Extras 1967-C to York (2012)


Extras 1967-C to York is a short story using a box of anonymous found slides, purchased in a flea market in New York City in 2008, following the exact order in which the slides were found.








































As A sits waiting for B, he smells the freshly cut grass and has the fleeting impression of living in the Middle Ages, guessing that this is the exact same smell that may have been smelled by others a thousand years ago.



















A meets B and a conversation emerges as they walk, conjuring up other times and places that the red road they are crossing becomes merely a repository of; it is one of those moments in which the place the conversation is taking is nothing but a set for other scenarios.



















A has said good-bye to B who walks away, yet A keeps an eye to B as B crosses the park. B doesn’t know he is being observed from a hidden vantage point. A wants to know how B behaves by himself when they are not together. He thinks he sees a black horse walking by.



















B is thinking about their adolescence and all those missed opportunities, as it always happens when B visits this location.























A finds B after a few hours sitting by himself in the middle of a plaza, waiting for someone perhaps. B instead is waiting for a particular time in the afternoon, to relive the forms in which shadows are cast right before lunchtime, but does not communicate this to anyone, as it would be so hard to explain or understand to others.















A enters into a restaurant run by an old Polish woman reflecting on what he has seen, and is served in mismatched cutlery and dishes. B continues to wait in the plaza.






















In passing through the park again, A encounters an interesting scene, where everyone around him appears to have lost something. They all are looking for a variety of items everywhere, as if a special gravitational force had taken something from everyone. A then realizes that he has also lost something: sight of B.

















A’s steps take him to the old location where B used to live. A knows that B has never returned to that location in a decade, but for some stubborn reason A returns to it, perhaps hoping to obtain some clarity as to the reasons why B would depart of where he would go.


















A sees tourists in front of a church, knowing about the slight discomfort that locals feel when the intruding cameras enter into their sacred space; he starts also feeling an intruder but he can’t help himself.




















A starts thinking about an old documentary about Bavaria that he watched as a child, as in every time he visits foreign places that are too perfect to be true, too well delineated, and wonders why is it that B always gravitates toward such places of false perfection.


















B is surveying in the meantime the remnants of a house, not knowing for sure what he is looking for. He has always circumvented locations without knowing the exact reason in the same way when we have a question that we believe only being at a particular place will help answer.

















The demarcations of the house are still there. B wonders why is it that we always like to demarcate, to trace the memory of something that is clearly not there anymore. Nothing should be marked after it is gone. Demarcations, B reflects at that moment, is really the true source of wars and unhappiness in the world.



















B then remembers that A had told him that something was lying at the bottom of the statue, perhaps the severed hand of a famous general, and B assumes that this may be perhaps the reason why he may be there, to search for a trace of authenticity of which the hand could be the only possible proof.


















A goes through the arches that were part of their Sunday stroll and thinks again of the Middle Ages and those imaginary connections. At some point he suspects perhaps that for all he know the past hadn’t happened at all; reviving that sense that he once had as a child that the entire world was a stage and everyone conspired together to act in front of him.
















B has aimlessly walked into finding some symmetry in the landscape. It is in between those two mounds where he decides it is the place to make a life-changing decision.





















In passing that mansion, A senses that there has been a death in the household. He has always had the strange ability to detect events that have recently happened in remote locations.




















There were Indians on the other side of the river, or so A was told while growing up. Even though he always knew this was a story invented by his grandfather to entertain him as a child, every time he walks by this place he finds himself looking for Indians.



















It must be lunchtime, A thinks, as he notices that the gate has been left inadvertently open as it usually is the case at that time of day.






















B further remembers: a truncated rainbow seen only at the center means that someone at the other side of the world has seen God.






















It starts feeling like one of those tedious road trips where nothing seems to change. Why do I live in such a plain country, asks A to himself.





















B then starts thinking, for the first time, in A, remembering their last conversation, as like when we dream that we left our house long time ago and had forgotten to go back.





















A has the feeling of being in the same place than B but without finding each other, as if they had rendered each other invisible through this coincidence.





















Every path and every landscape appears inscrutable, as if written in a different language. Perhaps it is this unfulfilled desire, B reflects, of wanting to be an archaeologist.





















