Frosted air danced a sinister two-step on my face, urging my cheeks to a frozen red while unleashing its fury with such a force, that I feared it might cleave weathered lines onto my face in only a mere moment of time. My black coat billowed with the harsh wind and for a moment, I felt like a character from a comic book; full of show and full of purpose. Then the winds suddenly die, and my coat returned to form, as if to say that I was neither hero, nor villain, and that I certainly did not belong in a comic book.
The departure of the wind was a rousing re-arrival to the here and now. I was not standing on a tall sky scraper, with a billowing cape and a hardened heart. I had no duty to save the world before the nights end, nor had I the desire to construct a machine to end it in the same frame. Instead, this departing wind took with it the thoughts of grandeur that it had brought, and left me only with its lofting air, and an acceptance as to what my actual position was. I was standing at a bus stop, inside an oddly constructed booth that did very little to keep the cold out without the advent of doors.
“Air” I addressed it, for that was all that remained with me where I stood, “If you’re so important to all life, then why can’t you at least stay warm? That might help the whole lot of us far more.” A feeble shot it must have been, for as always, there was no response- not even a tell-tale gust. And thus, amid silent air, a silent forest of evergreens that stood to the rear of the booth, and row upon row of silent homes, I stood waiting…
The road upon which the vehicle might arrive was no more than three feet in front of me by any measure. Yet, as a likely widow stands waiting at the edge of a cliff overlooking a stormy sea for her long-gone husband, I stood staring down the street, idle and waiting for that long and ponderous ship which sailed its own sea of concrete narrows to take me away.
Then came a gust. A powerful swirling torrent of wind sliced into my face, invaded my lungs, and pushed the wool coat to its limit and nearly removed it right from my body. Just as the wind pressed its advantage onto my skin and into my being, so too did it press with force onto my mind. It was a mental jolt.
I suddenly began to wonder…about all of this. I wondered what life might be like if I had decided to stay in bed for the day. Would it be any worse? No, I thought… The world would run fine. Would I be any worse off? A little, for I might miss class, but my foundations would still hold, I reasoned. So, if there was little reason to be here waiting for this bus to go to somewhere, what was my reason to go at all?
“A drive…” something inside me forced a whisper.
“A drive for what?” I retorted aloud
“…To be...” I said, and wondered what I had meant the very instant it was said: “To be?”
“To matter… to be there instead of here!” An authoritative voice in me spoke.
“But what’s wrong with anywhere… being anywhere? I mean, no matter where I go, I matter, don’t I?”
“You’ve got to do what matters! Achieve the standards of others! To be, you have to be where greater matters are, and to matter, you’ve got to succeed in worthy matters!"
My two-headed thoughts confused me.
There was a man in me that knew that playing society’s violin would be the only way to be anything. Part of me, that suit and tie, shaved face, and dutiful part of me knew it. It was that part of me who won out more often over the other and it was by his will that I stood waiting for the bus to go wherever it was I sought to go. Yet, despite the dominance of the dutiful me, there are moments when the other side comes through… Small inklings in time and space that in spite of, and yet because of their fleeting style, shock and effect me as deeply as a sudden realization that of the meaning of life might be imagined to. These moments -these bursts of passion -often dominate my whole psyche when they arrive and here… it was no different.
Standing in this open world, rife with blistering winds, flailing coats, longing stares and time to spare, proved a breeding ground for passionatethoughts, which, though they had great moments, could also bring me to despair… These thoughts could only be said to be raw, as they were raw passion. Just as blood pours out of a raw piece of meat, so too does emotion flow from this raw side of mine, the one that grips, if only a little, on a greater meaning of life than where I was headed seemed to be providing me, or guiding me to. In fact, it was on this very day that a realization seemed to burst from inside me, flowing directly to my brain, as the champagne of a freshly celebrated bottle bursts from the top and spills all over.
At once a thought dominated me, soaked my every atom and sent me reeling, alone at the bus stop, more than any wind, cold, ice, or fire ever could.
It was a realization of that raw beast, and perhaps, of what that particular hydra meant this time. It was a many headed beast indeed, for it was a realization of sadness because of happiness. It was an understanding, maybe… a grip, perhaps, that took me like a squall takes a sailor: to the ends of his wit, the ends of his strength, and the ends of the ocean…To the ends of everything…The whole bloody universe. Yes, that was it… It was a grip… It was a torrent’s grip on my soul, pulling on my very being like a small child plucks an ancient, neglected harp; with reckless abandon despite fragility.
