Daydreaming

Listen

 

I leave the gym and its fluorescent grey body behind me and enter the cool air, rain spitting on me. A little old lady is ahead of me, stooped over as she walks. I think it rude to overtake her on the narrow footpath and instead give her time. There’s a kind of sorrow to the way she walks. At least, it is what a I would feel. How does the back arch like that? The answer’s obvious—it is tired. She is tired. I wonder if she feels a sadness when she’s surrounded by the young, full of vigour and energy. I suppose for a time she probably cared, maybe not anymore. Why remind yourself that your own End Times are closer than you care to think about? I wait for her and take in the grey sky. Her walk is a bent-over shuffle. Her life is a bent-over shuffle. I hate this place.

~

I ease on the breaks and bring my car to a stop at the lights. Dusk is fast approaching, casting a polluted orange across the suburbs. The clouds above and ahead are wispy and, I think, dirty. I look to my left and into the car next to me. The driver sits still, staring out into the traffic, into the road, the sky. She is elsewhere. There is nothing notable in her appearance. The hair is set back, the eyes are hazel, the clothes are charcoal grey. No necklace or earrings adorn her. No totems hang from the mirror. There’s nothing notable in the life I imagine. I see an office, a middle-class job, maybe a partner, or even a family at home. I see that she’s been here a thousand times before and she’ll be here a thousand times more. Waiting at the lights. She does not see me watching. All at once I feel so blue for her and I have no idea why. The light turns green and I leave her behind.

~

I have a strange memory of a man I once saw when I was young. He stood in a large doorway of a warehouse. The afternoon was in its silent death rows. There was some kind of street event, a small one. Music and food. He was aside from the people. It was cold yet he only wore an old looking t-shirt and an unzipped, thin jacket, a pair of old shorts and sneakers. It was windy and his clothes fluttered. His enormous gut was exposed and he just stood there, smoking. He had an old plastic bag at his side. I could see the smell on him. Upon his grizzly and unshaven face was a look of sustained exertion and heavy breathing. He dragged on his cigarette often, looking around at nothing in particular. I thought, isn’t he cold? He was alone. Children ran around, teenagers stood around. Down the road was a cemetery, resting at the bottom of the hill. You could gaze into it and all the stones. The dead, the dead, the dead. Stacked up.

~

I take a walk on a winter’s afternoon. I go past the diggers clearing way for a new wetlands. I cross the suspension bridge that spans the creek and stop for a moment to watch the brown water ripple. I walk on to the gravel path and to the glade I sometimes wander. There are two oaks, naked in the cold. I take the path around the glade, up the hill to the top of it and among the pine trees I take my place on the lone bench. In the middle of the glade, in the middle of the hill, there is one pine tree standing, wide and old. The background is trees and transmission lines. I sit for some time, looking at it, as if expecting a whisper or a wise word. A murmur, a secret. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The breeze cools me and no one passes.

~

I am mired by the inner view, searching myself, looking in reflections and seeing only wobbled characters—mirrors in the water. I imagine the marshlands of my mind and, as I stand in it, the characters within. I watch them. They are all different versions of myself, wading and stomping through the mud and black water. Pale skin, knotted hair. One of them is bent over with his hands in the water. He looks up at me, mud smeared across his cheeks, with fierce eyes as if to ask ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ I don’t know, I say, my words stumbling. I don’t know, I don’t know. He turns away and begins to sink into the mud. Knees, hands, arms, body, face. He does not seem frightened. There are plenty of me walking around. What am I doing here? Shell-shocked landscapes and charcoal clouds, red-setting suns and grey horizons. I lie back in a soup of earth and sink into the next scene.

~