This is the kind of place where you would not like to be left stranded, A thinks. He then further reflects: there are those of us who feel stranded no matter where they go.





















B thought about a painting he had seen as a child where the landscape appeared to look anthropomorphic, almost erotic. But the eroticism in the rendition of the hills contrasted with the violent crisscrossing of the rivers, as if it was a body with open veins.



















It was one of those moments where all is pink, or the same color, between night and day, between afternoon and evening, increasing the sense of urgency for the now. And A remembers telling once to B:




















“Do you ever experienced the sensation of watching a documentary that showed a beautiful landscape and where a voice described something very seriously but you were perhaps too young to understand it and yet have the images very present?”



















Yes, this is exactly that kid of place, thought A, which I had always crossed in passing but which for some reason I never asked myself what it really meant.





















Its all part of the natural erosion of things, B thinks —and yet this is such a poor explanation for what is happening at present.






















A remembers his anxiety in relation to train stations. It isn’t related to a fear of travel, but instead of the possibility of missing a scheduled train.





















“And there it is —such a rare specimen. As it is rare that anyone but me would consider it rare.”






















I wish, A thinks, I could just simply observe the world without any further commitments.






















Now that I think of it, it sort of felt like one of those uncomfortable last conversations between two people faced with a definitive farewell.





















And off they go, leaving certain heaviness the air but still a place depleted of energy, as if nothing had ever happened, or as if what happened had sucked up the range of possibilities for that space.




















Why is it, A asks, that recently married couples go see waterfalls? Is there a connection between the hopefulness of a new start and the desire to see a dramatic fall?





















Or is it, instead, that the violence of that thrust complements those precious moments of tenderness?






















Until that moment, when darkness is about to fall, B hadn’t realized that he is hiding.























And that place, A accurately recollected, is where a benevolent lady used to hide those who were being wrongly prosecuted.






















Again, I wish I were primitive — thinks B. People used to know the name of every mountain and distinguish hundreds of kinds of leaves. Now we only see leaves and mountains.




















A thinks again about the Indians— as if his mind was insidiously trying to distract him by pushing his consciousness into a creek where, he knows, someone had lost a son.





















There is too much nondescript beauty in the world: too many places that lay unclaimed in the imagination and even more of them in our imperfect memory, he says out loud.





















On the edge of the road, exactly like that, B thinks, right at the curve, this is where one can find the mathematical explanation for all accidents.





















Before, we used to think that electrical lines in a landscape were something poetic, as some symbol of progress, but for B at this juncture of his life they all feel like an intruding pest that remind him of the despicable ubiquitousness of humans in the world.



















A continues to walk in a straight line, thinking about a 1906 book about the nomads that he had stolen as a child from the library. He remembered an image of them walking toward the horizon in their horses. Perhaps that enigmatic documentary of which he can’t remember the subject was about them.




















This would be the perfect place, B thinks, to stop a stranger in the middle of the road, give him a gun, and ask him to do a mercy killing of me.  He is surprised by his own thought, and wonders if that was the real reason his steps have taken him there.



















I always thought about that wrinkled Michelin road guide of France that was in my cousin’s shelf. It containes, A thinks, so many experiences that I will almost certainly never have.




















As he stares south, B thinks again about A— perhaps because the ominous mountain reminds him about all the things that he was uneasy about.





















How do we know that an experience is man-made or simply an act of nature?























If one dug out all the gold under the ocean, everyone in the world would be rich, or so B had heard at some point.  How could we live with this possibility and knowing that it was absolutely unattainable?




















A small black object lies in the ground. A can not tell if it was a black bear, a piece of a tire, or that severed head of a horse he used to see in his nightmares.





















Don’t you ask yourself sometimes when you go by a place to which you may never return on whether you should perhaps consider change the course of your life and chose to remain there permanently instead?




















If as they say in that cliché, it was a state of mind, then all places could lay claim to the same condition under the right set of circumstances.





















Only three things could happen here: this place becoming the land of an eccentric man, if becoming a frozen still from an old movie or turning into an abandoned place never to be visited by a living soul again.




















The detritus lying along the show appears to resemble the beginning paragraph of a very sad story.






















