Now he looks into her cold interpretive eyes and thinks: Okay, I will miss her. He feels ambivalent about this, as if it’s disloyal of him, because maybe he’s enjoying how she looks or some physical aspect of her closeness. He’s not sure what friends are allowed to enjoy about each other.
From the very beginning he feels effortlessly incorporated into their lives. It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratliffs are generous, they are people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, assured, in his case correctly, that their life will appeal to him.
I closed my notebook and sat in the cafe thinking about real time. Is it time uninterrupted? Only the present comprehended? Are our thoughts nothing but passing trains, no stops, devoid of dimension, whizzing by massive posters with repeating images? Catching a fragment from a window seat, yet another fragment from the next identical frame? If I write in the present yet digress is that real time? Real time, I reasoned, cannot be divided into sections like numbers on the face of a clock. If I write about the past as I simultaneously dwell in the present, am I still in real time? Perhaps there is no past or future, only the perpetual present that contains this trinity of memory.
Papas singing always unleashed these emotions which were unfamiliar and instinctive at the same time, in a language I could not recognise but felt I could speak in my sleep, in my dreams, evocative of a country I had never visited but which sounded like the only home I had ever known. The songs made me realise that there was a corner of me that would be forever not England.
The thing to be known grows with the knowing.
I have heard of a strange delusion that the sun does not shine up here. It does; and because of the clarity of the air its light has power: it has more power, I suppose, in light than in heat.
“I think it means,” I say, “that chance encounters are what keep us going. In simple terms.”
And history is vitally important because perhaps as much as, if not more than biology, the past owns us and however much we think we can, we cannot escape it. If you only knew how close you are to people who seem so far from you … it would astonish you. ‘Also, it’s a way of honouring those who came before us. We can tell their stories. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell your story? Ultimately, it’s the best proof there is that we mattered. And what else is life from the time you were born but a struggle to matter, at least to someone?
She reminded me of a warning I was fond of repeating: do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life; what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.
Here then may be lived a life of the senses so pure, so untouched by any mode of apprehension but their own, that the body may be said to think.