POSTCARD #174: Geneva, Switzerland: People, hovering around the exit door on the 18 tram to Carouge, faces look at me incidentally, I sometimes see one I think I know from times gone by in the metallic click over smooth rail joints, and the gentle jigging motion of the tram as it is now, and so it was then, travelling under an assumed identity, peripatetic teacher of English, here and there on trams every day, passing through security, a practiced conversationalist, and into rooms in banks behind closed and thickly felted huge metal soundproofed doors, gold taps in old bathrooms. Are these the same francophone faces now? Not those emerging from soundproofed rooms and stepping into their black tinted screen limos with drivers holding the door, no, just the ordinary folk you see every day now and then but never talk to, maybe a passing gesture, a nod of recognition?
Now I’m back here nearly two decades later. Do I see those same individuals looking at me with a nod of recognition held in a moment paused, seeing me looking at them in the same kind of way… a hesitation almost: hmm, est-ce que je vous connais monsieur ? (do I know you sir?) Look into these eyes for a penetrating instant with the flickering expectation of acquaintanceship… and in the midst of finding maybe I can’t quite recall what it is exactly, realise with some shock that it’s the awareness of – what is it? The nearness of death? Is this what I see looking back at me? Death, the answer to that question about what didn’t happen here? The past tense disappeared; everything I did in the 8 years I lived here was/is unfinished, and cannot and will not ever continue. It died?
I was in a life here. Now I come back from the dead, the Ghost of Christmas Present, not to ungracefully haunt all these innocent bystanders with more foreign talk and raconteur. Not to upset these slightly-known people with faces turned toward me, stepping onto or getting down from the 18 tram to Carouge two decades ago, and even now turned to glance at me a second time with their elegance of wispy threads of golden hair combed carefully over a bronzed skull with large dark brown skin spots, vapourised and paperised faces, traces of soft skin held nicely like curtain folds at the corners, beneath which these old eyes look out like an unfinished sentence… Je m’excuse mesdames et messieurs, I’m not here to disturb you with things that never took place, but to close those thick soundproofed doors that seem to swing open by themselves somewhere in a former life.
Thus there’s always something about the question that’s gently pondered, not posed, but poised, considered…it has to be the right question, forever not quite decided upon; what might it be? The moment spent in contemplation of what form this sort of thing could possibly take is enough to begin to know it… or it begins to be known. A kind of indirect position so carefully arranged; or maybe it was like that as it fell into place, who can tell? Induced then deduced. Words don’t hold meaning for very long, the question gets forgotten about in the end (they usually do), or possibly it’s still there in the detached state, just not functioning as a specific inquiry now, more like a wide-openness that’s waiting for an answer in the same way as there are answers, lying in their own wide-openness waiting to be discovered. A kind of non-verbal alertness, a strange familiarity, a passing recognition that seems to go on opening and opening, and opening; déjà vu revisited. It was always here….
But if, transcending petty ego, all the world is known as life – as only living energy – then how can death arise at all? For one who knows the world like this, as only life, there is no death. In truth, there’s only deathlessness. [Upanishads]
Photo: Watching the sun setting from the room on the 8th floor of the building at Pont-d’Arve, near Carouge