There must be a link, A thinks, between a cloudy day, my fascination with Jewish holidays, and my tendency to collect 78-rpm records by defunct sopranos.





















That irritating, inescapable softness!
























Sometimes you take a photograph like this one, A thinks, and you wonder where it may end up decades after you die. Perhaps in a garage sale, a hidden chest in a school, an old armoire from a distant relative?




















This place is too beautiful and peaceful for someone to ever be truly happy.























Finally, B recognizes the place where he was hoping to settle and observe the world, even though it does not seem at all what he had originally envisioned.





















A number of days go by, and they start to resemble each other to the point that B feels that time is starting to collapse onto itself.






















B starts a number of short incursions from his new base, but each one of them turns him into circles, bringing him always to the same origin.





















For a moment B wonders on whether he is destined to remain in the same place for good despite his inexhaustible desire for movement.






















A large town looms in the distance. Perhaps what I need is to find people to talk to, B thinks, in a way that is unconvincing even to him.





















From the top of the hill A sees an object that he can’t quite ascertain on whether it is a rock or a person whose hopes had been petrified.






















B thinks calmly about the idea of suicide— not in a troublesome manner, but rather as a matter-of-fact possibility that involved an uncomfortable but not altogether intolerable transition.




















He once again sees the veins of the roads and he wonders if they could really be read from the sky as the fate lines of the landscape, as the bottom of the cup of a Turkish coffee.





















And yet, as he looks at those buildings, thinks:  predictions are unnecessary. All can be predicted, explained, and blamed on the crimes that are conducted in the name of progress.




















He circumvents the city for three days, as someone who tries to find an entrance but is faced with an infinite, invisible wall.






















Things at a distance change their material conformation, he thinks: they become more childish, more unreal.






















And then, when truly seen afar, they only appear to be small scars on an alien body.























B thinks for a moment about asking help to a group of sailors, but abruptly stops himself. What did he need help in?






















He is again, perhaps, reverting to that moment in his youth where he had vaguely desired to be a stone, an inert object in the ground without any needs or hopes.





















He tries to reconstruct a melody that perhaps was not to old, but which for his little world of experiences was more remote an ancient than if it had been made thousands of years ago, because of the peculiar conditions under which he had heard it.



















It was, perhaps, a Sephardic song about a sailor, a dove, and a tower.























When he was at the natural history museum he had thought about the perfect, yet provisional nature of skeletons.






















Technology feels, in any case, so minuscule when we place it amidst the massive natural environment.






















And how are we connected anyway?
























He thinks about his tenuous links with the world, and briefly feels that he is only alive because someone in this earth can still remember him.





















Even the greatest achievements start looking small when seen at a distance.























The tediousness of the same thoughts that he nonetheless continues to have.























A, in the meantime, continues to try to find meaning in places that offer little more than mere pleasure of ornament.






















At least he is not an emperor surrounded by the absolute loneliness of the helm: his is a more banal type of abandonment.






















He has lost track of time, but judging on the slow movement of the passersby it must be a Sunday.






















Before he knows it he is tagging along a tourist group, perhaps finding comfort in the string of facts that the tour guide would recite before the monuments, or because he vaguely wants to have someone to guide him through life.



















And then, at five o’clock it is the absolute silence of the shadows.























It was, A was now certain, part of a recurrent dream where he always looked for an entrance and instead found a graveyard.






















All he wants is to regain a sense of order, but the events that unfold in his life appear intent to change those plans.






















He, for example, thought about being a poet, but also a diamond thief. How to reconcile both of these desires?






















Yet the thought constantly comes back to him, presenting itself as a perfect plan, and yet, he knows, unattainable.






















But aren’t most lives like cities — in a constant state of construction and destruction, where some parts go up while others fall?






















“Once I heard of a city where one half perfectly mirrored the other. People walked along the exact opposite of sidewalks, they repeated each other’s words backwards. This would have been the perfect city for a torrid love affair.”



















But it was too old of a city for the youth of its inhabitants.























It is time to move on again, A thinks, although he is without a clear map or sense or purpose.























He in fact always felt that he is being watched, although he is never sure if they are spies or guardian angels.






















