You come through in a battered car that doesn’t make the journey in one go. There are days, and nights too, when the engine fails and it has to be pulled over to the side of the road with a frustrated and irresponsible hand-over-hand guiding the wheel there. The passing cars go by while we pull the scraps together just to buy us enough of a grade to make it a couple of more miles down the road, maybe to the next town should there be luck in the air we’ve done nothing to deserve. This litany at roadsides, under scorching heat giving blurry heat vapor edges to the drawn-up world around us or the nights without a heater but plenty of lights yielding sick-inducing headaches, gets the seven of us nowhere and exactly where we planned to be.
It never breaks down because it was never really together, and somewhere out there a zombie still has hands as active as any ever were on the wheel. The wheels were rolling slow and cruising last I saw them: as directionless as a glacier and with far more parallels. I could have kept my shoes intact had I kept my hand off the door-handle and my ass along for the ride, but even though holes would open like starving mouths while my sockless feet salivated as if either them had any kind of semblance of a last meal to punctuate the sentence we started on the blankest page I’d ever seen, I’d rather walk. Walk on the yellowest, most water-damaged, aged, and long-lost page any mis-combined set of uninspired words had ever formed on. I didn’t have a map, and after having only ventured with maples road-trippers I didn’t even realize what they were. It would be a long time before blue-grey-green with a flicker of yellow eyes even navigated me to the hand-holding of a GPS, but I got there.
I walked, and when I could I got my hands and feet on a bicycle to cover the ground to the distant shoreline. The larger the distance grew behind me the smaller the hands holding and shaping my life seemed to become, and while the distance created that illusion I could see for the first time that the illusion was always alluding to itself with every little contradiction in the back of my mind. Every time a voice I didn’t know told me something felt wrong, or that every repeating block and intersection felt like inching towards atrophy instead of a milestone or trophy, the façade weakened and the curtains blocking the window to the world thinned a little more. The trash bags blocking the rear-seat windows were only a view in hindsight and that was the only way I was looking back. Even if I had to walk a flat tire or take the bus I wasn’t quitting, because while they say to never look back with a positive tone I don’t think anything makes you feel more at home then seeing have far the roadside you left behind opines against you even now.
Graphicacy came, and it came because the voice in the back of my head was my own. It was unrecognizable after a lifetime of not speaking in that tone, and when it started coming out of my mouth I marked a spot and started for it. It moved, then moved again, and moved, moved, and moved again. It’ll keep moving and when I reach the end of the concrete I’ll swim or sail. I don’t think you need to move the globe to find your spot, but when you hate the way it’s been going for you you have to end that something to find something that works.
It always comes to life in mid-sentence supported with the kind of readiness I only wish I could bottle and stall its fleeting visit. Maybe it’s just the right amount of cold air to the face or the feeling after all my energy has been washed away? It’s probably nothing quite as calculated as that or as picture-perfect, but I think looking to my right and seeing how things have changed is likely the real culprit.
The population on the October waters has flown away from the diverse selection that floated on the September ones. I’m about seven tenths of the way home before I notice this, and it’s an odd number but the perfect one to describe where I took everything in. I looked out and saw the water, the new bank along side it like gravel lining a country road, the side of the canal so often submerged, a layer of the street and pedestrians next, a horizon of vehicles behind them with another layer of tree trunks and homes following, and the eye continues up to the fall palette of retiring leaves ready to fully embrace the fall. It’s like cutting the cake of the earth to its core and seeing the layers stacked, however this fully fall day sits on display in proud acceptance of just how different it is from the same scene of just a month ago. The water’s gone so we can glide on it after the chill sinks deep enough, and the tails counter-balancing the diving beaks are the last of the summer denizens skating on the water before we do.
This dusk is different then the others beyond the sad nostalgia and appreciative stares. It’s getting harder to pedal and ride home to an outward-looking perspective on the journey. The energy is missing in the force I need to drive my knees and even my elbows feel weak. I spend time taking in the sights mentioned above, however I swap the reds of the leaves for the reds of my feet and their laces while I’m staring down. The feel of my body pulls up a memory from my archive, more dust to blow off than I could believe, and I see my reflection in the window of the home I got to know as a teen. I’m exhausted, hungry, and for some reason craving meat, and so I go in and eat far more than I would normally. That meal, nothing more than a sandwich, is the apple in my minds eye without half of the nutritional value. It’s all I can think of, and maybe that’s fortunate because the last stretch home only goes uphill.
