Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ABL: Gatsby & Me

After Birthday Letters: Gatsby & Me

The next blog comes from March 1997 when I was fourteen. In the Diary I kept at the time I managed to cover all of this in three sentences whilst spending three paragraphs on the Eurovision song contest that occurred later the same week. Well, some things don't change.

I think part of the transition from being a child to being an adult is the realisation that there are entire worlds outside the scope of your knowledge and if there was a moment that this occurred to me then this was it. Anyone who saw/ has read Some Sort of Beautiful will undoubtedly recognise this moment - so potent was it that I gave it to Kate and it stands almost at the heart of the play, albeit with a significance about the events of that week in 1997 that my fourteen year old self could never have imagined.

Last year I returned to Paris for the first time since 1997 and, curiously, my thoughts on the Eiffel Tower were much more akin to those of Harry in SSoB, than of Kate - up close it was full of tourists and now had the spectre of men with guns patrolling the site. This, however, did nothing to dent the memory - if anything it cemented itself further for how much more innocent we all were then.


I step out of the coach into the darkness. I know from my watch - hastily put forward an hour whilst we were on the ferry - that it's almost midnight. I'm tired from travelling, from the coach, from the conversation that was first excited but has now progressed to mumbles.

The wind hits me in the face and I blink. As I move away from the road I can still hear the rumble of traffic, the headlights giving the place a strange glow.

The group I'm with moves and I start to too; with a purpose whose origins I'm not sure of I walk past them towards the monuments in the distance.

I continue walking until I reach the end of the square we're on; I lean on the wall and for the first time since I got off of the coach I allow myself to look. What I'm confronted with takes my breath away.

In the distance, ablaze with lights and the newly erected Millennium countdown, stands the Eiffel Tower. I've seen it many, many times - in pictures, in films, on tv. But peering at it now - in person - is entirely different.

Lower down than me as I stand on my perch the fountains are proudly demonstrating their abilities; their spray creating a distant lullaby to my scene.

I pan the view and it strikes me that if there is such a thing as perfection then this is it. A miracle of human creation. As the wind starts to blow my hair I know with forceful certainty that there is not a single thing I would change, even if I were given the chance.

I don't know how long I've been stood, lost in the view, but I can hear the chatter than indicates that we're moving on, back to the coach, back to our intended journey. I want to stay but I know I must go. I drink in the view, unwilling to speak to anyone and shatter the moment.

Then, because I must, I turn, knowing I am leaving this behind forever. As I walk the rumble of traffic takes over, the headlights once again visible as I make my way to the coach.

Just as I'm getting on I have a curious realisation.

I can smell the darkness.


NB: The title is, rather pretentiously, an allusion to an allusion - I'm invoking Kate's line in SSoB: "All my life I’ve had a problem recognising reality; it’s always been Gatsby and me staring at an enchanted green light".

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