Another Path Through the City

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A depiction of a man with an imagination so powerful it can subvert the reality of his surroundings. He's aware of it, so the question for him becomes: How far does he allow himself to travel down the rabbit hole?

Time.

Time.

Time.

So the clock tower tolls, not proclaiming, 'It's Time'; nor, 'This Time'. Just:

Time.

Time.

Time.

The statement dominates the town square for the seconds it lasts, and echos in the minds of all for the following hour. The echo is capitalized, punctuated and final. The church bell reminds us to pray, as the dinner bell reminds us to come home. The clock tower generalizes, and simply reminds us that we're probably late for something: if we were taking a break, the break is over; if we were off the clock, we're now back on; if we were on the clock, we make a mental note of the passing hour like a prisoner scratches the days out on the walls of his cell. I've always appreciated the elements of which a space is composed, especially those elements which are tucked away and understated, which nonetheless communicate a world of subtext via their presence alone. The element of a tower, however, is in no way understated, nor nonchalant, though its influence on the surrounding scene does remain subtle: even the most stolid and grandiose architecture will fade into the background—local eyes will slide right over it, owing to the unchanging regularity of its presence.

In contrast to these natives, I myself am a constant traveller, though after a distinctly modern fashion: my preferred destinations are more often mental than they are physical—more often of the mindscape variety, as opposed to land, if you will—and this is so because my visitations there do not as often, nor as exorbitantly, demand a fee—though, this does not mean that the constructs one finds in such realms do not charge rent: the space within a mind is limited, after all, like it is on this green Earth. I myself, like many a novice voyager, have been mistaken in assuming the contrary, when considering extending my stay. Still, I never have to pay a dollar to use the restroom, and of that I am glad, because my dollars are passed around as carefully as the gemstones they used to represent.

During my travels—it was a few years ago, now, in the adolescence of my education—I once visited the realm of psychoanalysis, and after only a single tour I took up residence there, as a tourist might who found for himself a home away from home—regions always intrigue me when they have many museums and many libraries to celebrate and catalogue the achievements of those they call their own. At some point during my early explorations of the foreign territory, while strolling through one of these museums, as I recall, I came across an unique room, above the entry to which the curators had installed a sign that read, Defamiliarization. Intrigued, I leaned closer to read the placard description:

noun

      1. the ability to look at a commonplace object not as a native has come to know it, but as an outsider would, or an alien might.

Cautiously, I peered through the doorway, and recognized the works of many artists, mostly of the twentieth century. I was about to enter when the clipped, hushed stride one often hears in museum corridors diverted my attention, and when I looked back an unsettling feeling that the contents of the room had changed, though the forms within remained the same, crept through my limbs. I watched as the objects whose intent I had known from past study and exposure transformed somehow: they were now looming before me, as I felt them laughingly threaten my sense of reality. I took a step back, and then, stumbling, a few more. Not wanting to risk looking anywhere else, I stared for a long time at the sign above that doorway.

The word, which I have since adopted as my own—a shared custody between me and the psychologists, since no one really owns a word, nor the idea attached to one—rises to my awareness once more, as I sit in the plaza of this unknown city, guessing at the mysteries suggested by the gestures and the expressions of the inhabitants as they go about their day. I'm sitting off to the side of the cobblestone square, at a small circular table, on a restaurant's patio. Before me there is a stone fountain proudly adorned with statues of deities and mythical creatures—I see it as a wellspring from which one can drink and contemplate. To myself, as no one sits near, I begin to speak the word, in a whisper, and my tongue dances the cadence of its syllables, and my lips caress each and every letter, cherishing their form. Delicious. Delectable. It's as if I had been served a favourite dish, here in this restaurant I make sure to visit whenever I pass through the square of this out of the way, memorable little town: a town which I only happened to stumble across, once upon a time. If there had been a waiter who served it, I would surely note that the offering had been exquisite, and that the entire menu—ever-changing but always good—was a marvel worth telling my friends about if ever they were in the area. And if this were a friendlier realm—the world of psychoanalysis is not, and so I offer a kindly warning to mind your step—I might ask to see the proprietor of the establishment; cerebral as I often am, I do enjoy human contact when it is able to be offered with genuine abandon.

Glancing at me from afar, this proprietor, he makes a guess at my thoughts and comes over, welcoming me as a favoured guest, a hard-working journeyman of the mind. He thanks me for making the time to stop in. Despite the guarded way they make a statement, I know psychologists are really people of good humour, and so I reply that I'm off the clock like an addict is off the wagon—my days are filled with moral uncertainty—which means I can always find the time—my own—to appreciate a word such as this; a world such as this. He laughs, and reminds me to be careful as he waves and sends me on my way.

As I get up to leave, again I hear that sound:

Time.

Time.

Time.

Another hour has passed, and I can't help but wonder if I'm using my time wisely. I probably am late for something, and with that thought in mind the city transforms around me, and becomes familiar once more: I am reminded of where I am, and so I am reminded of who I am, too. Before long I will come across someone who recognizes me, and if I am still uncertain, I will be able to count on their say to provide confirmation of the fact.

Me, a fact. That unsettling feeling creeps through my limbs once more.

A fact.

A fact.

Fact.

Fact.

Fact.

The face of the proprietor swims before me in my mind's eye, and again, laughingly, I hear him reminding me to be careful.

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