written abroad

by uzwi

There’s this feeling that if I don’t capture something–take a photograph, write a paragraph–I will be “wasting” this trip. if I don’t record it, when I’m home again I’ll have forgotten most of it & won’t really have been anywhere.

I send C an email. “I remember us walking around the city.”

In fact waves of nostalgia did go over me yesterday, when I began to recognise a park we’d walked in last time we were here, a park full of shallow granite domes. I stood at its upper end in the sunshine, thinking: “I know I’ve been here before. I know I have.” Though I couldn’t remember the day itself, or how we’d felt, nostalgia made me happy in retrospect. I’m not complaining. That was more than enough.

This memory/not-memory of being in the park is true. It isn’t manufactured. But it is only fetched back by nostalgia. You would not reach it or connect with it otherwise. It isn’t just framed but formulated by nostalgia. Standing in the sunshine, I couldn’t remember the actual circumstances of being there with C, or how we got there, or what we did there. I wasn’t even sure which of our trips here I was remembering (although clearly it wasn’t the weekend of ten below zero & nine inches of ice in the harbour). But nostalgia made me happy at that moment.

I miss nostalgia. Nostalgia came of age as an unacceptable sentiment with the invention of cheap, easy data storage–photography, tape recorders, analogue film cameras. At that point, memory started to die because its direct relationship with the felt began to die. Before the age of storage a memory arrived as an emotion. Now, memory is conceived of as something separate that can be guaranteed by a piece of equipment.

& there’s another rhetorical move since the 80s: nostalgia is part of your life come back to burn your fingers, so you piss on not just this fire but the whole idea of fire, as quick as you can.