For me, episodes akin to the Proustian Madeleine cake epiphany are often closely interrelated with one category of the uncanny. There are certain sudden, surreal ‘triggers’ that evoke images from a distant past in a most bizarre manner – the thing is, it’s not always clear whether the memories are real, constructed from narratives, films, and other media, or dream fragments. But they feel real. And I feel like I catch a glimpse into a distant world – again, it’s just a feeling, but I would say this counts as a spiritual experience at times. I used to call this “the fairy tale sentiment”. I will now focus on the glimpses into my own memories rather than those into the more vague “memories” of other lives, which are likely to be fabricated. The aforementioned evocative elements are rarely direct links to that specific memory piece, but they project me in a trance for like 2 seconds whilst those nostalgic images flash in my head. Sometimes it’s not even a particularly visually striking experience, it’s more about the texture of the moment, about ethereal scents, or glitter, pearlescent lights, fashion fabrics; the best type of experience is when several such elements come together. Such moments have an intoxicating effect.
Here’s one instance in which the memory that is summoned up is quite intuitive: a certain piece of fabric, combined with glitter and with a particular perfume – Alien by Mugler let’s say – together recreate a very distant memory of my childhood self in a sparkly, silver sequin-adorned ballerina dress (I used to do ballet, dance, and rhythmic gymnastics so at least the core motifs do belong to a real memory), on a stage with dark curtains. The auditorium was also graced with some familiar visages and eyes that are no longer filled with light in our world. I never remember the actual dances or even the feeling of being on a stage dancing at that age. I just experience those seemingly insignificant, yet memory-preserving details enveloped in obscurity.
Sometimes, in stream-of-consciousness style, this scene cuts to the next one – this time set outside, with me still in one of my dance costumes, only this time I’m holding my favourite doll; she is very special to me. I place the doll standing up in my mother’s open bag, so she can see the world like us. As we walk along a fountain, I hear loud noises and sense agitation behind us. Looking back, I see young adults or adolescents gathering together in a circle like animal predators looking down to check out something on the ground whilst constantly chattering about something I can’t hear from that distance, but presume it’s nonsense. They seem so intrigued. What could it be? What could this group of almost adults be so exuberant about? I look at my mother’s bag. I start panicking: she’s gone. Mom, they’re stealing my doll!! Let’s go back and take her please. I start crying. Or not. I don’t remember. But I was pretty sad. And even more importantly, I felt disappointed and betrayed by my mother in that moment and who knows for how long after that – who knows anything about the inner time of a child? Betrayed, bewildered, and bereft of my “Darling, dearest, dead” doll. For some reason, despite my plights, my mother refused to go back with me and retrieve it from them. I don’t remember what she said, but I think she maybe didn’t notice or want to notice that it was happening right in that moment. In retrospect, this memory doesn’t even make sense. Not in the sense that’s it’s not real, or at least partially real, but in the sense that it’s ridiculous. Why would an entire group of students or whatever be so excited about a doll? Was it a group of freaky doll fetishists? Why would they gather together jubilantly in a circle as if about to perform a satanic ritual or act like they’d never seen a doll in their life? And why would they want to steal it from a sweet (on the surface and in public at least) little girl like I was, leaving the scene super pleased with themselves? Even more importantly, how was this such a memorable event for me? I can’t remember my age at that time, but my pov was very close to the ground, so I can only imagine. If this is a screen memory, I wonder what it masks. I know that one’s mind also stores moments that have been particularly emotionally impactful in one way or another, but how come the very scarce memories I have dating back so far are mostly of negative incidents, mini-trauma, or my own mischief? What about the other extreme? I don’t actually remember a time when I felt particularly happy from back then – I’m glad I have pictures to document it though because there were a few.
Anyway, I wish I could turn back time just to bestow haunting powers upon my doll and warn them with a scary look on my face so they would gradually get so paranoid they’d convince themselves it was true. Happy Halloween Season!
Another memory, that most psychology discourses would deem unreal, constructed, and yet, living quite vividly in my mind is of me as an actual baby crawling onto this glistening white fabric that somehow covers both the floor and the table where my extended family was feasting. I was just minding my own business in my crystal globe, fascinated with the brightness of the room and of being. To be honest the aesthetic looked more like a detergent commercial. But it didn’t matter. I was all there for it: for being alive and exploring silky sheets.
Another type of uncanny experience is given by recurring dreams, particularly focusing on landscapes I’ve inhabited in my dreams rather than actions. Ever since I was little I revisited several unknown places in my dreaming life, some of them so pretty and full of good energy that it’s a sin they don’t exist. For instance: I often find myself in this space filled with abundant ever-expanding vegetation over an abandoned railway and dilapidated trains. Brutalist, sci-fi architectural structures bless the surroundings. Somewhere in the vicinity, there’s an agitated turquoise body of water. The slightly dystopian landscape is somewhat reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Zone, which of course, I wasn’t aware of when I first had this dream. I try not to wander in plain sight, as if hiding from something or someone who is following me. Or perhaps I’m trying to find someone’s traces in order to save their life. Still, I don’t think this dream is about fear. I might just as well play hide-and-seek, except I keep moving because I can’t find the perfect spot.
This dream image morphs into a totally different location, buzzing with people and little shops, like a scintillating outdoors bazaar. More than that, it’s an entire imaginary city designed by this polarising Unconscious with layers upon layers of life and vivacity, scents lingering as I pass by the fragrance shops, hills to climb, and fountains to rest on to dread the time of waking up if you’re lucid dreaming. I know so many narrow alleys in the city and idyllic shortcuts to get to my favourite places in that sanctuary. Sometimes the city restructures itself in real time. The geography is resplendent, alive. But I know where to go for some peace and quiet- the immutable place where the noise of the crowd ends and the singing of the sirens begins.
Fast forward to another oneiric landscape, this time drenched in scarlet, desert-like, with ominous volcanos. I always ended up there, on top, by following a sinuous trail. There is a lot of tension in the air. Still, not as much as the one present within the ultimate nightmare, featuring…the lift. How can I forget the lift. Probably the most frequently reoccurring oneiric space I find myself in. And I’m usually terrified because, of course, it’s malfunctioning (I don’t have a problem with lifts in real life). Yet in this nightmare, it either races up or descends at an unreal, flesh-unfolding speed and clearly way beyond the 14 floors of the building. Sometimes it stops. And I can’t move. Because if I made the slightest movement my body would be torn apart by the metallic door.