Palm Beach, Florida. October 2010.
In William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition, there's a character who describes jet lag as
"soul-delay". She pictures some kind of weird tether or string spooling loosely out behind
her as she flies, a sort of rubbery bungee that takes time to get taught and then gradually spring
her soul back to her body. Jet lag is only cured when the soul catches up. You sit alone in a hot
tub at a five-star resort and look at a clear blue sky. You catch yourself wondering if everything
is happening somewhere else. Is this soul delay? Or is it black coffee at five in the morning
next to a pair of mannequins? Or is it the fact that your passport is getting stamped tomorrow
morning? Is it a hot tub without another human in sight and the sound of the ocean in your ears?
Or maybe it's an aerial view of a place where lots of humans exist and are going about their little
lives. Is it fear? The knowledge that your bungee is going to languidly unspool behind you as you
sleep, your body on quiet, helpless standby in the dark tunnel of a 747's cabin? Maybe it's the dully
anonymous landscape of your home country, your own shorelines panning silently and slowly
underneath you. The waves crashing in miniature on empty beaches.
You haven't been on the road long enough to cure your soul of inertia but you're beginning to understand the concept.
The terrain at the resort in Palm Beach isn't helping with any of this, of course. You drink a beer
on an immaculate lawn and watch people play croquet. At dinner the chef comes to the table
to make sure everything is perfect. Elderly couples dine around you without speaking. Your
co-worker flies home to Boston, back to his own life, back to where you once lived. You wonder
if it will be difficult to get through customs in the morning.