"It’s not called ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’ for nothing, you know! It's about time we started to solve this mystery of the dead astronaut"I’m American. But sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact. Although others are quick to.
I don’t parade my national identity in any outward way that I know of. Loudness and brashness are not part of how I engage with people. When I speak aloud, it is not as if the world around me is very small but the people in it are all far away. And when I write, I've adopted the British spelling of words, with all the extra letters put back in, the stuff we Americans like to take out or smooth over.
But we’re a cursed people, in so many respects and it’s not something that can be escaped. Curses follow you wherever you go; in our case, all the way to Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and to the gates of every embassy in every country in the world.
Whether I like it or not, I carry the curse with me, too. I see it in others' eyes. They can smell the curse upon me as soon as they hear my voice. I see it in the tiny recoil of their muscles; the facial pores that visibly slam shut against my nation’s particular toxin; the eyelids that turn down like great clanking shutters; the internal rebellion that rises and topples common sense in an instant. This fog of preconception masks and befuddles us both. I can’t be seen or heard; they can’t see or hear me.
It’s as well then that, in so many ways, we’re an empty people. Nobody sees inside us, so it’s as well that there’s nothing much there other than commercialism, empty statements about freedom, and a hanging on to physical symbols of identity and status.
It cuts the other way also. The bravura of being American will never allow us to really look inside ourselves to see truth. We try to make truth where it cannot be made: in how we shape, adulterate and transform the world around us. We see no soul in this world around us that we trammel and mould, because we have no soul other than the flat image of one that we seek to make real. We pursue perfection that we wish to exist only in what the eye can see.
So there’s another element where I can never be anything other than an American. I’m always in a land that’s alien, one that will never quite be home.
"They can smell the curse upon me as soon as they hear my voice. I see it in the tiny recoil of their muscles; the facial pores that visibly slam shut against my nation’s particular toxin; the eyelids that turn down like great clanking shutters; the internal rebellion that rises and topples common sense in an instant. This fog of preconception masks and befuddles us both"
For me, being in another land emphasises this. Scotland isn’t home either. Never really could be. The only home is inside. So Americans are lost. Cursed to look for salvation where it doesn’t exist. Creating endless damage and hurt because we attempt to build perfection upon a foundation that will never accept it, that can do nothing but reject the lie.
And this is oh so clear to me when I’m in a land that’s blessed – blessed because it knows itself quietly and without gaudy drama or trampling ambition. The people of our land aspire to carry our mountains, our trees, our rivers, to other lands and watch them take root there. This land gives birth to people who are entirely of this land. The best ideal is to simply be, and this country called Scotland simply is. The people here are like the land’s mountains: there’s a strength, but also a confidence that doesn’t need to be proved or demonstrated, yet if you respect the mountains then they will show you respect in return. It’s a sweet bargain, and an identity not based upon dreams of paradise, of promised lands, of heaven on Earth.
Why am I thinking about all of this now? Well, there’s an Australian in the house now, for a start!
"Oh, me! You’re thinking about me! In a wayward kind of sense, for sure! But, yes. You Americans live in a land founded upon unreal expectations. Our nation started out from low expectations, from making the best of a bad lot. So we’re comfortable. We’re free to accept life or to improve life. The choice is ours."
I wish I was you.
"Unlucky you that you’re not! But lucky you to dream such a noble dream!"
I wish. I wish. I wish. How long have I had this wish? Just since I split up with Philip?
"Can you get back to your story now? Tell it from when I first appeared! You haven’t concluded that bit yet. It’s not called ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’ for nothing, you know! It's about time we started to solve this mystery of the dead astronaut. You're too damned useless to solve it alone!"
Solve it? There's nothing to solve! It's all just a part of me. Part of what I've been through. Part of what I'm going through. I need to focus on getting well and stop hallucinating!
"Then get well. By solving it! So says Kidman. Ignore me if you so choose!"
Okay, okay. Enter Nicole Kidman, to help unravel the apparent mystery of the ghost of the dead astronaut. Camera. Lights. Action!