Thursday, April 27, 2006

Inevitably, he began to dream of rivers, or perhaps of a single river, unimaginably long, its source as impossible as its mouth, ceaselessly changing, ceaselessly the same, its black waters concealing impossible depths. He dreamt of a house on the bank of this river, a wooden house with open sides, among trees, the damp wood of the house no less alive than the wood of the trees, the wind tumbling through the branches of the trees the same wind that tumbled through the house, and the rush of the wind making the same sound as the black water rushing over the rocks of the river. For the house was close enough to the rapids for the river's spray to drench its posts and walls; but also--for such is the unstable topography of dreams--the house was on a great height overlooking the river, so high that the river's course was spread out below as on a map, a line of black or of gold traced through the green fog of the forest, black or gold, depending on the angle of the sun. And at this height the winds were warm and seemed tinged with pink and gold, but lower down, among the trees, where the wind gushed along the course of the river, the rays of the sun did not reach, it was always dark and damp and chilly in the permanent weather of this dream. It was always dusk, never day, and in the dark beneath the trees, along the forest floor muffled with dead leaves, it was always silent but for the sounds of the wind and the river, no birds called, no insects hummed, and the dark air was heavy with the weight of that silence.

From this house on the height above the river he would plan his journey, unfurling old maps that sometimes matched the river he could see far below. He did not know his destination, but he knew it lay somewhere along the river, further than the maps showed; he did not know when the journey would start, but he knew it would be soon, and his knapsack lay on the wooden floor beside him, half open, clothes and other things spilling out onto the floor. He had many visitors in this house, perhaps, because he could hear their voices, perhaps from another room, though it sometimes seemed the voices came from the trees, people chatting and laughing and never calling his name; but he was also a stranger in this house, he did not know what had brought him here, could not remember finding his way, and though he searched and searched his maps, turning them round and round on the table in the fading light, his face inches from the old, creased paper, his maps never told him where he had come from, and all they showed was the river, a long, meandering, spiralling line of black or of gold, the names of its islands and banks and tributaries unfamiliar and unhelpful, its many channels crossing and weaving so that it was not clear if it was one river or many, and the river of his maps only sometimes matched the river he could see outside, far below, and he did not know where the maps had come from. And though night never fell, night was always about to fall, it was always the moment just before he knew dusk had become night, and then in the wooden house with open sides on the bank of the river, so close that the spray from the rapids drenched the posts and walls of the house, he would shiver and listen to the rushing water falling on the rocks like knives, and wonder if it would rain that night, and, if it rained, how high the river would rise.

Sometimes this dream turned into the dream of nothing, which was an older dream, perhaps the first dream. It was a dream of falling asleep, of the moment between waking and sleeping when the dreamer must let go of things, of even the thought of sleep. Except he felt something in his arms, his arms were wrapped around something, something invisible without form or weight, a nothing, except he felt it in his arms and he tried to hold it fast, but the nothing in his arms seemed to grow bigger and bigger without ever changing, and he tried to hold it fast and stop it from growing, but because it had no form or weight it was unstoppable, and could not even be held, and then he realised he was sinking, but through a vast space so dark and empty he barely knew he was sinking, as if he were sinking through the very nothing he was trying to hold fast in his arms.

He wanted to let go, to stop trying to hold this nothing. Later he would know he did stop, because he did finally fall asleep, but he never knew how, and each time he had this dream he believed this was the time it would not end.

This was the oldest dream and the worst one, because it was really a dream of never sleeping and never waking. It was a dream of always being in the dream itself, in the impossible space between waking and sleeping, of always sinking and always trying to hold fast in his arms the nothing that could not be held or stopped. As a child, he had this dream nearly every night, and then for many years it had gone. Now the dream came back.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Who comes walking in the dark night time?
Whose boot of steel tramps down the slender grass?

"Unprecedented", the news reports are calling the assassination of Satyadeow Sawh. It's true that this horrible event--the cold-blooded murder of a sitting Cabinet minister and three other people by a gang of men armed with assault rifles--raises Guyana's ongoing crisis to a more desperate pitch. But the history of Guyana over the last fifty or sixty years is a sickeningly sequence of "precedents": from the Enmore Martyrs in 1948 to the horrors of the immediate pre-independence years in the 1960s to the murders of Bernard Darke, Vincent Teekah, Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin, Walter Rodney, and others in the late 70s and early 80s; to the violence after the 1997 and 2001 elections, to the Buxton "uprising" and the "death squad" which the former interior minister Ronald Gajraj is alleged to have run; and, just in the last few months, the murders of Ronald Waddell, Gazz Sheermohamed, and the eight people killed in Eccles and Agricola on the southern outskirts of Georgetown in one night at the end of February.

