“You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless.”
– Julian Barnes
Things, not unlike people, affect each other and their surroundings, often unintentionally, but with a lasting effect. Things interact, merge, react, depart along trajectories. It’s like accidentally waking up in Paris. The confusion is a mixture of everything – terrifying and wonderful. As you stumble around an unfamiliar city, barely able to decipher the pewter structure for the Eiffel Tower in the distance, grasping for any indication of how you got there, but unwilling to leave, the confusion mingles with exuberance. The feeling surging through you is the result of two, maybe more, things put together and there is a good chance you were one of those things, reacting to contact.
You only understand after the fact. Interaction is a process that is rarely noticed while in progress; the process is just another phase to be taken for granted in the moment. Your hands brush away interaction in the hopes that there is something more, unwilling to understand that that moment is it. What if you could go back to those precious moments and relive them, appreciating them for what they were? I wonder this all the time. But that, just like stopping time, is altogether impossible. And as Barnes further says, “this is like asking for the best of both worlds – though since you just endured the worst of a single world, you might feel yourself entitled to it. But entitlement – the belief in some cosmic (or even animal) reward system – is another delusion, another vanity.” Which is why that feeling, simultaneous confusion and awe, often mixed into joy, can only be lived in the ephemeral moment before it is snatched away, and while it may change the world, it is only your world that matters. Like a scarf with the perfect gloves, or hat. It is the perfect combination, but only to you. Two things brought together like on the cover of Vogue magazine. Others can try to create it, but you are the only one who can pull it off. Because when anyone else dons your scarf, it is like a magenta river running down their neck, unnatural. That scarf was made for your neck. Besides, a scarf is just a thing that feels good, and that particular one brings you ecstasy. Warm, comfortable, familiar thing. It doesn’t matter how you wear it – tied, knotted, wrapped, loosened – it fits into the folds of your throat, collar bone, and shoulders, accustomed to your curves. Except you have worn it so many times, it begins to feel as though your body is adapting to it as well, changing the architecture of your bones to accommodate the fabric. It is not until you accidentally leave it behind that you notice the cold where the material interacted with skin. “And the world is changed.”Not the world at large, but again, yours, where the chills become frequent; it is cold outside and your scarf was better than all the others.
But we were talking about waking up in Paris, which is not like waking up without a scarf, but rather waking, or awaking, to a world where waking is cognizance to everything all at once. And you are confused. This isn’t where you are supposed to be, but does it matter? And among your things you find a scarf that isn’t like the one you had, but still the same one, with a slightly different texture. Almost as if it were a sibling to the scarf you had, but not. It functions the same way, except you can’t feel it (in the way a scarf should be felt on skin), yet it keeps you warm with its presence, always there, hovering, just out of reach. A senseless scarf? Strong enough to keep out the wind, but if you touch it, the interaction of your finger on its delicate fibers, will destroy what is left. As long as you don’t acknowledge its existence, it stays.
So you live in your memories, traipsing through an unfamiliar city, excited and dazed, and always trying to remember, all the while purposefully ignoring your scarf. How you got there – even if still a valid question – no longer matters, and you realize that this moment may be all that you have. As you stare off into the distance at the Eiffel Tower, small and statue like, you take it in, this time knowing you may never see it again. And you stop at the coffee shop for pressed coffee of which you will only find cheap replicas at home. You read every billboard aloud – last chance to practice your French. And you allow your fingers to sink into the soft yarn of your scarf, as it disintegrates in your hands, hungrily grabbing at it, letting your fingers memorize its texture for the last time. You inhale its scent as it turns into nothing. And in that moment of contact the world changed, your world and the scarf’s world (whatever that may be) changed, but unlike last time, this time you knew. Tomorrow you won’t have to rely on hindsight. And today, only today, as you wake up in Paris puzzled, you can just stop in the middle of the Champs Elysees, and enjoy your scarf before it fades away.