• arifalfaraz

Running away from Time:

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

A conversation between Time, London and myself, inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and Jonathan Kemp's London Triptych, covered by the halo of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Yes, yes, yes, I get it!

This world does not make sense and all that...

We all have thought about putting an end to our lives, at least for once. And I mean thinking of it while sitting in a beautiful terrace looking at the blue sky, having a glass of a full-body Malbec, and wondering about the meaning of our existence, not while you feel empty during an alienation moment after a horrible break up or after your mother's death.

That gorgeous wine.

That beautiful sun.

That calmness.

You with yourself, picturing a big white billboard that says:

Why the hell do you have to deal with so much shit in life?

The beauty of those moments comes when -at the same time- you see another billboard juxtaposed to the other, that says:

Why the hell don't you enjoy your path in life?

It is in contradiction where I find my balance. Nothing is pure, and that is the main problem in society: the fact that we believe we have to be, and everything must be, pure. We judge what does not follow the rules of purity, of perfection, stated by we do not even know who.

Art is here to save us. A mirror of our innerest-self. It is the aura that covers that balance between screams and smiles. Literature is one of the endless forms of this compass, and my north is pointed out by gems like: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp or Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

These three will accompany me on this stroll -literally- accross the truth. I will let the resonance of those characters talk to me, live through me, while I follow the steps that Clarissa takes throughout the novel. I want to see through her eyes, see London, and be inspired by its springy air.

Time is my theme, and theirs. Time and the city of London. There is no need in being more expecific now.


Time and the city.

Time and London.

The characters of those books, build their paths -at least in their minds- on the edge of society, staggering like an aerealist trying to get to the other end of the high-wire. I walk on that ethereal yellow brick road -red wine in hand to help me understand or to forget why fear hits me so hard.

I have been Mrs Dalloway, but I have been Alice too. So many times.

Faithful and doubtful. Rebellious and curious.

I am black and white at the same time, and altogether while the world mixes droppings with sweet pick & mix. We must eat one and the other to grow up, and to grow back down, to grow back up again, and blossom.

I take both hands to dream, to be. And I take them because I can, because I am here, now. Septimus cannot do that anymore; his fall has not had an end, yet. He is trapped in time -space does not matter in our journey. But my own Septimus breathes in every day, because he can, because time is holding his hand, still.

Bond Street has lost its beauty, now. Its yesterday was vivid and although its today is grey, its tomorrow can be stripped on pale pink and magenta again. It will smile and evaporates and smile and evaporates and smile and evaporates, over and over, observing at all the Dalloways and Alices' ups and downs. But that bond will always be there. Full of it I walk, breathe, see, watch, smile, and cry.

As Jonathan Kemp visioned from three different perspectives and periods, the city stays the same. Yesterday and tomorrow seem absorbed by a black hole called London, where Time does not rule beauty, but everyone runs away motionless from the ticking clock. Wrinkles come sooner than expected, and there is not even one character, one person who does not wish to follow a white rabbit with a watch, instead of the other way around.

Destiny chooses for me a cloudy day to follow Clarissa's walk -or so I thought when I got the Jubilee line in Canning Town. The first thing I feel just before coming out from the tube station is an overpowering voice singing Diamonds by Rihanna. As I climb up the stairs, a bright ray of light blinds me.

London, four seasons within a day.

I search and search, but I cannot find any flower around. It would have been nice to start as she did. But I have diamonds, which are even better.

Different shops, different cars, different people... same air, same sun. I walk.

At first, I feel quite stupid following Mrs Dalloway's steps; it's when I see a homeless person sleeping at a bank door when I start thinking. New Bond Street, that place where the wealthiest of the wealthiest walk by the poorest of the poorest. That hurts. Clarissa decides to buy herself flowers at the very beginning of the book. The need to break the system rules is there. A magical moment of connection happens to me a few minutes in on my journey. I start re-writing Virginia's thoughts, through my eyes. Time has begun not to matter. All those buildings have not barely changed since 1925. They look at us, but we become invisible for Time, only seen by those immortal arquitectural eyes. Clarissa feels herself ethereal too, not being Clarissa any more.

It seems that time loses its meaning except when I remember deaths.

That importance-non-importance of time is thoroughly expressed in London Triptych. Three stories of Londoners from such different epochs, show that time moves and stays at the same time, and the city is the real God, looking above us. London sees how we live and how we die, screaming:

You humans, believe that you are essential, but you will die tomorrow. You count the calendar days without living them, breathing them.

It does not matter if you were born in 1894, 1954 or 1998, it does not matter if you are straight or gay, if you are rich or poor, you and I will die. Kemp and Woolf make their characters walk and move, but Clarissa, Jack and the rest are stuck in victorian mud. Although, they throw so many mirrors at us that even if we miss a few, at least one will hit us and -hopefully- will show us our true-self. Both authors wish us to fall in Alice's hole, to transport us to the real world where we must fight the Jabberwocky to keep Wonderland as our Northern Star.

