Today’s sermon: I walked and walked

Reading Herta Müller’s The Appointment, the following phrase lodged itself in my consciousness:

I started walking and walking.

How weird, that ‘and’, that repetition. It lodged itself, halted my reading and turned it to thinking. ‘And’, as a connective, can signify simultaneity: “We walked and talked”; or it can signify sequentiality: “I chopped the onion and put it in the pan”. But here it seems to signify a kind of intensification. She walked, and then after she had walked, she continued walking. There is no suggestion that, from the outside, any observer might have been able to spot when the first ‘walking’ stopped and the second began. It’s all interior.

I thought and thought.

I walked and walked.

I cried and cried.

Certainly, there is length there, the idea that the action went on further than might have been expected. But there is something more, the second incidence of the verb always carries a sense that the experience is altered, deepened, taken to a different degree.

Reading the phrase, and thinking of how I must have used it, or a version of it, somewhere in my writing, I thought how strange these constructions are, that they fly from our mind, our tongue, our pen, our fingers, without us ever crediting the weird, deep grammar that upholds them, that belongs not to us, but to the language itself.

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