Crossroads

I haven’t seen him for quite some time, & by ‘him’ I mean, of course, the spideylovingBUMwholivesinfrontofthechurchacrosstheroad.

Today there was an extensive collection of blankets & sports bags there, fashioned almost to look like two people sleeping under covers. But no, when I ambled a little closer I realised it was just bags. Under blankets. His territory quietly & clearly marked out.

Some weeks ago he had a friend, an olive-skinned man with deep black sideburns. That’s all I saw of the other man, just a part of his face he hadn’t covered with blankets. He was asleep, but I suspect his eyes were deep brown. It was 9.30 in the morning. I wanted to be asleep, too.

Several weeks before that I saw him, my Spidey friend, at the new shopping mall they’ve opened up in my street. He was carrying a lit cigarette & a coffee that nearly spilled from its cup. He was ambling through the new mall, eyes bright but fixed largely on the floor. He had an expression of wonder, but not for the shops or the sudden press of people —

— (where do they all come from when a new shopping mall is formed? Do they crawl out of apartments like caverns, do they say, ‘hey, how about we switch off the TV & check out the new shops, maybe we’ll find something we want. Maybe we’ll find an end to this gnawing dissatisfaction, this modern malaise that immobilises us. Maybe what we require is a new lounge, or a phone, or a ticket overseas, or perhaps there is just the perfect *thing* in that new coffee shop. Vanilla flavoured coffee beans in a paper bag. Or some of that strange colourful tea from Japan. Something simple like that, to make us forget our mortality for a day, an afternoon, a moment.’) —

— it was the floor he was looking at. The floor. I saw it, too. It was so *white*. Why are they laying white floors in the centre of our dirty town? One spill of coffee & the whole illusion that we are walking on clouds is laid waste. So white I felt unclean, my shoes years old on a brand new floor.

I forgot the crowd for a while.

I was looking at my feet.

When I looked up, he was gone, & not a moment had passed. I had merely washed past in the flood of the crowd, fixing my face in my perfect ‘time is money, I have things on my mind’ distant stare, past the shop where the airline tickets are sold, past the place with the fudge —

— (‘Have you tried it?’ asked E., eyes wide in his head. ‘It’s very good. You should try it.’
‘Is it really, really good?’ I asked, wanting but dreading confirmation.
‘Yes,’ said E., providing exactly that. ‘It’s really, really good.’) —

— into the street, where evening pulled the sky into a darkening frown and streetlights smeared bright stabs of colour into the air. I stood at the lights waiting to cross, but I was lost. I didn’t understand, for a time, why the world inside was brighter and the world out here was darker, and how he & I had been able to cross so easily from one to the other, from the other to one.

In our relationship, I am the invisible one.

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