Friday, January 24, 2014

The Girl From Ipanema Passes

I came across an unusual Microsoft Word file today, while transferring a powerpoint document to a computer at work.  Many of the files I find are "unusual", to me anyway, because they are often in Korean and I have no idea what they mean.  The English they may contain is not always enough to convey the file's true significance to me.  It may as well be nonsense.

And that's OK.  Having been here only a little more than a month, I don't expect everything to make sense.  In fact, I kind of enjoy the sensation.  It's not always convenient or unstressful, but there's a certain sense of discovery that comes with watching a scenario unfold around me, without the benefit of understanding all the words that float past my brain.  If you're not a little confused, I say, you're not really traveling.

This file, however, was unusual in a different sense.  It somehow evoked meaning for me, despite being apparently meaningless.  Perhaps its creator could explain its contents, but I doubt the explanation would be very good.  It could never be as satisfying as the glow it kindled in my mind, though I doubt there was much sense in that either.

The file was named "David", and that's my name.  It's not an especially uncommon name, but I am in South Korea and there's no other Davids around that I know of.  It was probably created by or for another David who worked here previously, perhaps years ago.  But I was curious and (as always) eager for some distraction.  So I decided to pretend the file was a message intended for me, and I opened it.

Inside I found this text, presented exactly as follows: 

Did you sleep well?
English Only
How old are you?
Tomorrow I’ll be 1 year older!
Who Can swim well?
Breast stroke
Front crawl = free style
Butterfly Stroke
Happy Birthday to you. (x3)
Happy Birthday dear 재우Happy Birthday to you.

Let’s do some warm up exercise before swimming

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes,
each one she passes goes – ah
When she walks, she walks like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when she passes,
each one she passes goes – ah

(ooh) But I watch he so sadly,
how can I tell her I love her
Yes I would give her heart gladly,
But each day, she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me

If nothing else, this should serve as a warning to the psychologically unbalanced, not to go around pretending that randomly encountered computer data are actually secret messages, improbably placed in your path.  That is crazy thinking.  I should never have entertained the mindset.  But it's far too late to stop now.

This text document, as a whole, makes absolutely no sense.  It's not a lesson plan, or even a coherent train of thought.  Whatever purpose it may have had (assuming it is not the musings of a madman) has evaporated into the mists of time.  But it has my name on it, and The Girl From Ipanema is one of my favorite songs.  So I saved it, and I started thinking.

I went about my work for the day, humming and singing the song to myself when I was alone.  I taught a class using the very same computer where I found the mysterious doc.  I even forgot about it for a little while.

And now, at the end of the day, I simply cannot shake the feeling that I have to tell everyone I know about this file.  "Guys, guys, listen!  I found a file with my name and some random nonsense inside!  And The Girl From Ipanema was there!"

How must that sound when spoken aloud?

I thought for a while I might turn it into fiction, the mysterious setup for a bit of strangeness.  But I should have known from the start that this was a bad idea.  You see, I think that about a lot of things.  I can hardly be alone with myself without thinking "this would make a good start for a story".  A brief glance at my work will bear this out.  I don't write nearly enough to satisfy my artistic urges, or to really develop the craft.  But I do write enough to develop my own reliable cliches.

So there I was, thinking the same old thoughts about solitary fiction over some empty text.  I got wise soon enough, but the thing is that it never really felt empty.  I don't know who 재우 is, or whether they're going swimming or not, but all of a sudden I had a song on my lips.  The girl from Ipanema was there, swaying her hips like a samba, and not looking at me.  It was meaningless, but it was true.

What the hell was she doing there, under my name?  I'll never know, because the David who wrote this document is long gone.  The only thing I can say for sure about him is that he doesn't really have a strong sense of what's worth saving and what isn't.  Or, maybe he does?

I don't think I'll write a story about The Girl From Ipanema.  It's been done.  It's not really where my interests lie, narrative wise.  But god, do I love that song.  And here, from the most improbable place, it's reached out and twisted my thoughts into something I don't want to forget about.  It was a sudden moment when something passed, and all I could say was - ah.

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