I've spent much of the last year thinking about and trying to understand Guyana. I've travelled about the country, talked to and interviewed people, read hundreds of thousands of words, and I've been trying to come to terms with my own experiences there the best way I know: writing them down, tentatively, anxiously. Again and again, Guyana's actual unfolding history has halted me. Maybe there is a degree of despair I don't have the nerve to engage. Maybe this heart of darkness is too dark. Maybe there are bad dreams I don't want to have.

It is the man of death, my love, the strange invader
watching you sleep and aiming at your dream.
If it does not dawn on the government after this that the state is no longer in control, then heaven only knows what it will take for the reality to penetrate. This is not about our normal unruly political game; we are into a different context entirely from anything which has obtained before

-- Today's Stabroek News editorial on the assassination of Guyana's agriculture minister Satyadeow Sawh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:7

He was sitting in the lounge of the Georgetown Club with another of the guests, an Indian man, perhaps fifty or fifty-five, who was born and had grown up in Georgetown but left thirty years before. He had lived in Canada all those years and now he had returned to Guyana for the first time since he was a young man. He had a nervous, ascetic manner; he was thin and his hair was graying, and until now he had kept to himself, not chatting with the other Club guests. But perhaps something had happened to him that day, perhaps he had seen something that revived old memories, and he wanted to talk about the past. They had been sitting in silence; then the man made a small gesture with his hands as if to suggest that preliminaries were unnecessary, and began speaking.

"You wouldn't believe it now, but Georgetown used to be such a beautiful place," the man said. "Forty, fifty years ago. They used to call it the Garden City of the West Indies--you know that? And it was true, every house had a garden, trees, flowers--hibiscus, frangipanis. And trees along all the streets, the main streets. And water-lilies in the canals--they never used to be full of dirty water like you see now. People used to paint their houses every year, with fresh white paint.

"In the dry season people used to have garden parties. I went to so many parties when I was a boy here."

They were sitting in low armchairs near the Demerara windows that looked out onto Camp Street. Dusk had fallen as they sat there; cars sped past and through the open windows came music and loud voices from the small bar across the street. The man was speaking softly.

"I used to ride my bike everywhere. It was safe, it wasn't like now. I used to ride up to the Sea Wall, and in kite season we used to fly kites there. Hundreds of kites all along the Sea Wall on a Sunday afternoon. You ever saw those kites? They used to make them with a little flap of paper they called the tongue, and the tongue would make a noise in the breeze. It would sing. Hundreds of kites, flying and singing, all different colours, all down the Sea Wall as far as you could look. I used to wish I could go out in a boat and see the kites from the sea. And people used to dress up and come out walking to see the kites--families, children. Everybody friendly, everybody gentle. Not like the people now. I don't know what happened to this place.

"More than thirty years since I left. All that time I didn't want to come back. I didn't want to see what happened to this place. I used to hear from my family here, and my friends, hear about all what was going on. Even after Burnham died"--Guyana's first president, Forbes Burnham, died in 1985 after ruling for two decades--"even in the last election, they beat people in the street and burned down houses. I didn't want to see all of that.

"But I had to come back at least once. I'm not young anymore, I don't know how long I will still be able. So I came back now, for three weeks, to see what the place looks like, see who I still know here. I told my children I didn't want them to come with me. They're grown up now, no reason for them to come here. Most of my family left over the years, some came to Canada where I live.

"But the things I'm seeing-- You wouldn't believe what Georgetown used to look like, you can't look at this place now and imagine. It was the most beautiful place. And in the dry season when all the plants were flowering, and the sea breeze you used to get--the place wasn’t dirty like you see it now. Georgetown was like a garden."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:6

It was impossible to not be surprised by the physical graciousness of the city, even though this was described in every account of Georgetown he'd read. The wide streets and their generous grid, the low line of the buildings, few rising to more than three stories, gave a sense of spaciousness; yet as he walked to his appointments he found that this was the rare city where things were actually closer than they appeared on the map.

