been four floors up in a building behind where I now stood. An instant later I was standing at a river bank over my shoes in muck and mud and in a grove of dense shore hugging trees.

I watched the little boat disappear down river.

There were no barges, tour boats, Mayor’s residence or little glittering red, amber and white pixels.

All that was there was the rapidly gathering gloom of an early winter afternoon on the banks of a river that looked as if human kind had never been near it. If it hadn’t been for the lone boatman, his blunt dugout now disappearing in the distance, I would have said with confidence that this was a river untouched by human influence. I did think that I heard the murmur of numerous voices very near to me and very near to the point of the boat’s departure.

But no one was to be seen.

And as quickly as it had appeared the scene on that primitive river bank passed. I found myself with my hand outstretched for a wine glass from the cupboard. I was in the apartment. The casement was open. The barges and tour boats were in full force and the Hôtel de Ville was even more brilliant in its glowing radiance now that the sun had fully set.

But the boatman and that river bank had been real.

And that is the hell of it.

They were there. And I was there. And I have no idea how that could have been.

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