(For S.)

A good friend I have not crossed paths with in eight years. The realisation strikes us hard yet at that moment we sweep it under the sheer excitement for our reunion. Nearly, or perhaps exactly, one-tenth of an entire lifetime. This is how much we’ve been apart and somehow, in this mind-numbingly distorted world of ours, this seems natural, even expected. And how are you? Or maybe who are you, who is it you’ve become between these thousands of days, what kind of life-changing experiences have you encountered time and time again, what is it that remains of that old self of yours, what remains of my own? And what of the time in-between, who have you been in all those interim moments? I meet you one-and-a-half – no, surely it is two continents apart from where we saw each other last. Some thousands of kilometres, this is what this nifty little online tool tells me. I am supposed to know how to read it well, they call me a geographer now, see. We glance at each other in the silence imposed by the formality of the moment, of what the event in which we partake calls for.

We only allow our life to grow in the fringes. Squashed between the formalities, obscured by obligations, hindered by the ever-present, ever-pressing, ever-growing pressure to produce, to move on, to move ahead. Our moments of genuine coexistence have become a bracket,  a fleeting by the way.

By the way. And it is by this way that representation wins over the tangible, that spectacle takes on the lived, that unending emergency triumphs against the course of a lifetime. Not, of course, with any colossal bang. This would be too obvious, too easily identifiable and then surmountable for those of us who should, after all, know better. No, it’s not with a bang. Representation seeps through and into our spaces of intimacy, it requires realism, it asks for restriction, boundaries and feasibility, tight deadlines and uninterrupted focus, personal growth and development goals, it thrives off the times you now need to take care of yourself and look to do what is good for you. It lives for the moment when that, after all, is what everyone else is doing too. Slowly it creeps into your own sense of yourself. Before you know it the tables are turned and you begin to recognise yourself only within those margins, in the silent, fleeting moments, the by the way diversions from and against the mundaneness of the otherwise unhindered spectacle-subject.

And how are you, by the way?