I sense now the coming end of days.
I began this blog on the 17th of April, it was made for the sake of recording (and dramatising) my journey. Said journey began back on the 30th of March.
My vague goal was to reach Amalfi a coastal Italian town just south of Milan. I would use whatever cheap means I could think of in order to travel, and as it’s my nature, I moved slowly – spending whole weeks in certain towns and cities.
In Lille I had an idea: to cycle for the length of my trip, and so I worked towards this end. But my initial attempts – my first bike – ended in total disaster.
I couldn’t bare the thought of hitch-hiking. To think I would ever rely on other people’s help… It made me dread; I would impose myself on strangers, and then reveal to them that I can barely even speak their language. Everything about it seemed wrong.
But, I couldn’t tell how much of what I was feeling in regards to hitch-hiking was a sincere distaste towards the notion, or if it was simply a form of fear I was rationalising. I made a vow, that I would venture to try it – no matter what I would think while holding my thumb up by a road, I vowed I would continue until I would get a lift.
And so I did.
For a while.
It could never last. There is a fact here. Consider, once the driver lets you in, they’re stuck with you. If they’re upset that you can’t speak French, or are too quiet, they – well, tough for them. It would be too dramatic for them to pull over ask you to leave. Barely anyone would ever kick out a guest they’ve invited.
The natural thing to this all is that if you bring two strangers together they will or will not click and get along. This is obviously also the case with hitch-hiking. Some people can cheat the system a little; they’ve become such excellent entertainers that they can basically make a good time with anyone they meet.
I’m kind of like that.
Yes, I’ve cheated the system. I break the ’50/50 chance to get along’ rule with strangers. Strangers just always hate me.
I confidently knew this, and so when I stick my thumb up for ride, I know I’m taking advantage of good will, and everyone’s hope that they’ll have a fun time with the stranger they pick up in a car. I will always make the driver’s day worse than it was. This is not even justified by the fact that there was some chance I could have made it better. There never was a chance.
I swallowed my guilt and accepted a few lifts despite knowing the above, but I could never have done it through all of France.
That’s why my bicycle search went full circle.
I’d abandoned the last cheap bike I bought. €35 wasted. I really did put aside the notion that I was going to cycle France.
But I found an item so certain in its existence, it overwrote my decision against cycling.
An item so firmly real – the very sinew of reality itself – that by merely witnessing it my certainty that I could not cycle was utterly destroyed.
I was in Arras. I can’t remember now where I’d slept. I do remember that at the night I’d decided to walk towards a service station nearby to the motorway. I do remember that I ended up walking deep into the night in search for a quiet place to sleep. This is one of the worst things one can do if you don’t have somewhere specific to sleep. I exclusively sleep in isolated areas where I know I won’t be disturbed. It’s occurred before that I’ve had to walk for hours before finding one such place, and if I do this when it’s already dark, my peace of mind quickly falls apart and I become a nervous wreck before I find a place to lie down.
I do remember that the night was cold, and in the morning I set myself up by that service station and stuck up a sign. ‘Dans les direction de Paris’, it read. Putting something so vague on my sign was obviously a mistake; I waited 3 hours before giving up and deciding to find a better place to stick up my sign. I opened Google Maps on my phone, and found the next large town would be Amiens. I found the road leading to it and decided I would simply hitch-hike one town at a time. So I started on my way to a good point to walk – I passed an old gentleman on the way and gave him a polite nod.
Then I passed his garage. The door was open.
And I saw it. Yes, I saw it.
I sign was hanging off of it. ‘À Vendre’.
I turned around to the old man. ‘Monsieur’, I called, ‘Combien pour ça?’.
‘Cinquante’, he replied.
I nodded. I paid him. €50, and haggled him for a lock thrown in for free.
I sat on the bike.
And mon vélo. Let me tell you, that when she goes – by God she goes. I was cycling upon reality incarnate. True, real, material. At that moment I was re-purposed.