I keep walking, following Mrs Dalloway's steps.

Such a magical crossroads I encounter. Clarissa leaves all the vanity-and-banality shops behind, gives back to Buckingham Palace, and decides to walk by beauty, but never gets close to a rooted flower. Those ones are only to look at, she is satisfied buying already cut ones to keep concealed between the walls of her house, as though that was not forbidden. That cold and hard fence is too tricky to trespass. Oscar Wilde did it, in Kemp's novel and reality. That dictated his destiny -as his friend saw in the cards. Today it would be different, and Mrs Dalloway maybe would dare touch and smell and taste and love one of those beauties of the garden, seeing that Mr Wilde would be alive after touching, smelling, tasting and loving love. Time has given freedom to London, fought by countless Wildes.

In London Triptych, the three main characters fear the same: solitude. They do not realise how lucky or unlucky they are regarding homosexuality laws. They assume how the social situation is and take it. Like we do.

Like we do? Hahaha!

We all hate so much seeing ourselves like people who do nothing to make things better. Do not worry; you are not like that. You speak up; you are true to yourself, you move. They seem not to, though. Time vanishes and has no meaning: different names but not different stories, or outcomes. Fashion is not the only thing that comes back every now and again. While freedom and respect are not the base of society, hurting minorities (in Kemp's book, homosexuality) will always be there. Ones will say that nobody kills gays anymore; others will say that nobody kills anybody anymore. I say that killing is different, but it is. Human Rights scream and are heard, but guns still enter pubs. Human Rights scream and are heard, but beautiful people are still thrown from the top of a building tied to a chair. Human Rights scream and are heard, but children commit suicide after years of suffering for not being able to be themselves. Yes, Time has given freedom to London, but I was spat on the face while I was celebrating that freedom I was given.

Today's crowd acts like Jack in Kemp's novel. They feel hurt, they react without scruples, they judge. That hurt comes from fear. Any fear. So important is this book today as it would have been a hundred years ago, and hopefully will not in a future I wish to live. It would be wonderful to read it as a History book. For now, it's a Bible. There is no exaggeration here. It opens up the guts of all the gay people of all the times, for a thick mind to understand, to feel, to unify hands that never should have been released one from the other.

Virginia Woolf wants to keep that conection with love, and makes Clarissa not going towards the Admiralty Arch, but instead, walking by the gardens. Her internal thoughts lead her way under gigantic trees.

I always see trees as if they were people. It might be some reminiscence from my childhood. I used to love The World of David the Gnome. The sadness I felt watching the last episode -when they die and become trees-, stayed with me for a very long time, until I understood its meaning. We do not matter, but what we do endures, remains and transforms the system.

Ladies Bruton scare us, but we must walk under the protection of those trees that once were the heroes that fought for us. There is no time to waste, something that Jack learned well, but late. He jumps from story to story, but he is like a ghost, a soul without soul.

Fear is what stops the characters of London Triptych and Mrs Dalloway to be what they want to be.

That statement is easy to say. Judging is so easy. I am sitting down now, writing about my "Clarissa's walk", about how three novels inspire me to talk about time, while I eat chocolate I don't want to eat because I am fat. I am drinking a glass of cheap Malbec, trying to figure out how can I help others through these texts' analysis. Time. The waste of time. How the ghosts that "people-who-are-not-like-me" wander around the city without a purpose. Well, yes, I have that purpose, but this chocolate I don't want to eat is running down to my happy stomach. Clarissa had a purpose too, but she came back home, after just a dream. Alice was dreaming as well, and so they were Kemp's characters. Because not acting as you wish, and letting the pages of the calendar pass without living them is like living in a dream.

I want to wake up, but I want to sleep too.

Perhaps, we are just a mixture of fear and passion, of anxiety and dreams. And it is just fine. So maybe, there are no heroes that become trees when they die, and all of us become trees when we die. Or all of us are heroes.

Jonathan Kemp does not judge his characters, neither Virginia does with Clarissa, and even less Mr Carroll, and that is what makes them everything. Real bibles to help us understand the truth of this life. Big Ben ticks for all of us. We need to be courageous and look for rabbit holes, jumping without fear, or with it, but jumping anyway. We will die, but to be the trees that will cover other beautiful souls' eyes from those banners that say: Why the hell you have to deal with so much shit in life? So that, they can forget about fear and just live without thinking about Time.

#time #oscarwilde #jonathankemp #queerwriting #virginiawoolf #mrsdalloway #londontriptych #runningawayfromtime #pride #aliceinwonderland #lewiscarroll

A conversation with a free world