His steps take him again to the cemetery, as if his legs knew that he needed to get back there to retrieve something he had forgotten.






















“And this is the monument for the unknown common person, for that one who walked this earth without sorrow nor glory, and was rewarded with total forgetfulness.”





















Aren’t we all a bit like that?
























And despite it all, we all try to keep a minimum sense of decor.























This was his final view of this city, A is certain. There is no reason to return.























But as it is the case with every final glance, it is then followed by a second final glance.























This atmosphere most definitely has all the trappings of a Sunday, A thinks. But then again, he has lived periods of his life where every single day had been Sundays.





















B for a moment, in the meantime, remembers that he also had wanted to be a hero at some point.






















It is quarter to five still, and it feels that it had been so for many hours, as if time had been permanently suspended just for this one occasion.





















B is now looking for a place that may have been at some point identical to his earliest memories but which now had been completely transformed.





















And still the question lingers as to the absolute absence of people in this city, as if it had been depleted due to spontaneous combustion.





















The real element of all living landscapes is the wind, B thinks. Whenever it is absent, landscapes become unreal, like paintings.






















It was the mist that provided the answer.
























The towers punctuate the horizon as a gentle coda that A thinks try to tell him something.























A then thinks to hear someone say, “welcome to this skeleton of history.”























It is, without a doubt, a place where secret meetings have been conducted, and yet where little had been resolved or consecrated.






















This is the garden that had been kept intact by generations of gardeners waiting for the return of their master, gone more than a hundred years ago.





















The building looks like a face without any expression, lacking the most remote traces of humanity.






















No doubt that the very impossibility to grasp the notion of the infinite compelled them to conceive the form of the continuous arch.






















That roofless building felt to A as a perfect metaphor of his life—a strong foundation and a beautiful façade, but empty on the inside and no ceiling above.






















Isn’t it interesting, he thinks, that these elaborate and monumental graves now have lost their inscription, and whoever is inside is as anonymous as I am.




















On the other side of the cemetery a group of children are playing, making crowns of small white flowers.






















B in the meantime is staring at the large rose window of the church.  He has the certainty that it contains the answers of his questions, but now he has forgotten what those questions were.




















Perhaps the reason he feels so comfortable here is because, as he had recently realized, his life has always been a long, unfinished project.





















For a moment he sees a woman running away and hiding behind the columns, as if wanting to be chased.  Yet instead of following her, he stays frozen where he is, afraid that what he has seen was possibly a ghost.




















“Every year at this location, at midnight on the anniversary of the death of the town’s founder, a cloaked visitor arrives in front of his grave to raise a glass in his honor, and we all await him from this window, looking from the distance.”



















The legend was that it was meant to be the biggest building in the world but that it had shrunk due to the effect of the combination of the morning mist and the humility of its inhabitants.




















A recognizes a particular pattern of movements in the landscape that are almost identical to the ones of a French XIXth century novel he had read as a teenager. It was a novel without characters, or so he had understood it.



















He keeps thinking back about those legends about the Indians and the nomads he had been told about as a child, wondering what they meant and what they said about the hopes and frustrations of those, like him, who feel lost.




















Looking from a place that A knows was a hideout during World War I, the perspective of the landscape has somehow acquired the quality of a Chinese scroll.





















According to the story of the nomads, their houses moved along with them, on their own — entire buildings and castles they had built would follow them in a caravan, day by day. A imagines that entire palace like a boat with wheels cruising through the city and finally arriving to the sea, where it would float away as an artificial Atlantis.

















It is at that moment that A sees B again, this time driving by in a nondescript car, with a distracted expression, in search of something.






















As B’s car turns a corner, A quickly goes up the stairs to the terrace of a tower to see if he can see where B is headed.  As the reaches the top and looks out, he barely can make out any singularity out of what is a patchwork of undistinguishable and grim maze of vehicles, buildings and streets.


















Urban planners, A thinks, had no sense of humor.























B at that very moment is wishing to be invited inside one of those random houses, to meet someone as remote as possible from his life.






















He arrives to a hilly area where mansions sit atop a hill. The sharp contours of the houses and the hill made the scene look closer to an abandoned set design for a film than a real place. And what if it indeed were?




















