Friday, May 12, 2006

The Impossibilities

There is something about the City in the early evening that is productive of an intense melancholy—perhaps because, for one who spends his days at home, at the computer, or in the local area, to get on a train at 4.45 and ride into town is to reverse the pattern of most daily journeys ... coming up the stairs from Town Hall Station into the fading afternoon, I find George Street full of smartly dressed office workers hurrying away from their places of employment towards their homes or to assignations with friends or lovers. The lights are just coming on and I am reminded, as always, of the cities of my youth, particularly of Wellington which, in my late teens or early twenties, seemed replete with all the possibilities in the world. I used to sally forth at this time of day with the feeling that I might meet any of my literary heroes, any of the queens of my imagination, during a stroll down Willis Street and into Lambdon Quay. Or that, at a table in Barretts Hotel, the secret of the universe would be revealed to me, most likely at the bottom of a glass of something or other. To roll out into nighttime streets several hours later, on our way somewhere else—probably Macavity's, a restaurant named after the mystery cat—was to embark on another odyssey into the further reaches of possibility, even if what actually happened was only a drunken stumble up Plimmer Steps to the Terrace or, if it was still running, a cold ride on the outside of the Cable Car to Kelburn ... it isn't that I don't still feel a leap of the heart at the chances that might come my way as I go down Druitt Street and into Kent, looking for #400 where, on the 11th floor, the book launch is taking place; rather it's that, even with my sense of expectation intact, I no longer believe in infinite possibilities the way I did then. And perhaps that sense of the infinite was itself a mere index of youthful vigour, youthful ignorance ... ? Perhaps, too, it had its own melancholy, arising from my fear of exclusion from the all I wanted to be part of? Then, I did not know that most lives are made out of the humdrum, that even grand passions lose, over time, both their grandeur and their passion, that most of what we do, we do over and over again. At the launch I feel, as I have always felt, younger than everybody else in the room although, if I look carefully around at those I am among, I have to acknowledge that this is my generation and we are all pretty much of an age. Later, I don't go with the authors and publishers to dinner in Chinatown, preferring to catch a cab with a friend over the Anzac Bridge where we settle for a coffee at her place. Later still, having said goodnight to her, I'm rambling up Darling Street in the direction of Victoria Road, since I always like to walk a bit before looking for a ride ... and then, although it's not late and I'm not drunk and nothing's really happened, suddenly the potentials do return in all their infinite variety and I feel, just for a moment—but how long is that moment?—that all things are possible, even the impossibilities.