The squall surged ever onward perhaps forcing a tear from my eye. They fell, if only because I had too much emotion for my body to hold. That must have been it, for what I thought here and now alone, is what I’ve held for a time so vast it evades number.
I laughed aloud! Yet, gripping that wondrous rush inside me caused my eyes to fill with excess emotion once more, for when I latched onto the thought for all it was worth-- when I seized this beautiful Life and held it in the orbiting palm of my mind-- all I could think of was where I wanted to be…
I'm not where I want to be... I mean, I want to see this world... I reasoned, scatterbrained. And the thought dominated me as I feared it might have, for I sought some different kind of life.
…Life’s beauty and her worldly compatriot…(Yes, Life and Earth together), did me wrong by doing me right! For coming to terms with a swirling acknowledgement of the beauty and greatness just out of reach, did nothing but sadden me. Thoughts consumed me. Trillions of tiny images were afoot in my skull: There’s so much out there, that I'm not depressed, but... oppressed... I see happiness and know it, and feel it... but there's more… There’s more than this to it all. I glanced around my urban surroundings, and the shallow hut that engulfed me on the side of the road.
There’s more to Life than this… There’s more happiness to be had. My thoughts were breathless and hopeful, but never truly optimistic. And like Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Empire of old, I wanted these frontiers as my own. I want that truest love... I want that breath of fresh British air on a Scottish hillside... I want that perfect poem... That one moment that puts all others to shame... Surely, I had been living life, of that there can be no true debate, but for the life of me, I could not say that where I was, was where I wanted to be.
Droplets fell onto the heedless concrete below.
I just want to reach out and feel these things around me... Love, lady, belonging, lungs full of satisfaction, a meaning... To be recognized, to be rewarded, to... feel... like I've done something.... to feel full.
And I hadn’t felt it yet; No, not yet. Nineteen years old then and every challenge felt stale; every question systematic, and every answer worse yet. I was sick of the challenges, sick of proving my worth every few months, on and on again. I had this vision of an adult life -of a beautiful life- and my boyhood dreams of adulthood seemed to be setting like the sun, before my adult life even began. I wanted a house, a city, a destiny all my own; I wanted a bedroom splashed with sunlight on an over-slept Sunday morning, and the face of a true love to be the first thing I saw in that morning... Oh, these images, how I wanted them and so much more... But they seemed as though they might never be, because all that I had in front of me was another essay, and behind that another, and another still. Each time I imagined my future, chalked full of more proving grounds and often heartless texts, my soul grew a tad soulless.
I wanted to drive off into the sunset. I wanted to buy that plane ticket and go far and away, I wanted to seek life as human life ought to be; devoid of cubicles, and desks but full of blue skies, black nights and badlands.
The Earth, I thought, The Earth is our home…My home. And life…. Life is my treadable path… To lands, lakes, lungs of air; to love, leisure, and time to spare… For life.
For life and in its name I took a step outside the bus stop, and onto freshly powdered snow. Glancing down at my feet, I watched my right sole step once more, and the left, and even my soul itself urged me on and away,- my determined soles pressing their advantage into the silken snow- beyond the station and where I was to go.
And then I heard it.
That slow… unmistakable engine, engulfing the concrete like a war machine. My transport to the expected life was here, and its breaks screeched a falcon’s cry for me.
I glanced back, only once, and made no move.
“Getting on?” said the driver, calling out his side-window with his head protruding slightly, knowing nothing of the epiphanous strife inside me.
At this I turned round, meeting the harsh wind face to face with my wool coat flailing and did the only thing I knew how to; the only thing I had been conditioned to do. At the moment where my view of life and myself stood on a knife's edge, and the moment I could have chosen something; took a stand; fought against that which held me down, and made this muse into a powerful reality... I didn't.
My heavy steps onto the solid floor of the city bus wrang out. They marked me like such well-placed nails of self-defeat that I could barely stand to acknowledge the driver. I was just another dutiful citizen-student. Just the kind of one we like. The productive kind. The kind that pays vast sums to be within the system; to be graded, to be given some title; some letters to indicate a bizzare sort of societal-self worth.
I was the kind that couldn't break free; The kind that couldn't forge a flame without being granted a match.
...Just the kind we like....
I walked slowly to the back of the bus and took a seat on a suprisingly comfortable bench. I turned my attention to the window and the very sidewalk that had given rise to my mental rebellions and sighed.
...The dutiful capitalist doormat.