Monday, September 26, 2011

Side Tracked

I have been side-tracked.

You have seen me.

I was watching my feet as I walked. You stood and watched me.

You could see the tension in my shoulders. You could tell that my hands were fists even though they were buried deep-down in my coat pockets.

You wondered what the weight was that I carried on my shoulders. You wondered if the realisation of my own mortality was bearing down on me. You wondered if something I had hoped for, longed for, had passed me by.

You wondered if I had become side tracked; lost my way; spent too many years thinking about living and not enough time being a part of life.

There was something familiar about the way I walked, you decided. The word ‘downtrodden’ entered your mind.

This word, downtrodden, made you think of your own life. You had had dreams once, dreams of a career and of being creative. When you were young you had felt as if you were in a mighty ocean of opportunities.

What happened to your dreams, you wondered. You looked at me walking past, you looked inside yourself as you stood there, and you found that your ocean of opportunity had been replaced by a sea of longing.

You have been side-tracked.

I have seen you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Connor Buys Coffee

Connor didn’t know anything about her, didn’t even know her name, but he knew this: she was the one for him. The first time he saw her it was if he’d been punched in the solar plexus: he was in love.

It had been a Tuesday.

He had seen her through the window of _La Petite Café_ as he walked past. She was standing behind the counter, but even from that distance Connor could feel her warmth; felt himself being drawn to her; and he knew that he was lost, lost, lost.

Connor thought of little else for the rest of the day. He drew a love-heart with an arrow through it and sat staring blankly at it.

She was perfect, he decided.

After that, Connor would find any excuse to walk past _La Petite Café_. She was always there, always smiling: a softness in a hard world.

She is gentle, Connor thought, she is kind and open; she is a balm for a weary soul.

These thoughts began to change Connor. The more he thought about her, the more he changed. Slowly, over many months, he became kinder and more tolerant. He didn’t realise it at the time, but his longing was transforming him.

One morning, as he was walking past the café, Connor made up his mind: he was going to go to talk to her. He slowly opened the door and stepped into the dimly lit room. The smell of coffee, and the sound of lively chatter, filled the air.

And there she was, but not as he’d expected: not as he had hoped. She was a life-sized cardboard cut-out; an advertisment for ‘Coffee Oké’.

Connor groaned.

“Are you alright there?” a waitress asked in a concerned tone.

“I…” said Connor and then stopped.

“I’ve seen you walking past,” the waitress continued. “I hoped you’d come in one day. Can I get you a coffee?”

And then she smiled at him, and Connor found himself smiling back.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Broken

Mick got back to his desk to find a hand-written note sitting in his in-tray.

“Mick,” it read, “That mobile phone headset isn’t fooling anyone: we all know you’re talking to yourself.”

There was no signature.

Mick sat down and hid behind his computer screen.

He re-read the note. They all know, he thought.

For a moment, for the briefest of moments, Mick wondered if they could hear the voice that spoke to him.

Of course not, of course not, of course not.

“Of course not,” Mick said aloud.

Someone in an adjacent cubical suppressed a laugh.

Mick took the headset out of his ear and placed it on top of the note. He pulled a brown cardboard box out from under his desk and began filling it with his personal belongings.

Every eye was on him as he walked, slowly-slowly, towards the exit. Mick stopped in the doorway but didn’t turn around.

He wanted to say that he hadn’t been trying to deceive them. He wanted to tell them how much his life had changed the day he’d found that broken headset. He wanted to tell the room – the whole world – what it felt like to be different, to be aware that you’re different; to be watched; to be watched but not loved. He wanted to say that he knew he was broken.

He was broken.

But Mick was tongue-tied and left without saying a word.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Earnest d'Angelo has Heart

“I won’t pretend that I know how you feel,” says Earnest d’Angelo. But the slow thoughtfulness in his voice, and the careful way he measures his words, tell me that he does.

“My Grandfather died when I was 14,” Earnest d'Angelo continues. “Several nights after his death I realised that if someone as solid as my Grandfather could die, anyone could die: my parents, my friends... And then it dawned on me: I was going to die.”

Earnest d’Angelo is looking at his hands, his still, strong and patient hands. I look at his hands too; they are real hands. I wonder if Earnest’s hands have a familial likeness to those of this Grandfather I never knew.

“For the first time,” says Earnest d’Angelo, “I looked at my life and asked why.

It started with one why, but soon why questions were racing at me with such ferocity that they knocked the breath out of me. The why questions bit me, ripped and clawed me: relentlessly they came. The why questions were a black storm in my mind.”

Earnest d’Angelo is quiet for a moment. The memory of the why storm flashes behind his grey eyes.

“The why storm lasted seven years,” he says, his voice full of sadness.

I want to tell Earnest d’Angelo that I’m sorry about the storm - sorry that it lasted for seven years: but I don’t. I don’t want to interrupt Earnest d’Angelo, I want to know what made the why storm stop.

“One day – it was just a day like any other – I was listening to the why questions, and I realised: I’d heard them all before. There were no new why questions.”

Earnest d’Angelo sits up a little bit straighter.

“That night I walked through the darkness. I walked away from all the houses and cars, walked to a place where the stars shone a little brighter. I looked up at those stars and whispered: 'I don’t know'.

Earnest d’Andelo looks me in the eyes and then quickly looks away. I’m holding my breath.

He says, “For the first time in seven years, my mind was quiet. It was there, standing in the silence, that I heard a new sound. It was like a soft and muffled voice in another room: it was the sound of my own heart beating.”

I dreamt of you that night, the night after Earnest d’Angelo told me his story. I was a child again and you were driving. I was still small enough to stand in the backseat foot-well without my head touching the roof. It was the days before backseat seatbelts, but I was safe because you were there. Your hair was black and your shoulders were broad and strong. I reached out and touched you then, but my hand passed right through you.

As I awoke, as I drifted between wakefulness and sleep, I thought I heard your voice in the other room.

But it was only the sound of my own heart beating.