It was the buildings themselves he most marvelled at, the older ones, built of wood and painted white, their fretwork and shuttered windows letting in the breeze from the north-east, delicate as houses made of paper, their banks of slender shutters like frills cut with tiny scissors. He thought of them as white ships floating across the waterlogged land, lined up in graceful flotillas.

But many of these lovely structures were decrepit, their paint peeling, boards warped, exterior staircases fallen away, weeds sprouting from balconies. Even this disrepair could be poignant and picturesque. And at the feet of these buildings, or just outside their walls, the open canals designed to channel the water that would otherwise submerge the city were full of slime and garbage, overgrown with water-weeds; water sat stagnant everywhere in the city, full of mosquito larvae or small fish. This elaborate hydraulic system first devised by the Dutch, by which the city was protected at high tide by the kokers, and drained into the Demerara at low tide, had been allowed to decay for decades. Canals were clogged, kokers warped or rusted shut, and now the foul wastewater was trapped among the streets. A septic smell lingered through Georgetown, like a reminder of failure.

A city built below sea level is in constant danger of drowning. A city built of wood is in constant danger of burning. Every day as he walked to and fro he saw gaps between buildings, empty except for a few charred timbers or concrete pillars that once supported wooden floors. If one of these wooden buildings caught fire, it burned so quickly there was almost no chance it could be saved.

Two months before he arrived Guyana, in fact on Christmas Day, the Sacred Heart church on Main Street, one of the city's landmarks, was destroyed during mass by a fire that started in the nativity crib. As the congregation sang the final hymn of the service, a small lightbulb sparked and exploded, and the straw that had been arranged around the figures in the nativity scene--the infant Jesus, the kneeling Virgin, Joseph with his staff, the ox and the donkey and the lambs--caught alight.

The church interior had just been repainted, with oil paint, and the building could not have been more flammable. In twenty minutes, he was told, the hundred-and-forty-three-year-old church was consumed by fire, its two towers, its Italianate west facade, the school behind it, and the parish records, with their details of the births, marriages, and deaths of five generations of the Portuguese community who had built Sacred Heart. Later he saw a photograph of the fire, the building's main timbers stark as a skeleton in the inferno. He often walked past the orb-topped gateposts that had once admitted worshippers to the church; now they led to an expanse of rubble among the stone foundations.

One day, as he returned from an errand at the bottom of Main Street, he noticed the Sacred Heart gate was no longer padlocked, and he went in. No one in the street paid him any attention. In the rubble he found fragments of wood now reduced to charcoal, shattered glass, and pieces of tin with a beaded pattern beaten into them. Anything of value that survived the blaze--if anything could have survived the blaze--had long been taken away, and fresh weeds were sprouting up through the small debris.
I think of ... a dream that I once had in the mid 90s, a time of much confusion in my life. It was Carnival, but in the past, near the Bleachers, where I saw mas in the 60s with my parents--it was Lloyd as a Gladiator! He was playing an individual. He had net, axe, leopard-skin coat, a Ken Morris breastplate, with a series of people, who I cannot recall, keeping his cape off the ground.

I was about to acknowledge him, but he held his hand up and said that he could not recognize me--Who are you? What are you playing? Go home and get your costume and then we could talk! he said.

In other words ... what's your position?

-- Christopher Cozier, in his new weblog, thinking about Lloyd Best

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:5

Late one afternoon he walked up to the Sea Wall, the long dyke--more than two hundred miles long--that protected Guyana's low-lying coast from the Atlantic flood.

The tide was out, and two groynes built from piled boulders stretched perpendicular to the shore. He climbed out to the end of one of them. The water was shallow, a few inches at most, dirty and foamy. Children were playing on the wide, garbage-strewn mud flats, and some boys were fishing from the other groyne.

Years before he actually saw it, he'd dreamt about this Sea Wall and the mud flats that at low tide ran for hundreds of miles, interrupted only by the mouths of rivers. He'd dreamt he was being chased by someone who in his dream he knew was the Guyanese poet Martin Carter, though the Martin Carter he invented, with white hair like an electric halo, looked nothing like the real Martin Carter who had lived in Lamaha Street not so far from the Sea Wall. In his dream, the dark, wet mud flats gleamed under the moon, and small objects half-sunk in the mud--pebbles, pieces of broken glass--glittered as he ran past.

