..First Glyph

February 15
4:20 p.m.

I'm back in my hotel room.

At 5:30 p.m. I will go out again to walk to the Cathedral. I will arrive there about six, scribble my notes on the Cathedral interior, then return. Nightfall in this city is at about seven during this month. I will try to return about 7:30 p.m.

I re-read two scenes from Henry IV, Part 1 this afternoon, lying on this bed, after my afternoon's work. I jotted a few more notes on the appearance-versus-essence question then, listened to a little music, drafted a tense scene of The Don Quixote Piece, ate some tortillas and carrots, and then looked over my morning and afternoon scribblings. I've still an hour before I go out. I will scribble now a few more notes.

It troubles me that already I find myself looking forward to San Diego. Even in Jalapa already I was doing this, fleetingly. I do not understand. I've anticipated this journey for a long time. I've for a long time contemplated what this journey might mean to my unfinished novel. And yet, barely do I set out, barely do I arrive in Jalapa, or to this magnificently horrible cosmopolis for a fortnight's stay, and already, fleetingly and on occasion, I find myself yearning for journey's end, yearning for this work to be behind me, for a warm relaxed beach scene, for repose. I am a sort of victor in that beach scene I envision. Accomplishment I see there on that beach. Myself toughened, too, I see--by the loneliness. Myself cleansed, too, I see--by the trials. Shorn, I am there, of a thousand little unimportances. In that beach scene I watch myself rest on these materials I now gather, rest for a coming newer struggle.

This journey is not easy. Maybe this is the root of my sporadic lookings-forward. Interesting, the journey is, of course. Stimulating. Enjoyable. But not easy. Just the five days I've spent in this city have reminded me why I was so relieved to leave it. Arriving at point B from point A here can be an epic undertaking, a real Via Dolorosa. And the people! What a crush! My God! Every doorway crawls. Every windowpane twitches. Every breath tastes of the molecules of another man's breath. Exiting the metro the other day I shared an escalator step with two other men and a woman. Every escalator step was that crowded. It's unbelievable. And inescapable. No quiet place in this public domain. No unpeopled place in this public. Chapultepec Forest, you might hope. But tourists tour it, countless more cruise it and if you sit yourself on a bench to read a book in it an old man comes begging pesos, a young mother comes peddling wares, a third grinning youth comes smooth-talking you toward some scam. No rest in this city. No rest. For these reasons I guess that quiet beach scene might infiltrate my visions. Maybe when I'm out of the D.F. these occasional longings for journey's end will quieten. Maybe. But it's true I felt glimmerings of them in Jalapa, too.

The fault in looking toward the end is that I cheat the present meanwhile. I should stay in the present. I should live in this moment. To look toward another day is to cloud my appreciation of this day. It is to think of lunch while still amid breakfast. Or dinner while sitting down to lunch. Or, it is anticipating my Saturday date with the brunette, while still on my Friday date with the blonde. The present experience is spoiled. For when do I live? When do I enjoy? If I am always looking forward, when do I look around? Breakfast is flavorless, only half-tasted when eaten so. The night out is dull, only half-experienced when spent so. And then lunch comes and it too is flavorless. And the Saturday date comes and it again is dull. And the present moves on without me, only half-seen, clouded, blurred by what I am always looking forward to, by some thing that I will never actually experience because I will always be looking forward to something else.

This inclination has its foil. For example, a journey like this is so constantly and so brightly stimulating that you can do little more than react to and process its stimulation. Overwhelmed by it all, you are forced into the present. And nothing automatic exists for you in travel. No routine of walking to work. No routine of eating. No routine of sleeping. You are ever on guard, thus, steeled, and so--keenly aware. The journey becomes meditative in this way. You live in a moment completely free of the past and completely free of the future. You move in the pure present, in this one singular now. The assault of the unfamiliar forces this on you. Open-eyed, you stay, observant, absorbent. You have no choice. Everything is foreign. You can only take it in, soak it up. Time for reflection comes later for me, in these entries. Plans for the future come at night for me, and are limited to preparing my notes for the next day, or updating my budget. Otherwise I just observe, be. That's it. You achieve a kind of meditative consciousness in a journey like this, even while walking awake and aware among men.

There is then this inescapable present. There is then that neglect of the present. One is a man obscuring life. The other is life unobscurable. Somewhere between them has lately edged toward me a fleeting quiet beachscape. It is 5:30 p.m. I will walk now to the Cathedral.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers