From the mixed-up files of your Coeur Despondent:
I am in Switzerland. I have come--ostensibly, insensibly--to praise, honor, mourn, and conjure the endings of some things. I have two endings in mind.
The ostensible: I have traveled all this way to find the ending of my novel. The novel’s set in Switzerland and I am fully convinced that my ending’s hidden somewhere here. Behind a wall clock or in a bank vault, I am sure.
The insensible: I have come here to revisit (for reasons entirely pathological) a precise and beckoning sadness, a sadness that was, upon the collapse of my marriage, my sole companion. A sadness I am at once in love with and am indifferent to. I am staying in Wallisellen, a town near Zürich, at the home of poet, publisher and altogether enchanting editrix, Susana Gardner. Wallisellen is one town away from Dietlikon, where I lived.
If you know me even tangentially, you know that my relationship with Switzerland is multivalent. Would that there existed a single word broad enough in its own connotations to describe the all-at-once sensation of aggression, bewilderment, despair, pathos, boredom, longing, and straight-up anger that jolts through me when I spend any real time thinking about this place. But think about this place I do. And think and think and think about it.
So like the criminal who returns to the scene of her crime, or the ghost that haunts the rooms of the house she died in, I have come to Switzerland, that I might holiday in the land of my hopelessness, vacation in the place that vandalized me. That I might wander once more the paths that woe-ed me, wounded me, made me weep.
For I am a tourist of grief, you see.
If this sounds strange or insane, I’m nodding along with you.
Every morning of this trip, I’ve risen well before sunrise, dressed, then tiptoed out of Susana’s house and walked from Wallisellen outwards to a number of familiar destinations. Walking was my most preferred Swiss pastime. I spent a great many hours out of doors, and I went on walks and bike rides (sometimes both) every single day. I didn’t have a car; my legs were my only engine of escape.
With me on these morning walks (three so far this trip) I carry a camera, a small video recorder, and a handheld voice recorder, digital all. As well, I have a notebook and pens. I am of the intent to retrace every rotten step I trod that I might document, best I can, the entire, unflinching mess of it.
Who does that? Please tell me I’m not the only one.
This is truly too maudlin, even for poetry. I’m walking these woodland paths like a cop on a beat. Here is, courtesy of Google Earth, a tracing of the path I walked today, for example. I started at the pushpin labeled susanas haus and marched across the entire damn district to Effretikon.
This is over ten miles of walking.
One vexing aspect of this nonsense—and nonsense I do believe this is—is that not only am I remembering the feelings that wrenched me the first time I lived here, I am actually experiencing the the feelings afresh. As if I’ve traveled backwards into the past and the break-up is new hat. As if there is something I can do to stop it. As if even I want to stop it. So every ounce of the sadness I had already squeezed from myself is now poured back in.
And every landmark bears a curse that draws me back to it.
Here is where I realized that he no longer loved me.
And here is where-- at least once-- I wished on him great harm of vile sorts.
Here is where I vowed I wouldn’t cry.
Here is where I vowed I wouldn’t cry for too much longer.
And here is where I pleaded for a satisfying answer, an answer that still hasn't come.
I’ve taken over 150 pictures and three hours of movies since arriving on Tuesday.
What a beautiful setting in which to experience a devastation.
I love it. I hate it. I love it. I hate it.
Thanks for letting me vent.