He felt, lately, that when addressed he took nothing in. As if the words weren’t aimed at him or had been reflected back at the speaker, like he had parried them with a pose or with his body language. It was difficult to engage in conversation when he felt this way, disconnected from his partner—whoever it was—always looking off to one side, as if seeking an escape. Or perhaps he wasn’t seeking escape but looking for a kind of signal, like there would be someone dressed in a neon yellow jacket with brightly coloured flags who could provide him with distant aid. But what he was really looking for—that was difficult to know. In fact, if you had somehow managed to catch him in a moment of lucidity, cornered him and asked him what it meant when he floated off like that, he would have only cocked his head back at you, gazing over your shoulder as the bonds of his senses loosened their hold.
I had an idea for a story last night and now it has completely left me… It was a short story with a simple premise, one I could execute in two or three—or, at most four or five—pages. I got the idea while reading Alberto Moravia’s novel 1934; just the first chapter, after the suicidal protagonist falls in love with the young, recently wedded, German girl on the boat. Perhaps it was when the cart driver leads the young man to a space with many identical buildings (hovels), except for the impressive hotel that the German girl, as well as our protagonist, will be staying at, a nineteenth century building in the Pompeiian style, with an enclosed garden. The hotel is on the island of Capri, and at the centre of the square where it is located there is an ancient olive tree with roots knotting the street.
I thought to myself that I should write this idea down—perhaps it came to me in a dream—but that if I didn’t write it down I would be sure to remember it. One thing is clear: I was in bed when I had the idea. It seemed like the kind of idea that would never leave me, almost too obvious as well as easy. It has been a long time since I’ve found myself able to fully inhabit an idea of that kind, to follow the course of the action and and build a story that seemed sufficient in itself. For too long I’ve been writing characters who don’t go anywhere or do anything, who sit in the shadows and describe the numerous turns their lives have taken. Recently I’ve realized that all that I need to escape this situation—to reach a certain velocity, that, once found, will be sure to propel me as far as I’d like, is to find a simple premise, one that I could execute in a relatively short amount of time, allowing me to easily prepare the way for the necessary conclusion. Thus concluded, more ideas would come.
And of course it was only the next day, in the mid-afternoon, that I remembered not the story or the idea for the story but only the ghost of one—that, sometime in the time since it had come to me, it had left me completely.