A journey is a gesture inscribed in space, it vanishes even as it’s made. You go from place to another place, and on to somewhere else again, and already behind you there is no trace that you were ever there. The roads you went down yesterday are full of different people now, none of them know who you are. In the room you slept in last night a stranger lies in the bed. Dust covers over your footprints, the marks of your fingers are wiped off the door, from the floor and the table the bits and pieces of evidence that you might have dropped are swept up and thrown away and they never come back again. The very air closes behind you like water and soon your presence, which felt so weighty and permanent, has completely gone. things happen once only and never return. Except in memory.
This is an excerpt from a short story called “The Lover” by Damon Galgut from The Pen/O. Henry Prize 2010 short stories, and this story has made it worth my while to read the book. I picked it at random, like I always do with stories in an antholgy, and I’m happy it is my first. The collection has a story by the Malaysian author Preeta Samarasan, and I’m looking forward to reading that.
I haven’t moved on to the other stories yet, captivated by how Damon Galgut has written out precisely what I feel about travelling.
In limpid moments I spend alone with my thoughts, this is how I think of life as well, as a “gesture inscribed in space, that vanishes even as it’s made.”