Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Travellers (more from WIP)

I used to go to that cafe every morning. A small Italian on Berwick Street. A pungent espresso in a thick white cup. I remember the first time I saw the slender man with the long tanned face. He reminded me of Claud Cahun, a sculpted androgyne from an era long gone. His movements were delicate and precise and his eyelashes long and dark; a beige moleskin jacket and open necked shirt completed the picture. And in the early morning light, and viewed in his marmoreal isolation at the corner table, he would be thought beautiful. But then he opened his mouth. He began speaking in a nasal Kiwi accent about his travels. All the vowels trimmed and cut to the same sound. He’d travelled to Thailand, South Africa, Peru. And these places were of course “amazing”. That was pretty much all he had to communicate. His amazement. "the landscape, the culture.." he stuttered, too amazed to complete the sentence. Some people, and far too many these days, have to make a 3000 mile trip to have an experience. Their bodies and minds are presumably so numbed that it requires the electric prod of a trip to Thailand, being thrown out of a plane on a sky dive, or pushed off a bridge in the middle of nowhere on the end of elastic rope.. just to have an experience. Whereas, you can sit in a cafe, raise an espresso to your lips, watch as the sun takes the floating dust and turns it into a column of tiny golden insects.  And this moment, not noticed, not snatched by the camera as soon as it’s born, is an experience of dizzying depth and distance. But it requires stillness, it requires slowness. You have to stop. It’s not about crossing the earth so fast that the 'boo!' of novelty knocks you down. The endless bungee jumpers, the skydivers, those who’ve had their ankle tattooed by a tripping Tibetan midget.. all they needed to do was sit at the table by the window and the world would unravel itself infront of their eyes.... but no. The slender man with the long oval face comes back from table mountain, comes back from the hillside terraces of Peru, and all he has with him is the word ‘amazing’, and a tick-list dictated by Facebook, and a digital casket of grinning souvenirs.

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