There was a steady wind off the Atlantic and as the sun set the benches looking over the sea filled with people chatting. Scraps of plastic bags and old clothing fluttered like torn kites among the rocks and the scrub at the foot of the Wall. There were no ships to help him gauge the distance of the horizon.

As he ambled eastwards the Wall narrowed, till he had to sidle past people coming from the other direction. In a grove of sea-grape trees just beside the Wall someone had constructed a sort of bower-like habitation from pieces of cloth and string, pages torn from magazines, plastic flotsam, broken children's toys. Bottles hung from the branches; there were unlit candles in the mud among the tree trunks. On the Wall itself here cryptic symbols had been painted in white.

There was no sign of the person who had built this nest and presumably lived here, or slept here at night--or was it some sort of work of art, or someone's private monument? It was like a parody of a child's secret hiding-place, but deliberately out in the open, where you couldn't help staring into the heart of the lair. He noticed that other people walking past either sped up slightly, or looked away.

From this vantage point it was clear that at high tide most of the city would be below the level of the sea; he began to understand the nature of the catastrophic floods a few weeks before. Some buildings still bore the dirty brown or greenish marks along their lower walls that showed how high the water had risen, and the open fields--playing fields, perhaps, or pasture land--on the other side of the Sea Wall Road were still in parts coated with thick black mud. For a moment the Wall seemed a frighteningly slight defense against the vast weight and volume of an entire ocean, and he found it too easy to imagine all these houses and people and cars swept away by the flood, leaving nothing but an endless expanse of flat, empty mud.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:4

To stay at the Club, one needed the recommendation of a member. It was an old colonial institution, a relic of the sugar era, founded in 1896, though the present Club building was only sixty years old--its predecessor had been destroyed in a fire. The rooms upstairs, he was told, had once been used by overseers and other sugar company staff normally posted outside Georgetown, on their trips to the city. Now the Club housed an assortment of old Guyana hands visiting from abroad, men and women who had been coming here for decades and knew the ways of the place.

Every morning he would come down to the dining-room and find himself assigned to a different communal breakfast table, so that over the weeks he stayed at the Club he breakfasted with most of the other guests in turn, and he wondered if the staff carefully arranged who would meet over breakfast by manipulating the place settings.

The Club and its guests were governed by a set of rules, some of which were posted on a noticeboard near the bar, some of which, it seemed, were semi-secret, divulged to guests only after they had broken them. Some of these rules were archaic, stipulating standards of dress or behaviour that must have seemed reasonable seventy or eighty years before; they were upheld faithfully by the Club's staff, most of them working-class Guyanese. Guests were discouraged from having visitors at night, and the lights in the main lounge were put out at ten. One could not simply pay for a drink across the bar; to give cash to the barman was considered improper. Everything had to be signed for and billed to a member's account; so only members (or "temporary members") could order drinks or meals.

At one time the Club was run by English expatriates; most of its members were of the white upper class, in the days when Guyana still had a white upper class, families with English and Dutch and sometimes French names, families who owned or managed sugar estates. "Ordinary" Guyanese could not have sat in the bar, except perhaps with the special dispensation of the Club management. Now the Club seemed to have very few members, and most of those were "squash members", who joined only in order to use the squash courts behind the main building, across a courtyard. On weekends, when a heavy silence like the sound of abandonment hung over the lounge and dining-room and even veiled the noises of the street outside, shouts of excitement and laughter would sometimes drift across the small yard from the squash courts.

On Wednesday nights a group of older members met in the billiard room to drink and play and exchange news, but otherwise the Club worked like a sort of hotel, with guests from abroad staying in the rooms upstairs and businessmen using the bar to meet with colleagues. Unaware of the complexities of this history, over the weeks he stayed there he often asked people to meet him at the Club; it was as convenient a place as any to sit and talk. He noticed that some of his acquaintances--men and women who thirty years before would not have been welcome as guests--seemed surprised to find themselves here, nervous ordering a drink from the barman. One new acquaintance who had come to meet him confided that he had been a waiter there once, and would take nothing more than a glass of water; not even a cup of tea.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

howsen cricket match 2

Easter Sunday cricket match at Howsen Village, in the foothills of the Central Range near Talparo; Howsen Village vs Valencia, Howsen batting; 121 for 5, just before the tea break
Imaginary Roads 1:3

The city was called Georgetown, and the central district near the river was snarled with traffic. The driver explained that the Brazilian president was visiting, and some of the main streets were closed for the convenience of his entourage. The car zigzagged back and forth, and he lost his sense of direction, could not tell if they were still heading north. The white spire of the cathedral seemed to circle them, counterclockwise.