One more thought is there, not so much a thought but a sight: yellow. Yellow and bright flash my ankles between my shoes and pant. The monkey face and barrels outlined as a black stencil look up at me and I love them, I think, or perhaps gasp with depravity, as much as I could ever love anything. Nothing will ever be more and will only ever aspire to rise up and meet that. The gears, chain, and wheels all grind with age and the sights around are all of endings, but the bright reminder of sunny jungles and music of freedom contrasts brilliantly. It’s a little thing, but the little things never really let you down.
It’s as claimed by rust as it is by nature’s mossy, clutching fingers. With pride we can look and say that’s ours, ours like trees aren’t or like boulders sit dwarfing us.
A path of crunching steps leads a slight figure to the sick, pale yellow of the old body drained of its original luster by the sun’s lust. Hardly matters in the dead of night, but maybe come morning it’ll be something to think on to keep their mind off of the something bold and Vantablack.
Lifting and pulling the handle doesn’t get them inside, and now made to weigh the worth they can see how much of the outside has managed to influence what they thought would be a respite inside. They look around as if there was ever going to be something different to see, and not able to recover enough spirit in the wake of the disappointment they take a seat. It won’t be a shelter as imagined, but one less direction to sweep with an already tired neck and one that’s sure to feel the rough hands of cramping massage it out of shape as the night goes on. It’s protection worth taking.
Their back felt tender after an hour in hope of sleep but it was certainly out now that this was all it was ever going to be. There would be no sleep or rest for their wicked nest of hornets, buzzing and sickening where a lighter soul would find their mind, and as unhappy as unsurprised they rose with cracking feet, stretched their sunken back, and readied to continue on. A moment went by before they bent to reach for their bag, but with a hand around one of the straps they changed their mind in accordance with their second thought. They returned to the spot on the ground and leaned back uncomfortably, just like before.
There was nowhere to really go, they knew, and so sitting here to maybe see how this spot, known by heart after an hour of taking it in, might look with the early beams of sunrise added to the mix.
The sun’s getting so low now, so early. I sound redundant but it blows my mind leaving indoors at the same time I did a month prior to low lighting you can barely read under. The lights that do come in place cut through clearly and definitively like man-made stars, but their just blobs of paint in comparison to their original subjects. No life or magic in their keeping us out of the dark-unseen of the night.
Despite that one alteration of the familiar there’s little change to the wait and arrival that I’m moving towards. Maybe some extra layers reducing the hunch of my shoulders, hunching forward to lean on my knees while I’m leaning through the next ten minutes without anything to sit up and look around at. Sitting in wait so that I can sit in wait on a rumbling bus, but at least the driver is friendly. I’m not listening to him in favor of music of my choosing but he smiles at me and I exchange the kind of smile I’d like if I were him: small and friendly without any obligation of anything more than being polite. It’s all I want from him, and all I want from the bus is to hear its engine moving us and its wheels making the tour of the blocks home. The frame of the bus seems old, but I don’t know if every bus is old and creaking or if that’s their design even when new and clean.
I can count on one hand those of us on the ride and I like it. I like it because I don’t like the music I have pouring in to my ears through my ear-buds, despite it being the best collection of songs I could think of. What’s the problem? It’s all the same few artists, the same few beats, the same few scenes. It’s the kind of package I put together because I know it makes me feel the type of way that’ll get me home strong and stave off the longing of home’s comfort. At the very least, it’ll sub in my desired comfort for the state-of-mind that’s comfortable out in public.
I’m not in to it though, and I can hit pause and turn off the beats that aren’t in rhythm with my circadian. I keep the earbuds in though because they feel in place. The white noise of the bus is the kind of familiar you never yearn for but appreciate having, and nothing feels better than checking in to the soundtrack supplied by the world around me. I don’t need to stamp reminders of myself or pad the walls around me with confidence to enjoy a simple ride home, and the simplicity of it fills me like the steam of boiling tea comfortably fills the nostrils when my knees ache and the chill persistently dances with a fever.
Three quarters of the way home a lurch and bounce bring my elbow down hard on the metal arm-rest. It’s not quite the catalyst for a sour taste spreading or a burst of citronella muscling through a crowd of light and pleasant aromas, but it’s enough to balance out the ride and note it in my mind. It’s like late afternoon rain proceeding sunlight that only takes-leave come nightfall: a negative giving significance to the positive.
When the time comes I signal my exit and wait for the doors to set me free. I don’t push on the handle but I watch for the green light, and when it comes the doors slide apart and I step out in to the dark coolness and walk the last part of the journey home.