When I was younger, around seventeen or eighteen, I was haunted by visions so banal and unspoken that the word haunting would seem a bit of an exaggeration to a third party. Lying on my bed for whole afternoons, I would gently, politely get depressed, without really knowing why, without even telling myself "I'm depressed". It was something unspeakable and visceral. And it was more than a depression. Images of the world were passing through me, and these images were so powerful, so true, that the intensity of the experience became painful, but a pain not far from ecstasy. These visions were, however, if told at all, perfectly banal. I closed my eyes and saw the sun-drenched streets of the suburban neighborhoods where I'd wandered so many times. Alone in these streets where I knew no one. A stranger in the midst of normality, of life at its most natural and everyday. I saw them again in a twilight, an end-of-the-world light and silence. It was like an unexpected, indecipherable mystical vision.
I was a big Mike Oldfield fan. When I listened to Ommadawn, I kept thinking back to that forest in Germany, behind the municipal swimming pool. Once again, I spent a good part of my adolescence there, alone. You had to cross a bridge that served as a border. I went there almost whenever I was free. When you spend hundreds of hours alone, walking and brooding, it's rarely a path to others and to normality. But what should I have done: bought a scooter, cut my hair, taken up basketball?
I'd developed this ritual of going for an evening walk in Hanweiler; I liked the lights on the houses, the signs of the few shops, the illuminated sign indicating the brothel and the tobacconists. I'd go up to the gas station to buy cigarettes, beer, a small flask of hard liquor and chocolate. I'd stroll along the road that gradually left the village proper and became a succession of fences, warehouses, trees and fields, and I'd have my little feast. Anyone who doesn't know the pleasure of an ice-cold beer, in winter and at dusk, knows nothing. It was the pleasure of a vagabond or a stowaway, with my can well hidden in the dark, and I felt very far from home.
I associate all these places – the swimming pool, the forest and its paths, Hanweiler, its lights and its gas station – with Christmas. Summer had no place in my imagination at the time; or let's say it had no place, and I was in a kind of never-ending existential winter.
I often scanned, in fact I scanned non-stop, the illuminated windows of the houses in the streets. I wanted to see what other people's homes were like; were they wooded, did they have books, paintings, were the rooms nicely lit, were they sitting in front of the TV, or standing in the kitchen talking, taking a bath, tinkering in the cellar? I had a family and a home like everyone else, but I spent my life alone in the streets after school, enjoying the cold, and looking out of the windows, trying to imagine the lives of the inhabitants.