One of my first memories has more to do with sound than with sight, and the moment this memory is based on must have taken place in 1971, when I was three years old.
Back then, we lived on the top floor of a three storeyed house. Our flat had a balcony, and I was on that balcony on a sunny day. Now, human memory is a tricky thing, as we all know, and I can not remember what I was doing on the balcony; most likely I was sat there, playing with some toy or other.
What I do remember though is the sound of a woman's heels walking past far below on the street. The click-clack of her heels on the pavement caught my attention, and although I don't think I went to look, the sound gave me a feeling I can only describe as a rather vague longing: it sounded grown-up, elegant, determined, and beautiful. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to put my impression in such words at the age of three, but from that day on, I would always associate the sound of ladies' shoes on pavement with being grown-up.
Many years later, I am grown-up and can wear clacking heels as much as I like, and they do not give me quite the same thrill anymore.
But the other night, I was reminded of that moment in 1971 on our balcony.
It was between 11 and 12 pm, and I had just switched the light off after having read for a while. The night was comparably mild, and one of my bedroom windows was open just wide enough to let some air in - and the sounds from the quiet area where I live. As I was about to drift into sleep, a woman walked by, and her heels made that familiar clacking noise on the pavement.
For the fraction of a second, I felt being in two places at once: I was that woman, returning alone from maybe a night out with friends or a meal in a posh restaurant in male company, looking forward to reaching home and get ready for bed. And at the same time I was here, in the comfort of my own bed with my duvet and a woollen blanket keeping me warm.
Was anyone right now thinking of the woman, walking out there all alone in the dark? Would she find someone at home, still up and waiting for her, happy to see her safely back? Or did she just leave someone who had been enjoying her company that evening and was looking forward to their next encounter?
I had no way of knowing, and actually I could not even be entirely sure that it was indeed a woman whose shoes were causing that sound, just like I had no way of knowing if anyone, at that moment, was thinking of me.