One can say there are three components for this image, A thinks: the light of reason, the anarchy of nature, and that luxurious mansion, there only to remind us that there are things that we can never aspire to reach in our lives.




















Some buildings, in conjunction with the time of day, project a kind of mild temperament that resembles the warm tone of a Stradivarius as it plays a Brahms sonata.





















And then when we experience places like those, we become like a clock that stops at a certain hour, with our expectations and experiences forever fixed.





















A then remembers that in the old days when B disappeared he would always find him wandering, absorbed at the antiquity section of a museum.





















Every building which cast shadows feels like a reminder of an exam he had flunked, he thinks, as he checks into the most nearby hotel he can find.





















The hotel has no name, the room has no number, the radio has no markers for stations and the phone has no digits.  As A lays down to sleep, he feels that he is living in a parenthesis, a still present without any connection to the directives of time.




















B is already out early in the morning, looking at people out in the street. He looks at a family passing by — they look very familiar, perhaps like the family he used to have but that one day he had lost without realizing it.



















Soon he is confronted with a military march. It must be a national holiday. As he watches the colorful march, he thinks that national parades exemplify the perfect conjunction of life and death, glory and violence, order and chaos, showing that they are nothing but two sides of the same thing.


















And then to think that the picture he is taking at that moment, which we now see here, shows people that most certainly are dead at this moment, with the possible exception of that boy who now must be a middle-aged man somewhere in Scotland, unaware that his childhood was captured in this anonymous photograph, or discussed here.

















In looking at the march, B feels that he has just received a thorough course on stereotyping.






















Philosophically speaking it is an incongruous image.























And the artificial image of those instruments in unison only appear to become an even more definitive proof of the impossibility of unity in people, in relationships, in ideals in general.





















But its fulfillment for them lies, perhaps, in believing that they are like everyone else, merging inside the crowd, the idea that there was such a thing as being part of a whole.





















For those of us who can’t be dancers, he thinks, we can always have war.























Finally having some kind of revelation with that thought, A suddenly takes to running away, with a strong sense that B is no longer there and that time is running out to find him. He starts going back to where he had come from. His movements and seeing the images he had just left behind gives him the impression that he is watching a movie playing backwards.
















B in the meantime needs to keep remembering that landscapes are neutral places, without thoughts and feelings of their own, and wonders if perhaps, however, they retain intentionality.




















Looking up, he realizes that he needs to do still a couple things before disappearing.























All is merging into the same color. The experiences of others, and even the contradictions of every situation appear to be merging and erasing themselves into one single image.




















B knows that he has forgotten something, but also knows that whatever that was, it definitely is too important to be recalled consciously.





















And the last leg of the journey starts, or so it feels to both of them, as they both depart the city, crossing again into an endless string of nondescript landscapes.






















Everything starts to feel once more like that colossal and yet somewhat artificial stage, a concoction of wind and shadows.





















And when they encounter an arresting image, they almost don’t want to take it in, in order to not feel the possible disappointment of telling what they had seen to others and not be believed.




















It would be time for us to make a review of all the places they have seen, and the reasons why this time around each one of them feels even more distraught than the first time around.




















This place appears to be built out of a foreign person’s unconscious.

























When he sees the bridge, A remembers the story of a giant who slept atop bridges so that he could be lulled by the rumor of the river.





















It is at that precise moment that A sees B once again, illuminated by a red light, and understands that he isn’t the follower but instead the one being followed— with the difference that B is not aware that he is the follower.


















A thinks of blind spots. He also thinks about roofs — those sections of houses that no one gets to see other than people in planes and our nonexistent god. Had his life been a blind spot?




















It was the best symmetry someone could have aspired for.























And with this realization, A allows the chase to continue, knowing that it is meant to come to an end very shortly.  As he continues to walk, he starts to feel that the city is slowly animating itself, quickly metamorphosing into double images.











































And, like that dream that some of us must have had at some point, there is a sense that this story, while at times anguishing, could eventually unfold into a happy ending.





















But the reality is that solitude in this case is too much to bear.























And then you ask: these ruins before your eyes, are they really the vestiges of some remote time, or are they only the vestiges of us today?





















