Time is a Room

Sitting with Margaux at Il Pittore last night, I told her about the novel I think I could write, about Elsewhere, and those people, and all my journeys there — and in so doing, told her that story, again, about all my visits down there, the gaps, the absences, and I said it could end with George’s sickness and recovery, and she said, but then I won’t be in it & I said, sure you will, and told her about the frame story, where I would say something to the effect of:

“And I’m still in Philadelphia, quiet, still, living my life, and downstairs, is the woman who loves me, and in a moment, I will rise, and I will go to her, and I will”

Maybe something like that. Let it end abruptly. And then said — you know — put in some profound thought or another — like that time is not a road, but a room —

And then turned back around, and circled back to my first time in Greece, when I was doing my Grand Tour after work and before law school, the Grand Tour paid for with the changed air ticket that had once been a ticket to Chile —

And telling her, how on one island, I took a bus back from the beach with a girl who looked just like my ex-girlfriend, and she went back to the same hostel I was at, and then got on the same shuttle, and then got on the same ferry to Santorini, and then, in Santorini, was going to the same hostel, and how, unsurprisingly, I never really figured out a thing to say to her, BUT she was reading the French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles, and told her friend about the great unceasing beauty of that book, and so, when I went to visit Atlantis Books, the only used English bookstore on the island of Santorini, begun by the old compatriots of Jay and George, the initial echo of what would become Elsewhere, I bought that book, and it was amazing, and I read it as I went on from Santorini to Amsterdam and then back to London and a single day in Dublin, my last day in Europe, when I walked by James Joyce’s house and walked by his river and then flew home to the beginning of the rest of my life —

And in that book I remembered a single line about time not being a road, but a room, and then today, reaching into the Internet, since I’m not sure if I ever got my copy of the French Lieutenant’s Woman back from Elizabeth (Zach’s ex-fiance) when I lent it to her my first year of law school, I did eventually find the quote:

Earlier that evening, when he was in Sir Thomas’s brougham, he had had a false sense of living in the present; his rejection then of his past and future had been a mere vicious plunge into irresponsible oblivion. Now he had a far more profound and genuine intuition of the great human illusion about time, which is that its reality is like that of a road–on which one can constantly see where one was and where one probably will be–instead of the truth: that time is a room, a now so close to us that we regularly fail to see it.