When I take a step on the sidewalk there’s a moment of tension, the indecision before the foot trusts the cement. The dried leaves of past autumns roll over the spikes of grass, tumbling nowhere. Though the sun shines its brilliant light through the blades of grass, through the webs of leaves, none of that light comes to me. That part of the world is separate from I, the bright and the beautiful separate from my brooding melancholy. The beauty is right in front of me, yet it is far far away.
The two rusted trash bins by the building dump, those ones which garbage trucks pick up and lift over their heads. Their blue paint hangs as flakes, held by the air, yet the air threatens to blow it away. Those trash bins were in motion once. Their wheels had once turned and swiveled, their lids had once been opened, people had used it, once. Though disused, they are not empty. They still hold black and white bags from years ago. But inside the bins, the bags meet no wind. Maybe if they were outside, the wind would splash over the plastic , the ribbons of each tied bag would dance to the wind, the film would be kissed by the dying sun. Maybe outside they would feel the fresh breath of rain, when it comes splattering down on the plastic film, tap tap tap, a slight sound of crinkle in the plastic at each drop. But with the trash bins covered, this is all a fantasy. The bags stay slumped in the darkness, their existence unknown to the world.
Beside the trash bins, lining the banking bend of the street, stand fences. Their black arrows shoot to the sky, their metal slice through the earth. The black paint waves its luster back into my eyes. They stand motionless. They have no wheels to turn or swivel, no lids to open or close. Maybe the last person to touch those fences was the construction worker who planted them there. When the wind roars its fury, sweeping all the leaves on the branches, bending all the spikes of grass, clattering the stop signs and swinging the street lights, creaking the metal boards and shaking the bus stands, those fences rest still. When the world screams, it screams through the gaps in the fence. It isn’t moved because the wind cannot. The wind can only go through it. I see those black arrows. I see how they plea to be lifted, yanked out, even, from its existence in the ground. Maybe I could see some movement when I walk by. Maybe I could see those black arrows shooting toward the sun, extinguishing its flame. Maybe those vertical rods, once held apart, could now fuse together, so that whenever the wind blows, there wouldn’t be any gaps for it to go through. Then, finally, maybe the fence would topple, and find the motion it had always wanted.
I take more steps with a book in hand. I don’t understand what the book is about. As I’m writing this, I don’t remember the title of it. Something darkness. I catch my reflection when I pass a window. A thin, bending slice of a life, how is my body holding itself together? The sight of my flatness makes me exhausted. This wave of lethargy washes over me. All those moments sitting on the couch with idle eyes and idle thought while the TV lights flash on, all come rushing back. All those moments at dinner when I would hang myself in that tentative space, from taking a step to the next step. All those moments in a group where conversation moves faster than my thoughts, if I have any. All of this makes me tired. Tired of this restraint I place on myself, tired of all these tentative intentions where I hang for minutes or hours or years between two steps. And I’ll hang here until no one cares about what I do, especially myself.
I remember drinking stale coke out of an aluminum cup. Afterwards when you grind your teeth they would be more friction, more resistance. All the air in that drink disappeared, and all that remained was the black liquid of its passing. It escaped out of neglect, going unnoticed into the atmosphere. . . I remember eating butter for the first time. On the plane to Canada was the first time I saw bread. That salty tinge of smooth oil. It just gets more pleasant at undiscovered parts of the mouth. I press the butter between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I let my wrists fall and my hair down. I lean to my side, surrendering to the drone of the plane, and I feel the bra strap cutting into my right shoulder. But when I let the bra strap relax, all resistance is gone. Perhaps it was because there’s nothing to hold me, nothing to define my restraints so I could feel I belonged to somewhere, that I belonged in this set of boundaries.
As I keep walking, placing those ever more tentative steps, the earth being the only one to hold my feet, I slow down. It is not that wave of lethargy but a collapse of intent, the intent being the will to live. Cold wind slap crumpled leaves in those pools of still water, water since the storm two months ago. My loose jacket dangles off the stick of my body and flaps, trying to find a new home, to shake off this body. What is there to do but edge along, along the curved road into some lonesome grayness, a world void of colour and dreams and words. I walk by one of those still water pools, the green algae waving at me with its sadness. I stop by and return that gaze, a pondering yet aimless gaze at the green algae, my eyes following their swaying. This was all too long ago, this memory fades in me like the stars fade from the night sky, come morning light. There was a blue fence with peeling blue paint.
That seven years ago, a bottle rested on the table. The paper label was faded and peeling. I flipped the water bottle on the glass coffee table. It bounced and rolled, the water splashed and turned. I pushed the bottle upright from side to side, hand to hand, watching the gray water swim and rise and fall. Those drops splash up and melt back into the water, bubbles twist and nudge each other, rising to the surface to pop and disappear. Those splashes of the water, those restless torrents of my soul, all washed down by the passing of time. I wish I could take that water from the past and drench it over those paper garbage bags. They were paper weren’t they? They can’t be plastic. They have to be paper. Paper melts with enough water, they disappear faster than plastic. Maybe I want them to disappear. But paper bags do not float like ribbons. Let the water soak the paper, shed the skin of those rotting bags, break open the lid to the trash bin, and let the flood drench the bags. Let the water overflow and take the trash bin along in its current.
But one thing will not change. Those fences that dug themselves deeper into the earth by the day, those black arrows aimed toward the sky, will forever remain motionless. Until the day the earth overturns, until the earth rages into an inferno that melts all the concrete and all the metals, until the sun finally exhales its last breath, those black stakes will stay raked into the earth, arrows emblazoned black. Maybe that’s just the way things are, dark arrows of the past aimed into the mist of the future, poised but never released.
The plastic bags billow like white linen cloth. Over the new sea they will sail and maybe one day, carry along those black arrows to pierce into my heart. I will bleed out my tentative existence into that sea, and sink down to the darkness of the ocean floor.