The Archeologist

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December 15, 2020 by The Citron Review

by Carlo Rey Lacsamana


When I passed by the train station today and was greeted by emptiness and the complete stillness that surrounded it a quick shiver of longing ran over my body. No passengers, no trains, no announcements, no workmen, no taxis waiting outside, no voyages, only the glimmering name of the town hanging by the post smothered by the morning light remained. I stood there by the low wall before the underpass where, everyday, at a certain hour, countless, faceless people pass by. I stood there watching, overwhelmed by the unusual abandonment of this place now brooding like a ruin; and I, with mask and gloves on, felt like an archeologist hunting, excavating, trying to discover some relics to bring into light. This is how a pandemic turns these daily meeting-grounds into ruins.

Whether I was the visitor or the visited on this site I did not know. The rail-tracks empty with trains the distance became insurmountable, the platforms empty with people the waiting became inexorable, the screens empty of schedules the voyages became undone. From these piles of emptiness your perfume, strangely, rose beyond anything else. Perhaps the memory of smell touches us deeply than touch itself. Vanilla, or sweet green tea, or red poppies—something that lingers a while in the nostrils even long after the beloved has left.

Here was a relic—a longing so extinct, so rooted in the memory that I was looking at you in one of those empty platforms without seeing you.

There is no fixed vocabulary in the way we remember, but there is one adjective adequate enough to describe the mysterious work of memory: truant. An absence without leave the memory looks backward and forward simultaneously like the dual destination of the train. Memory is simultaneously moving in opposing directions. Only at the train station can one hold two moments at the same time: arrival and departure. To choose one is to choose the other. Either way much of us is given and taken away. Such is the destiny of our appointment. Perhaps it is in the nature of longing that one arrives at and departs from a certain place at the same time.

Where was the last train from here heading? 

Facing the station platforms, on top of the gates to the booking hall hung a huge clock. Before me, the moment I first saw you with your traveling bag on your back; behind me, the morning I carried your bag and walked you towards the station. How much time has passed in between? The progress of seconds into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, days into years is but a single expression in our memory: a destruction of linear time: a tempo of simultaneity. In the absence of trains the rail-tracks appear like open arms reaching out towards something endless, something unapproachable, enveloped in a language of waiting. Now that there was only emptiness time had nothing to measure, nothing to violate, nothing to traverse. And yet it was the emptiness that reconciled me to your absence. When you walked into my memory you were both now and always. I lost and found you here, and forever. I was filled with a consolation of one who has departed.

Perhaps we who remember are the relics, longed for by a chance encounter with absence, excavated from a wound as a consequence of our abandonment.


Carlo Rey Lacsamana is a Filipino born and raised in Manila, Philippines. Since 2005, he has been living and working in the Tuscan town of Lucca, Italy. He regularly contributes to journals in the Philippines, writing politics, culture, and art. He also writes for a local academic magazine in Tuscany that is published twice a year. His articles have been published in magazines in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, India, and Mexico. Visit his website or follow him on Instagram @carlo_rey_lacsamana. 


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