Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Blurred Edges of Reality

It's late. I look out my window with its old time-y swinging shutters. I gaze over a narrow street lined with windows just like mine--guesthouses and hostels fill the top floors, small taverns, live music, and galleries of all types on the bottom.

It's like I'm in the old west, but I'm not. I'm on Love Lane in the heart of George Town on the island of Penang, Malaysia. Love Lane--depending on who you ask--was at one time either a street full of brothels turned guesthouses, or it was where all the sailors met their lovers when they sailed into Penang port. Possibly these were one in the same. Possibly this place only exists when one is here to witness it.

Bree and I walk a few blocks away from Love Lane, and we are in Little India--an area of the city that immediately transports me back to India--the smells, the sounds, the colors, the shops, the food, the people. In every direction, I'm back in India. But I'm not. I'm in the heart of George Town on the island of Penang, Malaysia. From colonial old west to India in a matter of blocks.

After an afternoon at the Thai Embassy getting our work visas processed, the taxi driver drops us off at a mall. Or what looks like a mall. It isn't. It's a time portal into the future complete with a science and technology dome, an observatory, a dinosaur exhibit/museum where kids can ride the dinosaurs, an herb garden, a restaurant where everything is made with or covered in chocolate, and apparently a pot of gold on the roof that we couldn't figure out how to access.

We spend hours and hours exploring, playing, and experimenting in the science and tech dome. Bree does a virtual autopsy on a corpse. I get strapped into a multi-axis chair and pretend I'm Ellie Arroway headed for Contact. They give us a private tour of the observatory. I nearly explode with excitement.

When we finally leave and step back into the city, we are zapped from the future to present time, and as we inch closer back to the old town, to Love Lane, we once again slip into the past.

Seventy-two hours after we arrive on Penang, we head back to Thailand. We land in Kuala Lumpur for an overnight layover, but something feels off. Everything about this airport is strange and different. I have been to this airport more than any other airport. I know this airport. But there are things out of place, structures are different--the escalator, the layout of coffee shops, little things.

Of course, there is always the Murakami factor. Like in 1Q84 when Aomame climbs down the side of the highway construction zone and ends up in a slightly altered reality. But I'm not currently reading Murakami. I'm reading Alex Garland. A book called the Coma where a man in a coma attempts to reconstruct his faulty, shifting landscape of memories so to wake himself up. It kind of feels like that. In fact, the past 72 hours has had a dreamlike, hallucinatory quality to it--slipping between time periods and cultures and places, shifting landscapes of memory, blurring edges of reality.

In two days time, I leave for the Thai island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand where I will spend the week leading up to my birthday, leading up to the new school term. And if you are familiar with Alex Garland's books, you might know where I'm going with this. Things could get a lot more dreamlike, a lot more hallucinatory, a lot stranger.

Let's continue down this path. Let's see where it leads.

Have you ever experienced an ordinary, mundane period of life that felt inexplicably more dreamlike than real? Tell me your stories! What do you think triggered it? What snapped you back?


Jennifer Walters said...

EVERY time I sit down and have a discussion about consciousness with someone it begins to feel like I'm in a dream. It happened at a party on Friday when we were talking about dreams. It's so cool and trippy!

Sarah Seymour said...

Oh, nice! Does this happen when you're in sessions too?

Jennifer Walters said...

Yes, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. I'm definitely due for one!