The decrepit church here should be enough evidence to anyone that faith does nothing to ward off the only threat that matters, which is time.





















B looks at the receding horizon as far as his eye can reach, and for a moment feels that it is a line in movement.






















A, by contrast, looks nostalgically at the landscape they have left behind as if it were our only possible living representation of the past.





















How many queens and kings and bishops, he thinks, so revered in their time, were now gone? But more importantly, how many nonexistent characters like them had been invented by the confabulators of history?




















History is nothing more than a colossal construction of white stone that only fulfills itself through its own inner logic.






















Walking through that area, A thinks, he has actually always wanted to be part of that exclusive world of academia but had convinced himself otherwise due to his fear of rejection.




















And this must have been a perfect place for a scene out of a modern Romeo and Juliet.























A then finally understands that his constant search for B is nothing than an insatiable desire for self-reconstruction that would never quite see an end.





















They both stare at the same window, one from inside and the other from outside, in what appears to be like an interminable amount of time, knowing that the other was on the opposite side, and yet understanding that a new meeting is, if inevitable, at this point also unnecessary.


















It is as if one were in the process of detaching oneself from his own shadow.























It is a moment charged with heavy thoughts.
























Knowing where they are headed, they finally reach the doorway, thirty years after their last meeting.






















A door has briefly opened and closed, but no one manages to appreciate the unintentional symbolism of such incident.






















Sometimes we go through life without understanding that there are paths protected by fences, and fate has it that those fences are meant to be invisible to our eyes.





















All those brief, passing and insignificant moments are going by their minds, as if they actually had been grand, monumental experiences.





















The place is indeed idea to stage a great final goodbye, but the circumstances make it feel that it would have felt too sentimental to do so.





















And just as that perfect moment arrives, immediately the opportunity to seize it passes, clearly leaving the feeling that something impossibly precious has accidentally been squandered.




















For a moment it isn’t clear what will happen next.























The bells, interrupted, mark perhaps the contour of this silence even more.























And, like so often happens in those situations, there is a sense of déjà vu permeating the entire scene, but it is only because the moment resembles itself.





















Even the white flowers in the garden, with whom the children were playing to make small crowns, feel complicit and suspect in this pregnant silence.





















A briefly has the suspicion that the only thing that changed in the world were not things nor even people, but his own eyes.





















All places, under this logic, are equal to all places.























B’s last vision is, once again, of that tall tower just before three, marking the calming moment of the European repast.






















With B definitely departed, A wants to feel something, but instead thinks it was interesting that, over the years, objects may actually absorb all the strange impressions and projections of others, which makes them even stranger and distant.



















This is to be also the last time that A sees everything in pairs, a symmetry of actions never to be repeated again.























He walks down the street, like those times when we feel we have had an out of body experience. There are no longer any guardian angels, no spies or devils, sensed or imagined.




















Flashbacks of other places are storming furiously into his brain, but they all seem hard for him to decode, as if they were Rorschach tests.





















Before he knows it he is in the middle of the country again. He has forgotten the time of the day, or the place where he is, or the era to which he belongs. He is not even sure that he is still himself.




















It is as if he were elsewhere but his body happened to be in that particular location, like a radio tuned into a faraway station.






















It finally dawns upon him that he is not meant to be himself anymore.























Instead he has become both of them, like a child who is the perfect conjunction of the chromosomes of both parents.






















Yet it doesn’t feel so much of a birth, but like a marker in the middle of the road with an unexpected side entrance.






















He looks one last time at the old road, that which could have been.























This time he notices that he is being observed by a dark horse, of which he can only see his head and empty eyes. It clearly is the beginning or the end of a long night.





















The abandoned building has come to him, like the mountain to Muhammad. In fact, all the mountains of his life are now slowly moving toward him.




















His steps take him atop the highest tower in York, looking at the approaching buildings, and still under the gaze of the horse. His universe has finally found its ideal arrangement. His mission is clear, and he knows at that time that, from now own, his role is absolute immobility and observation, waiting for the Indians till the end of time, an sufficiently agreeable task for him, for both, for whoever he has become.

























Brooklyn, February 2011