"This is the place," said the driver. They were on Camp Street, at the Georgetown Club, where he had a room booked. A skinny security guard in a khaki uniform opened the heavy iron gate.

He had expected spacious grounds, wide lawns and pavilions, not this building overlooking a noisy street, with a small strip of garden--shrubs in orderly beds. From the outside, the Club was three storeys of white-painted wood, its facade broken by many windows. Inside, it was dark polished wood.

There was no one to help his with his bags. He climbed the stairs to the main lounge, a long, airy room furnished with low chairs and sofas, small tables, faded maps of Guyana pre-dating independence, as he saw when he looked closely: where each map had once been captioned "British Guiana", someone had carefully pasted a strip of paper printed "Guyana" over the old colonial name.

The only person in the lounge was a man in a white shirt behind the bar, looking alarmed to be called from his newspaper. The barman handed him a form to fill out, an application for "temporary membership", and gave him the key to room seven.

The wooden staircase, with its ill-fitting maroon modern carpet, creaked as he climbed, and the heat in the corridor on the upper floor felt stale, as though it had been trapped there behind the windows for too many long afternoons.

He was disoriented by the feeling that here at the Georgetown Club it could have been any year in the last three decades; the furniture, the decor, and even the most inconsequential fittings looked like they had not changed in that long. Everything was like a vague childhood memory about the way doors opened or chairs settled. But his room was air-conditioned and cool and clean. There were two beds, a small refrigerator with bottles of water, a long desk with a telephone. The window looked past a traveller's palm onto Camp Street, busy with schoolchildren and bicycles, and the small trenches that ran along the sides of the street, choked with weeds and gagged with stagnant water. At this height, two storeys up, he was safely above the smell of the city's decay.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Friday, 2006. Looking Skyward

kites and poui trees

Kites flying above the poui trees on the western side of the Savannah, Good Friday

"Any idea where we might find a bobolee?"

"Yeah, they have one in La Seiva every year."

So we drive up into Maraval and to the little junction in La Seiva village by the rumshop. An old fella sitting there by the side of the road looking bored, but no sign of a bobolee.

We stop a young woman and ask her.

"Nah, they didn't do one this year, I don't know why."

(A bobolee is an effigy of Judas, made from old clothes, newspaper, straw, sacks, traditionally displayed in public on Good Friday and ritually beaten--symbolic punishment, roughly two thousand years after the fact, for the original Judas's betrayal of Christ. Over the years, Trinidadians have come to use the bobolee-beating as a form of political protest, with the effigy standing in for delinquent politicians, notorious criminals, despised phenomena. This year, it seems, completely spontaneously, people across the country refrained from beating their bobolees in order to protest the wave of violence and murder that is traumatising the country. Photo in the Guardian of a bobolee in McBean Village propped up against a fence with a sign reading "Please stop crime / by don't beating me / that's part of crime".)

So we drive back down to the Savannah, where the hot dry-season sky is filling with kites: impressive mad bulls; strange ring-shaped objects that seem to hang motionless in the breeze; a goldfish with fins rippling; a few simple brown-paper chickeechongs; and cheap plastic numbers like the rainbow-striped one Georgia bought week before last.

A few days ago the pink poui trees were covered with flowers, but the breeze has almost stripped them bare. Still, pink pouis always remind me of snow-cones with condensed milk, and it's a hot, dry afternoon, so after the kite manages to get lodged in a tree I stroll down to "George", the snow-cone man across from QRC.

The Savannah grass is brown and dry and prickly, but one fella is stretched out on his back, one hand behind his head, the other holding on to his kite-spool, looking up at the western sky and the clouds back-lit by the descending sun, dozens of kites darting and swooping but somehow never colliding, and, even higher, pairs of birds gliding towards the hills.

Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once, peirc'd with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and to'our Antipodes,
Humbled below us?

pink poui

Pink poui tree in the Savannah, Good Friday

Say what:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:2

He was travelling to a place called Guyana, an English-speaking country on the north-eastern shoulder of South America, reaching from the Atlantic inland along the lengths of three or four great rivers to the border with Brazil.

The flight lasted perhaps an hour. Later he wouldn't remember any view out the window of the airplane until he was descending over a river called the Demerara. Below was what looked like an unbroken forest canopy, a monotonous expanse of trees, not a hill in sight.

He realised at that moment that he knew almost nothing about Guyana, despite the reading he'd done to prepare himself, the guidebook information he'd memorised. He didn't know what he was getting himself into. Then among the trees he saw tin roofs, then clearings, the untidy evidence of human settlement, and then the runway, and the plane's engines roared.

It was early afternoon and the heat felt not quite familiar. This was South American heat, with the slightly sweet scent of a bonfire.

He told the immigration officer he was on his way into the interior.

He'd arranged to be met by a taxi, and as he stepped into the front arrival hall he saw the driver holding up a piece of paper with his name written on it in ballpoint ink.

The road to the city was lined with houses, shops, Chinese restaurants every fifty feet, pedestrians, animals. He couldn't make out where one village ended and another began; the blur of buildings on either side of the car seemed a single continuous settlement. He found the bustle reassuring. He saw policemen in tunics of a shade of pale blue too delicate to be practical; a Hindu temple like a pagoda, built of white-painted fretworked wood; a donkey-cart loaded with vegetables under a burlap sack. He had a sense that water was near, then saw the Demerara to the east, its bank demarked by sentinel kokers, Guyana's famous sluice-gates.

But what did the taxi driver talk about, was the car comfortable, did its air-conditioning work, what did he think of the people they passed on the road, their clothes, the way they walked or stood, the signs painted on their shops, the shrubs in their small garden plots, the little wooden footbridges leading to their houses, was this anything like the story he'd told himself, why had he imagined arriving and driving along this road at night?

"You been to Guyana before?"

He told the driver this was his first time. The driver asked why he was here.

"You come for business? Not the best time to be here, you know. You heard 'bout the floods?"

A few weeks before, the strip of low-lying coast where most of Guyana's people lived had been devastated by floodwater, after unseasonable rain overtopped the conservancy dams that protected the settlements, and the old system of drainage canals and sluice gates collapsed. Some villages had been flooded eight feet deep, drowning livestock and destroying crops, and even parts of the capital city were five or six feet below water. Bacterial diseases broke out, and there were fears of epidemics.

"Yes, it flood round by my house too. Four foot in my patch of greens. You could still see the mark on the side of the house where the water reach."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Imaginary Roads 1:1

He was not a good traveller. He was always agitated by the mundane mechanics of getting from one place to another: packing, driving to the airport, waiting, the special discomfort of the airplane, waiting, lugging bags around, onto trains, into cars, up stairs. That morning he was still slipping from room to room with clothes and books in his hands, cramming things into his knapsack, pushing papers into a manila folder, when the friend arrived who had offered to drive him to the airport. She sat making quips while he hopped about, still half-dressed, trying to cross things off the packing list he'd drawn up the night before, grabbing his shoes, making a mental inventory of his pockets; wallet, keys, pen, handkerchief. His rucksack was overstuffed: he was taking a bulky battery-powered reading light, a portable coffee-maker (but he forgot the bag of ground coffee, and was never able to find any in the city; he drank instant coffee the entire time he was there); books he wouldn't read.

At the airport, after he checked in and surrendered his rucksack, he had a makeshift lunch of sandwiches and weak tea. Whatever pleased excitement he'd felt about the trip had curdled into anxiety by now; his knee bobbed up and down under the formica-topped table. On most journeys there came a point of near-despair, usually when he was at the airport and waiting to board the airplane, when he'd regret he was going anywhere at all and wish he were at his house, in bed or sitting at his desk. The place he was travelling to would begin to seem sinister; he'd have visions of dark, dirty, cold cities, or sterile landscapes baking in the sun. The airport departure lounge or, worse yet, restaurant, was a non-place, a sort of limbo, where nothing seemed to resemble the objects of the world outside--not even the air, recycled dozens of times, scented of some unidentifiable substance, some polymer.