Time travel doesn’t exist; it cannot exist. Don’t let any quantum physyicist tell you otherwise. And yet, in fact I did manage to travel through time, when I got on a train to Charleroi, my home between ’99 and ’00. I live on the other side of the world now, and was stepping back to take a look around at a life I used to lead. Now that is time travel.
Nothing had changed. Well, not nothing exactly; the shops were now open on Sundays, and there was a new little mini-supermarket right by to where I used to live (which would have been really handy back when I lived there), but otherwise, Charleroi was still the same: unpolished, post-industrial, and very familiar. This is not a tourist town; Bruges it aint, and all the better for it. We had a classic Carolo night out; went to my usual places, rubbed shoulders with locals, had Kwak and Charles Quint at la Cuve à Bière (where the people are all the same as before), chatted drunkenly in the smoky Irish Times, staggered up to the excellent popular all-night friterie Chez Robert for a mitraillette de dinde (I am astonished I could still find it after all this time), and then a couple of Fanta Citrons in the morning for the hangover. The freezing cold sun helped too. While waiting for a train, I drew the picture above on tha banks of the murky Sambre (or at least most of it; the ink in my micron pen started complaining about the cold, so I finished it later). We walked about town, I wandered about in my memories and took plenty of photos, and drew La Vigie, the tall building where I used to live on the 13th floor when I taught at the U.T.
It was a fleeting visit, really (there’s not that much reason to stick around in Charleroi in the cold). Who knows when I’ll ever be back. I’m really glad I went though, and visited the increasingly-distant past, but it was even nicer to get back to the future.