Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: a novel-in-progress excerpt

I write and ask myself is the remembering mind a kind of ghost, drifting, no longer bound by time or gravity, as if twilight or reality had gathered into a cloud? Imagine a ghost returning to the place where it once lived. That place would seem a ghost to that ghost. Nothing the same. Everything haunted. As if seen through gauze. Of course it would seem that way: it’d be seen through a ghost. But gauze is apt, for a ghost’s past is a wound and the ghost is a dressing, a consolation, instead of us returning with no veil, the past in full colour. Haunting, though unsettling does not excoriate like reliving, like the mind returning, like a living wound. 

A living memory. Shares a circulation with the body, with the lived life, with the present.

Writing this story, both a kind of haunting and an opening of a wound. Or its investigation. 

When asked, my grandfather said he would never return to Lithuania. “There’s nothing there,” he’d say. Nothing but the eviscerating presence of what wasn’t there, he meant. That wound. His family. The village. His childhood. Leaving it for another life in Africa. There was too much there if he returned. There was too much was there. Without the possibility of change.

You can drown in memory if it’s not like a wave, if it’s a still pool, unchanging, stagnant. If it’s not in circulation, like the blood. 

And what is a wave?  I search online: Do waves move the water with them? 

They don’t. The water stays in one place, like the past, energy moves through the water, across the ocean, creating waves. My grandfather travelled across the ocean, from Krekenova to Bristol and from there to South Africa.

I had lunch with my cousin. We were speaking about our great-grandparents. He’d been looking through an online archive from Panevezys where they’d lived. He was sure that he recognized our great-grandfather in the jittery film, being chased down the street. Soldiers standing beside old cars, men in long dark coats, our great-grandfather beaten with a stick, clutching his head.