Have you ever walked through a doorway, with something in your hand, and looking down, not know why its there?
Why are you here, now? What are you looking for?
This is not absent mindedness, but rather your brain re-adjusting to a new environment. On crossing through any threshold, your brain experiences a sort of tabula rasa. The door initiates a self inflicted clean slate where every stimulus, subjected to all your senses, becomes fresh. Soaking up this new scene, the past is compartmentalized into a little package of lost information. Sometimes you remember those random anecdotes, those threads that connect your life.
And sometimes you don’t.
For me, nothing is exempt from temporary erasure.
Not the sharing of good news: “The shitty, drug dealing neighbors are finally moving out!”
(I remembered to tell a visiting friend two days later.)
And definitely not the mundane. Walking into my bedroom I wondered, “Why is there a pen in my hand?”
Ironically, I had it to take notes for this project.
Last night I catalogued three events that popped in from distant memory. Three particulars not lost during a sojourn through Europe. Each instance experienced after passing through a threshold.
And after passing back, why were these scenes, amongst a deluge of lost memories, retained?
The van door slid open. In front of us was a short walk over a white sand beach. The sand, so bright, so illuminated that my eyes stung. It was best to stare straight ahead at the sea. Brown waves folding over in the distance, pushing the stench of ocean rot into our faces. It cooled our skin. But just slightly.
I don’t know why we stopped? Most of us hated swimming, our pale complexions shrivelling against a brutal sun. We had no air conditioning. Nine of us crammed in a van, like sardines, stewing in an Italian July. The heat must have provoked our exit.
At waters edge, brown surf mixed with white sand to make a cocoa swirled beach. Here, a door floated by. A door to a shed? Maybe a door to a house? Pale white, its three hinges still a shiny brass. The wood, pocked, from years of submission to the elements. On top, curled in the center, lay a giant, dead rat. Flies dotted against its long grey tail.
This was his lifeboat. Now a boat, minus a life.
None of us touched the water. Soaked with sweat we turned, heads down, and slowly walked back to the van.
The door opened onto a room lit by moonlight. Bunk beds ran along one wall, enough to sleep twelve. We could have driven through the night, but this squat was halfway to where we were heading. Who knows who called the shots in our group? Maybe I did?
Each bed had a plastic liner. Each liner reeked of stale sweat. But it was either this or the damp, dirt floor.
Fully clothed, I laid down on the lower bunk. Facing up, I concentrated on the wooden slats above, hoping to get a whiff of pine. My exposed skin stuck to the plastic. My pores leaked sweat, contributing to the acrid stench of this stink bed. Mosquitoes swarmed. I could hear them buzzing near my ear. I could feel them bouncing off my skin: test runs for potential meat. It was either sweat under a sheet or let them eat.
But I was through sweating.
Was it because the bathroom stall was occupied? Or was it because the bar was too thick with cigarette smoke? Light headed with my bladder pounding, I walked out through a wooden frame and into the Oslo night. It was 2AM, and the sun had not completely set. A mild glow resonated through the streets highlighting a city that truly never sleeps.
I walked to an adjacent alley. There, tucked off the main road sat a dark brown, wood paneled two story house. Its size, just perfect enough to hide a late night piss.
The chill air dissipating my body heat as steam rose from the weeds. I followed it, up, past my waist, and watched it ascend, hugging close to the house. Above my head the ebony wood gave way to spots of white. There was an image on the house that, from my vantage point directly under, was not visible. Finishing, with the last puffs of steam rising into the night, I moved backwards. Each step allowed for the white brush strokes to slowly formulate something concrete. It was a hooded figure, with white face, hands over ears holding an expression of menacing fear.
In embarrassment I quickly walked away. I had a hunch of what I’d just done and hoped no one caught a glimpse. Fleeing the scene I passed a plaque. Stopping briefly, I caught the first lines of translated narrative: “Here was the home of Edvard Munch…”
I had accidentally soiled the house of Norway’s most famous artist.