I rode my bike to the library yesterday. The sun was warm, though there remained a slight winter chill in the air that made my ears ache when riding into the strong wind. I had to return Wittgenstein’s Mistress, which was a few days overdue. I’m glad I held onto it so I could get to the end, which was surprisingly satisfying for a plotless stream-of-consciousness novel. I can’t recommend that book highly enough. I bought a second-hand copy of David Markson’s other experimental novel, This Is Not A Novel, but I haven’t started it yet. Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a plotless novel with only a single character, while This Is Not A Novel kicks it up a notch, having no plot and no characters either. I wonder if it’s a novel?
The route I take to the library follows Adenac through a semi-industrial area, to the path around False Creek past the Edgewater Casino. It’s a nice way to get downtown, and a pretty popular bike-commuter route. It was early afternoon when I started my ride, so I only saw a few other cyclists. We smiled at each other as we passed, reflecting each other’s pleasure at being back out on two wheels a long sunless winter. The streets and sidewalks seemed unusually empty.
On Adenac, in front of the blank facade of a small textile factory, a black Corolla stops, all four doors opening, and four women get out. They represent diverse ages and ethnicities. A middle-aged asian woman get’s out of the drivers seat and behind her a younger blonde. When the blonde gets out, a grey fedora-style hat falls out behind her. She walks in front of the parked car towards the sidewalk, not noticing it. As I ride by I slow down and tell her she’s dropped her hat. I assumed it was hers, but I suppose it could have been left in the back seat by car’s owner, who is probably not the blonde woman. People rarely sit in the back seat of their own cars. She smiles and says thanks, I say no problem and smile back.
About a block from my building, an elderly man crosses the intersection ahead of me. He strikes me as ‘elderly’, but he might have been only in his mid-fifties. He has a gaunt face and a careful, fragile gait. His hair is long and white in the back, but shaved from his forehead and temples back to the midpoint of his skull. I think to myself that it’s a pretty avant garde hair style and that he must be an artist or a Hare Krishna maybe. Half-way through the intersection he reaches to get something from his pocket (a handkerchief?) and a piece of yellow lined paper, folded and well-worn, falls to the street. He continues walking. I pass through the intersection a few seconds later, and I stop to pick it up. I enjoy reading the ephemeral notes that people write to themselves. After I lean down to collect it, I decide that it may be something he needs, so I call out to him — he’s about fifteen paces up the street now. I ride over and tell him that he dropped it. He examines it, confused at first and then he recognizes it. He tells me that he had a stroke recently and that there are certain things that he has trouble remembering, and that he (or perhaps his wife or doctor) wrote these things down on that piece of paper. Sort of like Memento, I guess. I wish I could have seen what was written down there. He showed it to me but I couldn’t make out the handwriting at a glance.
So that was my day finding random things that people drop. I was present at just the right moment to catch these two objects; a few seconds sooner or later and they would have disappearred anonymously forever. Imagine how often this happens without anyone being there to notice. Objects must be constantly pouring out of people’s pockets and cars, into the world.