Past, present and the mysterious powers of the Blue Nile

Past, present and the mysterious powers of the Blue Nile

I’m afraid that once again my eyes are on the intricate web of cracks and fissure lines up there on ceiling– read my first post if you don’t understand. Looking close I see one fissure has a name — it is the name of a song I first heard as a boy in Ireland almost twenty years ago. I think of this time almost as a negative, pre-time; this happened even before my life began. You see, I always considered the instant I left Ireland and traveled east as the actual moment I began to live, the point after which things could happen to me, when life unfroze. But stuff actually happened back then, on the other side of zero?

Of course it did. I see long slices of sunlight on my bedroom wall. It is very early in the morning, perhaps five or six am, and the light comes to my room slowly at first, deep red lines of light, sunlight sliding obliquely through the Venetian blinds, fading in now, becoming brighter, light at the end of another shallow northern night which was never really night. It is summer.

I am listening to a cassette tape. I’m listening to a song from the Blue Nile. It is a recording I plucked from the air, from the radio. Blasts of FM static obscure the song’s opening melody. We are far from the transmitter. The song fades in, a few bars of a repeated melody, the sound of sticks on sticks. The first line I miss, I never hear until ten years have passed and I am living in Durham. You are pretending, Buchanan sings, in his hoarse voice, love is worth waiting for. I wasn’t pretending anything! This was, remember, before pretense and knowledge. Heatwave, heatwave he sings, and I imagine there in my northern room that this day to come would be one of those impossibly warm days where one can neither move nor think, frozen into immobility. Heatwave, heatwave, why is it rolling down on the young and foolish? What did I know of heat? In a decade and half I would live in Bologna where for one summer the mercury never went below thirty, even at night, for two long months. But here in pre-history it is different, everything is implied or imagined, the rising sun becomes the sun, the day begins with its promise of great heat, the song finishes.

Before I can rewind the tape, I am at the other end of the fissure. I am standing in my apartment in Paris about to press the skip button on my mp3 player, to skip back instantaneously, and I skip back, forward– and once again I am in this twenty-first century present, and Mr. Buchanan’s voice fills my living room again, I hear the first line of the song that I’d never heard back then, you live beneath another star,
And too much has happened, or not enough. Do I feel the same, here, listening to this song? I do here, in this instant. I skip back and forward over two decades of event and happening, drawing a line from France to Ireland passing through everywhere else I have lived. Distance and time shrink down to zero, I see the long-gone rays of lost sunlight on the walls of my apartment in Paris, I open my window and feel the warm evening air, a summer’s evening in Paris, and I return again, evening becomes morning, and yes, this is the memory, I realise, this is the memory which has yet to happen.

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