THERE WAS ONE day when I woke up and put on clothes and went out into the street and just walked. It was freezing that morning. It was early, I don’t even know how early, but the streets were abandoned and the only noises were the gusts of wind pushing by and flicking leaves from the gutters. All the shops were closed – except the Laundromat which never closed – and no-one was around. I walked along the shopping strip and towards the city – I lived close to the city then, could look out my window watch the lights of the buildings switch off, floor by floor, into the evening. I walked into the city and I wandered along the canyons of buildings. And I don’t ever look up much, but this morning, in the silence and calm, I looked up the whole time. Well, not the whole time, I still needed to walk, but I looked up to the tips of the buildings where the corners scratched into the clouds. Old architecture and concrete gargoyles and graffiti tags way up where you could never get to. Tiny red lights pulsing on their peaks, warning planes of their existence.
I stopped in the middle of the mall, where they had the Christmas decorations up high above, rows of gold and red stars streaming way off into the distance. I stopped and sat down on a steel bench and just watched them, those stars, as they rode the wind up and down. The tide of city workers flashed by, dark coloured pants and skirts and jackets crowding through. And there was me, in between, going no place.
When I called up work, I closed my throat up and forced my voice through. I told them I didn’t feel well. Said I was seeing stars.
I took a tram out to the beach, where the wind whipped across the sand and tinkled it against my skin. It was a bay beach so no waves, just flat water shivering into the distance. I watched as a boat moved out from the dock and drifted further and further till it was a grey blur on the edge of the world. I watched as fishermen stood motionless on the dock, like statues there to show tourists that once people fished here. This is what fishermen look like.
I slapped the sand off of my jeans when I got back to the concrete and then I just kept walking, further and further along the edge of the sea.
Later, when she called, she spoke slow with long pauses between the words. She said she was just checking in, said how are you doing? Then there was a silence that dragged on, the sun setting orange, out beyond the streetlights. It was only for the clicks and sighs that I knew she was still on the line. I said I was fine. I was okay. Okay, she said. And she went to say something else, but stopped, then she said she had to go, and she went.
At night I sat in a park, a park bench lit by a bright streetlight, like it had been waiting just for me. I don’t know where I was, I’d been walking most of the day. I sat down and watched the darkness settle across the suburbs. Headlights flicking on, shop-fronts fading behind neon signs. Somewhere, I could hear a TV comedy playing, canned laughter every few seconds. And I looked up, and I don’t ever look up much, but this night I did and I looked up and watched the night sky. Tried to be still so I could see the earth turning away from the still galaxy. The stars streaming way off into the distance.
For more writing by Andrew Hutchinson buy a copy of Vol. I here.