He didn’t know I was watching. I was glancing at the text over his shoulder. I also had my own words to write. It didn’t seem real. I was observing a translator at work. Much of the work happened in his head, and how could I see what was happening there? I could imagine thoughts, images, emotions, and whatever else might appear in a mind or in a body or in both simultaneously. I could record the experience, moment to moment. Did I want to be inside someone else’s head, in an imaginative way? Maybe I didn’t have a choice. Maybe it was my destiny to experience others in this way. Seconds, maybe minutes, of mental and body contact ensued, and I wanted out. He was in too much emotional fluctuation for me. I imagined a calm sea. Then a storm arrived. My mind couldn’t handle strong winds. That wasn’t true. I seemed to be dealing with emotional turbulence in a symbolic way. The translator was creating a new text, in English, from the Chinese one he’d started with. A calming idea came to me: maybe the translator was me, and I was discovering what it was like to be in my own mind. Now I knew I was capable of observing myself. Maybe it was my inner destiny.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been in this building on a Friday night. I paused as I counted the number of years since the last time. How was it possible that I last listened to a Jungian psychoanalyst in this room sixteen years ago? I decided to come tonight at the last possible moment. I would’ve preferred to remain at home and read something interesting. My body seemed to say: Too bad! You need a lecture on the soul, which was what the middle-aged man in front of us would soon start talking about. I was seated in a middle row. There were more people than I’d expected. More of these sentences would’ve written themselves in my mind. But the pen in my hand and the paper on my lap demanded some of my attention. I would listen and I would write. The Jungian analyst’s words seemed to speak to my imagination. I pictured myself in his head. How was he experiencing us? He appeared to have forgotten about the papers he’d brought with him to the lectern. We must have seemed interested in his words. He spoke without a pause. For how long would he speak? I felt too close to him in a psychic sort of way. Then I remembered: there was a coffee break in the middle of the last lecture I attended here. He was speaking directly to me. His words wouldn’t have allowed me to leave the room, even if my feet had insisted on moving. I was no longer writing words on paper. Something important was happening to me, beyond words.
We were having a beer and talking about the dock in front of us. The first beer didn’t take long to finish. As I walked to the cabin to fetch two more, I wondered whether we were talking about only the physical dock or perhaps also about a psychic dock, a symbol, as if this physical object came to me in a dream. Maybe it did. I would’ve dreamed about it, and then it would’ve become part of a relaxed afternoon conversation. Maybe that’s what happened. I couldn’t remember dream images from last night, although I remembered dreaming something. The second beer took us longer to finish. A warm sunny afternoon in April felt too good to be true. I imagined how my friend might react if I were to mention a psychic dock. He knows I’m a psychological thinker. He isn’t one? We got to our feet. Each of us had tasks to do before dinner. He headed back to his cabin. I imagined the dock in front of me as a symbol, as an unknown, in my mind. Welcome to dream thinking, I heard myself say aloud.
It’s a Saturday afternoon and the building doors must be locked. I couldn’t enter even if I wanted to. This last sentence startles me. Why would I want to walk inside an empty building? I spend enough time on the fourth floor, in my psychoanalyst’s office, during the week. My imagination doesn’t seem interested in what this afraid part of me has to say. The images that I’m about to put into words feel bold: I ride the elevator alone up to the fourth floor and feel the silence as I cross the waiting area and reach the door that I’ve never seen closed before. It’s always open when I walk toward it, and fifty minutes later, when often my body and head feel as if they need time to become reconnected, I close the door behind me and don’t look back as I hurry to the elevator. I hesitate before opening the door, and in that moment of hesitation I almost hurry once more to the elevator. Instead, I walk inside and sit in my analyst’s chair behind the couch. I remind myself that I’m imagining all of this. This is trespassing. I could get into trouble if someone saw me here. Then, for the second time, I remind myself that this isn’t real. It’s real, another part of me says. You want to be inside your analyst’s mind. You might feel sometimes as if you need to borrow her mind. I listen to myself and continue imagining occupying my analyst’s physical and mental space.
Seconds felt like hours. The blank screen seemed angry with me. I realized I had only myself to listen to. There would be no fifty minutes on the psychoanalytic couch for me today. I was on my own emotionally. I felt as if I were being punished. Why don’t I leave and come back? It was one of the advantages of working at home. I was out the door five minutes later, in my imagination. In reality, I remained at my desk and traveled in my imagination. My feet remained on the carpet and I imagined myself on the sidewalk, walking in the rain without an umbrella. I wanted to experience everything. My laptop felt more welcome when I pictured it as a manual typewriter, which in reality I hadn’t used in decades. In my imagination, I wrote on that old machine about walking in my neighborhood and discovering a psychology bookstore, where I found shelves with the complete works of Jung and Freud and remained motionless for what seemed far too little time. This was home. If only this home were real. My desk, my laptop, and my unfinished work were still here. In my imagination, so was the psychology bookstore.
My own voice frightened me. I sounded angry. It was 12:03 in the afternoon. There was anger in my voice. It permeated my body. I imagined the anger engulfing me. Should I voice these imaginative experiences? Wasn’t that why I was in this motionless position for fifty minutes? I would be back in motion the moment I left this couch. I’d spent enough fifty-minute hours in this psychoanalysis to have had firsthand, conscious experiences of how imagination helps me become more aware of myself. Now I was afraid to speak. What could I say? I could say whatever came to mind. I heard my own voice again, and so did she, seated behind me. I seemed frightened of my own imagination. It must be 12:05 or 12:06. I didn’t look up to glance at the clock beyond the couch. She remained silent, for now. Seconds could’ve been minutes. Too much intense energy was pulsating through me. Why couldn’t I simply voice what was bothering me? An unwelcome truth appeared in a few words: because I didn’t know what was bothering me. How many more minutes would I have to lie here in confusion? The minutes didn’t know. My silent analyst, seated out of sight, didn’t know. I imagined that my body knew what was bothering me. It was waiting for the rest of me to catch up.
I was sure I’d chosen the best word possible. What did I mean by being sure? I was translating a sentence from Spanish into English. It was a weekly newspaper column that my favorite Spanish author and novelist, Javier Marías, had written around a decade ago, when he and I were living in the same city, Madrid, and I could walk to the street, and to the block, where in one of the flats visible from the sidewalk, I was almost certain he lived. I wasn’t sure. Facts have a subjective nature to me. The adjective, or was it an adverb, that I’d chosen for the translation into English would have to do. No one else would read these translated sentences. Why was I spending time reading and thinking about this sentence in a newspaper column from a decade ago in two languages? I didn’t know why. Why didn’t I finish creating this new sentence in English, translated from Spanish, before asking myself more questions? It could be done in seconds. I wasn’t interested in seconds. I was seeking a mental experience. In what I imagined was less than a second, I realized I was searching in vain for something that would have to find me. Maybe the mental exercise involved in translating a sentence had sought me out. I would never know for sure.