My train follows a rainstorm towards (into?) Spain. It is sunset, and I am whisked along to the west of Marseille, where scrubby marshes and salt flats slink along shallow inlets. It’s hard to tell where the coast is, though it is obvious it’s somewhere close by. This is not the postcard part of France; if it was, this would be the part tourists covered with the stamp. The overlapping metal of shack roofs pokes out from the brush, all glistening slightly from the recent rain, ahead outpacing the train. An occasional sad donkey appears momentarily, each with matching drabness. In the chalky light of the cloudy sunset, even the boarder-town squalor glistens.
As night falls and the train reaches the Spanish border, the lights in the train car subtly brighten. The light glimmers in the polished floor of the compartment as I glide along at 300 kilometers per hour towards a memory, not my own but a collective memory of which I may be the only custodian. Nothing more then a faint hint of marginalia, it’s pieced together from snippets of books, references in biographies, and literary gossip nearly a century old. It’s growing harder to keep the story straight as pieces of the imaginary Spain inherited from the memory are replaced with first hand experiences, like the high speed train with televisions playing Spanish movies. But in the blackness outside, the past still plays out in fits and starts, my waking mind preventing me from seeing the events unfold in anything more permanent that the flicker of lights thrown aside by the train’s rush.