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I’ve Been Here Before

by Marie Deans

    I cannot say I’ve been here before, but as I sat looking out of my hotel window, nursing a summer ’flu, and watching the world outside, the sense of familiarity of place and occurance was quite disturbing.
My friends, on my insistence, had gone for the day. I had not wanted to curtail their holiday by obliging any of them to keep me company, and had spent most of the morning dozing fitfully. Each time I woke, dry-mouthed and overheated, I got up to splash my face with cold water, and drink lemonade to ease my aching throat. And each time I wandered to the windows to get a little air and decide whether I was well enough to get up.
The room was light and airy with windows on two sides. One window looked down onto the Main street of the town with it’s colourful summertime people and activity; the other onto a quiet, almost country laneway, with trees and a patchwork of back gardens. What struck me from my 3rd floor viewpoint was that whatever the time, and whichever window I looked out of, the same two people were always there. He was tall and darkhaired, she small with long red hair tied with a turquoise scarf.
    By the time I eventually decided I was well enough to get up it was 4 o’clock, so, dressed in warm but light clothes, I ensconced myself by the large front window with a book and a glass of lemonade. I still felt pretty miserable, also lonely, but, worse still, I now began to feel like a spy. Here I was, 3 floors up, witnessing a private relationship. Seeing every look and gesture that passed between two people I had never even seen before. I am not, and never have been, a voyeur, and for this reason I began to feel very upset. My choice was to be stuck in the room avoiding all windows, or to run the risk of unwittingly and unwillingly spying.
My relief was great when my friends returned in the early evening, and after assuring them I was feeling much much better and would be out and about the following day, I listened to all their exploits of the day. I quite forgot the couple and the strange feeling of deju vu I had had until I awoke early this morning. In that waking moment I knew, and now know, I’ve been here before. Not in place or time, but in my dreamworld. Yesterday’s incident - the windows, the unwitting spying - had all happened in a dream of some 10 years ago.
    In the dream my friends and I, walking in a desert landscape, come across a mud-built group of buildings of Gaudi-style architecture. We knock on a huge wooden door to gain entry, and are greeted by a person who appears to be a tour guide. I, meanwhile, have noticed a small door to the right, and have, without the others noticing, gone through it. I go up and up a spiral staircase, looking out of each small window as I go. From these windows on every side of the tower I see my friends, and, unknown to them, I am an observer of their every move amongst the buildings. The feeling was desperate in the dream; that feeling of spying, yet not wanting to, from the isolation of the tower.
Now there remains these two images - the group of happy, laughing, sunlit people, and the solitary figure high in the tower.


Taken from ‘Roughly Speaking’ (1991), page 43..

Marie Deans

The Lie of the Land