Walking Double

30 December 2007

22 hours straight of traveling, with only fragments of sleep. For the rest delirium and boredom in incomplete measure. A movie you catch glimpses of in the darkness of the plane, miniature scenes without sound, floating in the seatbacks – rectangular stars in some blurred unknown or uncharted constellation. Another film you watch for maybe half an hour of before its in any case implausible plot turns to sleep or sand, or until the point at which the audio gets too broken by the insistent/cheery announcements of imminent landing and/or turbulence. Funny how the half finished stories are the ones that stay most inside you, barbed like fish-hooks, deep pathetic mysteries, lodged there in your consciousness. Even days later you can’t shake the overheard traces and vivid glimpsed figures which you take in osmotically throughout the journey; the whole burnt on the retinas, its soft parade of characters from stories you cannot properly read, and cannot either write. The stewardess with the pinched blank face. The grinning lumbering ogre/guy in white jeans, white sweat-shirt and white parka,  grinning at something you can’t decipher. Overheard dialogues. The kind-of-cute girl who, on the walkway to the plane, tells the inquiring-older-traveller that she works in D.C, actually, spent Xmas in London and is now heading to Split for New Years. The young woman who is calling some guy that she met here (or there?) on another trip and whose friend she just bumped into on the flight, leaving him a long message as she stands in baggage reclaim, explaining that she was in Argentina when he called her last month and that she hopes they can maybe connect in Germany. It’s all possibilities, incompletions, other people’s longings. On the longhaul portion of the journey there’s a brutal alternation of heat and cold, darkness and light (unfiltered sunlight and blinking florescent) in which the blindfold functions not so much as a means to block out disturbance as a diabolical partly-elasticated tourniquet for the brain. Editing consciousness, but badly. The visuals are cut, but the audio continues, ceaseless and tedious, even past the triple filter of red wine, engine drone and ipod. A baby crying somewhere up front. Low level bickering of a couple nearby. Long discussions between members of the crew and another passenger seated somewhere back and to your right whose repeated complaints about shooting pains in her neck, shoulder and left arm lead to speculation about if they should or should not disembark her in London for medical attention (starts in a barely controlled panic, ends with the Steward making either recommendations about physiotherapists in Nairobi or jokes about how he is *not* going to do CPR on this flight thank you very much). Or the long conversation between three other passengers seated on your immediate left on a later plane (two guys and a woman) about various pseudo-religious experiences they have had involving strange feelings, premonitions and mysterious lights etc. One of them talking for a long time about a set of green, yellow and blue lights he saw hovering outside one time, the lights moving in the sky, moving up and down, then eclipsing the sun, how his wife saw the same thing, controlled mechanical movement of the lights in the sky, could not have been a plane, clear as day, he went inside. In the bedroom he saw a miniature version of the same lights. They moved across the room he said and slowly traced a path up towards a crucifix they had on the wall. Green, yellow, blue. He could not explain. In the end you’re left with the pair of kids that boarded the plane in Split, the first looking grim, with one eye covered entirely with single sticking-plaster, the second looking brighter but carrying (ominously) a battered box containing the hospital game ‘Operation’ (ages 6 and up), or with the figure of a much older guy, in brown leather jacket, sat on a railing whilst waiting for his luggage in Zagreb, eyes only partly hidden by his aviator shades, his raised hand, his balding head and the start-up haze of smoke from his cigarettes. Your companion tells you that this is the Croatian Frank Sinatra, the famed singer idol of her parents generation. Unless he’s dead, in which case this guy before you now, alone in any case, traveling now without an entourage, is just the spitting image of him, the walking double of his previous and now faded glory.

[See a somewhat related text from some while back. This also seems relevant]