Hello, there. I know what you’re thinking — you might as well say it out loud. You’re thinking, “What’s a grubby teenager doing wandering around the Hall?” There once was a grubby teenager who lived in this building — I remember him very well — so take it as an indication that you don’t know everything. And I might tell you that it’s not a good idea to offend me. I’m not vindictive, but I can be less than cooperative. You might keep that in mind, the next time a window is stuck.
I don’t sound like a teenager? Well, why should I? Maybe I’m not a teenager. I could be a raven, after all, and that would be just as apt. (There have always been ravens here.) I could be Munin, who sat on Allfather’s left shoulder and made sense of the news that Hugin brought. As the poet sang:
Huginn ok Muninn fliúga hverian dag
óomk ed of Huginn, at hann aptr ne komit,
þó saámk meirr um Muninn.
Or I could not. I could be something else entirely, now couldn’t I?
I was just listening to Barber’s Adagio — well, someone was listening to it. I was eavesdropping, which is very easy for me — I don’t even have to try. Someone said it’s a monument to grief, but I think it’s rather silly to try to put music in a box like that, don’t you? It’s much more than that — it’s the memory of passion, a little bit of that — what’s the word I want? — tristesse, not quite melancholy, but the memory of loss. Even happy memories have that bit of sadness to them, don’t you think? Because they’re memories.
Think of it this way: what do you suppose makes a city come alive? Seriously, now, think about it — all those lives passing through, soaking into the stones and bricks and streets — and how long does it take? Fifty years? A hundred? A thousand? I’ve . . . this building has been here much longer than that. It knows things, things that might surprise you, and it has its own wishes and dreams. Did you know this is a Place? I thought that might surprise you. That’s how much alive it is, how powerful its memories are, how deep they run in the stones and bricks and beams of this house. They reach across to other memories, other Places, other lives.
There’s one of you, at least, who understands that, that cat-eyed man who always seems to be looking past things as he wanders the halls and gardens. You’ve seen him? Hah — your thoughts are all over your face again — you think he’s vague and somewhat of an airhead, don’t you? Well, you just keep thinking that. I think he really delights in those glimpses, that he understands — imperfectly, most likely, but he at least realizes there’s something there, maybe even a little bit of what it means. Maybe it’s because his memories are not limited to yesterday.
You see? You’ve only begun to scratch the surface.
Mackenzie? Another whose memories aren’t limited, but he’s also one who keeps trying to confine them. Well, better him than me, I say — I’ve much too disorderly a mind for that, and it seems to soothe him, somehow, so I suppose that’s alright — that’s his job, after all, to keep all those memories in some sort of order, he and that multitude of Annies — there have always been Annies, and I remember each and every one of them — and he — Mackenzie, that is — generally seems to need soothing. Well, but that’s what they are, don’t you understand that? Dreams, dissertations, flights of fancy, ruthless examinations, stories of battles fought, loves lost and won: the moment they take shape, they become memories.
What’s that? Well, of course I know everything that goes on here. Ah — I see you begin to understand. Why a grubby teenager? Well, two things about that: beware of neat and obedient teenagers — they’re up to something, and I’m being quite straightforward today. And as for the rest — well, teenagers should be confused and rebellious. After all, they’re tomorrow’s memories, and the future doesn’t make sense yet. Although I’m going to be around for a while.
So we’ll see how that goes.