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The unexplained moments


There are unexplained moments in everyone’s life, if they are alert to them: moments when everything shifts, when a new light suffuses everything, when something mysteriously goes missing. Every time Sarah had experienced one of these, her response had been dramatic: she had dropped a tray of crockery, she had fallen over or thrown up.

The first time had been when she was sitting alone in a field. It had been a misty day and the horizon was obscured: a little damp, a little gloomy. Suddenly it was as though tracing paper had been lifted away from the original picture, and she could see the landscape in an entirely new way, bright and preternaturally clear. It only lasted a minute, as the dullness settled in once more: but Sarah was in no doubt that the real world was the one which lay beneath, and that she had been vouchsafed a glimpse of it. A second time was when she had a strong conviction that she was caught in a repetitive cycle of discovery and disavowal, and that her own ironic agency was perhaps to blame. There were many other heart-stopping moments: the time she heard voices singing in Glen Coe, the time she saw someone walking who was dead for sure, the times without number that she knew that her current identity was purely temporary. She had to acknowledge them. 

She came to see each of these events as a sort of speaking lacuna. Just for a moment, your conscious life fell asleep and you saw something else. It was rather like one of those carefully-made Victorian books, in which a picture has to be folded back to fit in with the image on the next page, and to continue it: or like a complex origami, where you couldn’t see the mastery in the paper. Walking round the fold was how you made your story. If you perambulated slowly enough, you could see what was displayed and what was concealed at the same time. You could see the whole of your life. Resplendent, humming, glowing: that was what it was. It was what made you good to go.

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