The Great Leap Forward: Beyond the Story
The short story ‘London via Paris and Rome’ came to me in an opening sentence:
We moved to a new share house on Union Street and from there on it was all home brew, new faces and an evening sun setting fire to a backyard brick wall.
The rest of the story is just that: a closed space, nameless people, and something that slowly and inevitably disappears. The story was never meant to be about friendship, about love, sex or dreams. Those things just happened along the way. Just like in life. There is however a big difference between life and the fictional story. The protagonist – I think her name is Laura, but I’m not sure – doesn’t exist in the outside world. How could she? ‘I really had nowhere else to go,’ she says, referring to the backyard couches, and I think she might mean it literally. Beyond the northern fence covered with English ivy there is no street and beyond the non-existent street there is no city; nothing but a blank void.
How do you move through this nothingness? How do you even begin to plan a journey into it? Are Ron’s hopes of a life in Europe foolish?
The only tangible things that surround Ron, Tony, Myra and Mitch is – to their left – a story about growing older (‘A Single Life’ by Marian Matta) and – to their right – a story about senility (‘Things to Come’ by Charlotte Guest). That is their place in the universe. Not in Melbourne, Victoria.
Based on this, I’m not sure that Laura’s and Ron’s trip overseas actually happens. There is something about those fake, stiff flags they pass on the way to the airport that make me suspect that the real story at this point has already come to an end. Laura – if that is her name – exits the house on Union Street and in doing so breaks the spell put on her. And why is that passage so short? I ask myself, since I am the one who wrote it, am I the one who should now?
There is something heartbreaking about intended journeys that never happen. I think, for example, of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road (1961). All the preparations, the build-up, the imagining, for nothing. To get stuck in hopes of the future and forget about the present. Then again, even the present is a journey. Not just a mental journey, but a very physical one as well. Is this what Ron is dreaming about?
I will leave you with some questions to ponder when reading ‘London via Paris and Rome’:
Who travelled to London? Why did they do it? What was left behind? And, most importantly, where do you and me go from here? Into or away from the void? Because, when it really comes down to it, to move from here to there, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Andreas Å Andersson is a writer of fiction and poetry from Vetlanda, Sweden, currently living in Melbourne. His work has appeared in Cordite Poetry Review, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Scum Magazine and in the Emerging Writers’ Festival anthology, 9 Slices. His story, 'London via Paris and Rome', appears in Joiner Bay and Other Stories.