Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A reply to Mr Calvino

You pass through a big city, half already in total ruin, half in some kind of perpetual collapse. The upper floors of the grey towers downtown rumble violently before sliding out of place and plummeting to the street below. This happens on an uninterrupted basis, as new dilapidated floors are continuously reborn above, before they, too, come crashing down. The air is so thick with dust from pulverised concrete and glass that the sun is almost blocked entirely. Strolling through the already dead and decaying half of the city, (presumably you decided it might be safer than exploring the other half), you come across a few citizens, half in total ruin, half in some kind of perpetual collapse, and you think to yourself: Why is it that people live here? Is cheap real estate really worth never seeing the sun again?


As your trip, thus far, has been plagued by undesirable and even abhorrent locales, you decide to follow the advice of a fellow traveller and head south to __________. Before parting ways at the chimerical train station, he asks you, How does one decide where he will hang his hat, where he will call home? After just a moment of hesitation, you answer: Variety. One must first find variety before one finds happiness. The traveller smiles in agreeance, and replies, Then you will be happy in __________. And with that, he boards an illusory train which sets off almost immediately down an immaterial track. He waves goodbye through an imaginary window, and you never see him again.


You arrive at __________ in the early evening, and are welcomed into one of the most beautiful cities you have ever imagined. From the train station, you can see the city's gorgeous skyline shimmering through dusk's dim shadow like a string of perfect diamonds strewn across a bed of brilliant green foliage. This is it, you think, and tell a cab driver to take you downtown. After a most flavourful meal of the most melodiously chosen foods, you retire to the comfort of a huge down-filled bed in the palatial hotel above. When you awake the next morning, you find yourself in a stained cot, in a squalid, incommodious motel room. Gone is the scent of flowers from the night before, replaced now with the stench of blood and death. Out your window, you find the previous night's beautiful skyline replaced, instead, with a tapestry of filth and pollution: a sea of austere warehouses dotted with carbonous factories belching out black smoke. It is then, that you swear off variety forever.


Back home, you sit, depressed, in your one-room apartment, looking through a smudgy window with a suicidal view of the square below. With your trip behind you, you're left with more questions than answers: Is there, somewhere, a better place than this? Is it possible that I just haven't found it yet? Where have I already gone, and why? Have I ever even really left this apartment? This chair? You think back to the words of a spectral traveller, but find them lubricious, slippery, hard to grasp. Or remember? You can't decide which, so you just sit there, dreaming of a place, any place, other than this.

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