This column is the last in a Life&Style series exploring the study abroad experiences of students from around the 5Cs. The entries have been widely varying in style and topic depending on each student's particular perspective, and serve as an extension of the writers' accompanying study abroad blogs. This week's column comes to us from Cambridge, England courtesy of Peter Chinman PO '12.
I settle into each moment and start to feel the dizzying weight of memory—knowing that afterward I’ll look back so frequently on these months, these collected moments, these memories collated in the black inkscrawl of my journal or in Erin’s sun-soaked photographs. Each olive bursts a thousand times dripping, each terrace-top sunset a thousand times casts its golden-pink glow across the terracotta roof-ridges, each wine-lipped kiss—one closer to our last—repeated a thousand times in the churning of memory. Each small moment given such weight, saved from the smooth fluidity of the forgotten—ebony skeletons lie in lines across pale pages. The words carve out hollows that I fill with cold shimmers of remembering. The words are just containers—dumb and perverse.
I write because I can’t let myself forget. I write to save my self, so that there is some record of who it was that lived all this. I write to save the small moments so that, later, I can fill them with my self and remember. A month of travel dutifully recorded so that maybe some of me will seep through, so that I won’t lose the small moments to the flux of time—unwritten they slip away unnoticed. But the words will never be enough. Water slipping out the cracks between my fingers.
Erin gets it. She wouldn’t tell me why she was crying in the dusty labyrinth of the palace garden walkways along the fountains trickling water and the honest-to-gosh hedgemaze, until later when she was crying again in Gaudi’s church, full of fluttering rainbow butterflies and sun streaming stained glass, and she told me with tears on her cheeks about the fleetingness of it all, about how she can’t hold on to any of it, that it just slips through her fingers, the present always rushing by, about how she takes pictures to try to stop it, to try to hold on to it, but in the end they’re mostly just third-rate copies.
So much time spent riding on trains, staring out windows at see-through reflections of myself superimposed on the speeding countryside. Dirt furrowed green fields and flitting fruit trees like leafy clouds. Parallax renders proximal landscape fleeting, farther hills like slow giants lumber. So much of my writing done on these train rides between cities, trying to get the last place adequately down on the page, wracking my mind for the small moments that I don’t want to forget. Remembering now myself remembering, pictures of a mirror reflecting the past. Sitting on the train with sundrenched stone streets stuck in my head.
Memories drenched in sunlight. Iridescent surface sheen. Butterfly wings. Memories like winding strings of globed lights and the tendrils of plants hanging from wood-planked ceilings.
Happy glasses of wine in the lamp-lit warm night of an outdoor cafe.
Like a dreamer unable to communicate the dreamfeel. All I can show you are the dead skeletons, the empty containers. Is it enough? It is never enough.
A hazy dream palace that I wander waking through. The intricacy of patterns etched into the stone walls, etched archways of fractal detail, arched windows peering out on the white-walled buildings spilling down the hillside.
Skittering through holes in traffic across two highways to reach a stretch of beach. Waves crash, blasting spray against a reef of rocks that leaves a tranquil bayette for luckless fishermen and Gabe and me to wade out into after crossing the tiny archipelagos of exposed rock and stepping into the warm pools lined with squishy algae.
Purple and pink blossomed tree spread out wide like a spindly umbrella over two dusty stone benches. Butterflies as big as an out-stretched hand land stopping for a heartbeat on bent branches.
The ugly flamenco dancer’s strict face soundlessly counting time as she claps the rhythm. Proud and in control, nodding silent approval to the quick-flicking guitarist. Whirls—stomping feet—facing crowd before turning to finish the last beat back turned, hand raised dismissive and encompassing.
For more about Peter's experience in Cambridge, go to peterchinman.blogspot.com