You see, I once had an interest in solipsist argument. That is, the belief that knowledge itself is never certain. If I press my hand against a table, I can be pretty fucking certain that there’s a table there. But, perhaps this table is an illusion? One that I’m so certain of, that I’ve created a mental block for myself, so I bend my hand as if there’s an object there just because I think there’s a table.
Like I said, I had an interest in this form of thinking. That was before I found mon vélo. Mon incarnation of universal physics. Mon vélo is truer in form than I am.
My duty was to spread the existence of the bike. My duty was to cycle it for as long as I could, and as I do so – never leave the bike. That is, I had previously imagined that if I ever faced a steep hill, there is nothing at all wrong with getting off the bike and just walking up it. This would save my energy, at the cost of speed. Sure some people could laugh at me, but I would never meet or know these people, they are irrelevant to me. But, with mon vélo, things were different. My quest was no longer just for myself. I’d been trusted with a grander goal; to spread the vélo. I had to make each moment of my struggles as real as the bike was. I had to incarnate my journey into the material world. I had to display my difficulties, for others to see. My difficulties, and my victories. If I faced a steep hill, I would stay on the bike and exhaust myself climbing upward because, any passerby would see mon vélo, see it as the true form of reality that it is, and see within it my voyage. My odyssey. And the strength of mon vélo’s reality would impress onto them all of my troubles. They would empathise and encourage me. Or they would wish for my success. Or they would see their own challenges reflected in mine. They would wish for me to succeed, and feel better in their world, knowing that something as physically real as mon vélo could ever exist.
And it’s been quite a journey with mon vélo.
It has been.
Yesterday morning, I woke at 10 a.m. I am in Dijon.
This city is surrounded by small mountains, and there are a number of hiking trails leading up them. I’d cycled out one of the main roads a few nights ago and found one of these hiking trails just off the road. Beside it was a stop sign where I could lock up my bike.
This had been my third night in Dijon. My second night sleeping in that location. I’d decided the day before that I was to leave the city and head towards Lyon, which would take me about three days to reach. I’d been planning to stay in Dijon a whole week, but – it has no good library – so I was to move on.
I packed up my things, and lay by my bag for a bit before moving on. I noticed something a little strange while I waited. Something a little surreal. A bizarre kind of a butterfly. I should have realised what this meant…
Because, you see –
The butterfly isn’t real. Something was wrong. With reality.
Because here is my image of reality.
And notice, how it – reality – is absent.
This is the stop sign I’d locked my bike against.
It was gone.
My first thought was to report it stolen to the police. A red Decathlon Riverside 600 with two different tires (because recently I broke the fuck out of my back tire).
But how could I report reality missing? Further, how could reality ever be stolen?
No. It’s apparent to me now exactly what’s been happening.
I have moved universe.
Yes, indeed, the bike is too real to exist in my world. Somehow I’ve come to inhabit a land which just isn’t quite real as the world itself. Things seem normal. But something’s off. Chance has been just that little bit tweaked. The butterfly was the harbinger. It was never real. I was never supposed to witness it.
While I am miserable at the loss, or – my separation from mon vélo, I have to adjust to this pseudo-world I’ve inhabited and face the fact of fact’s absence. My mode of transport has been effectively ruined, and so my slow moving journey is to return to the less real forms of movement. A car, for example, doesn’t bring you from point A to B – it destroys the reality of everything between A and B so you end up where you want to. At no point can you truly access the world that is between those two points.
This will greatly expedite my journey. And so, I am reporting all this to say:
Coming now is the end of days.
I had a good month or more of travelling to do, but now it will take me only a few weeks.
It will not take me so long to reach Amalfi.
On the bright side, I no longer expect things to happen logically, considering the false-ness of this world. Perhaps this means that things can inexplicably work out with Isabel?.. Possible.
Although – you know – thinking about this…
Maybe I’ve got things backwards.
Perhaps it’s not the world that’s become unreal. Maybe it’s not the whole world that’s disappeared.
Maybe it’s just me?.