You know those times when one coincidence follows another, and you suddenly get the groundless notion that the threads of your life are more closely and weirdly bound together than you thought? And then it turns into a really vivid dream, and you get reality and your dreamworld confused?
It started with Primo Levi (who, by the way, is the one writer who makes me want to stop writing, because he writes so beautifully that I think I might as well give up trying). I picked up Other People’s Trades, a collection of his essays, as we were leaving for Naples last month, because you’re not allowed to read your Kindle during take-off and landing, and I thought I might as well read something Italian. When we got home I broke off and started reading the Kindle again, so I’ve been progressing through the Levi in fits and starts, and on Sunday I started to read an essay called The Language of Chemistry, which reminded me that Levi was a scientist as well as a writer – specifically, a chemist (and if you haven’t read it, you must immediately go and read The Periodic Table, which I think includes his most beautiful writing of all).
Later that day, after dinner, we watched some Breaking Bad (the beloved has seen it all before, but I am new to it and loving it), in which, as you’ll know if you’ve seen it, the main character is Walter White, another chemist. The episode we watched, the last in season two, ends – I am trying to do this without spoilers, but if you really mind, look away now – with Walter looking into the sky, followed by an aerial shot of the New Mexico desert, while something spins rapidly through the air above it. We’ve been watching for a few weeks and it was sheer coincidence that we reached that episode minutes before turning the TV over to see Felix Baumgartner spin rapidly through the air above the New Mexico desert during his freefall descent to earth from 128,100 feet, which might be the most exciting thing I have ever seen happen in real time. I almost didn’t want to watch, but in the end the thrill of seeing someone do something so brave and brilliant won out over the fear of seeing someone fall to his death, which was always a possibility.
And then, when I went to bed that night, I picked up the Primo Levi again and carried on reading, and when I went to sleep my dreams were full of tortured chemists falling to their deaths in a brightly-coloured desert, and then I woke up with a start and remembered that Primo Levi did fall to his death, in circumstances which remain unclear. And I shivered, and read myself back to sleep with Stephen King, who at least is supposed to be spooky.
Last night’s dreams were even more vivid, but I don’t think I can bring myself to tell you about them. Maybe one day, after everyone implicated is dead, but not till then.