Hazy Daze

As soon as I exit to outside, the coldness of the air engulfs me from head to toe. I zip my big jacket right to the top and bury my chin in my scarf. Hands dug into pockets, I make my usual route to the station. A group of young school girls ahead of me chatter away excitedly about various topics I don’t feel compelled to eve-drop in on. I’m too tired, too out of touch with the surrounding world, and generally too uninterested. It sparks a memory of my school days, conversing joyously with peers about books, places we’d visited at the weekend, films, sports, girls. Usual boy talk. Goodness knows what 12 / 13-year-old girls spoke about on Monday mornings nowadays.

The train is packed as ever. Full of businessmen and women, parents with schoolkids, students, babies, elderly people, the whole lot. Even one fella with a dog. Packed so tightly you could feel the person behind you breathing down the back of your neck. The air is filled with a chilling bitterness mixed with the smell of coffee and morning breath. Sandwiched between a fat middle-aged man reading his newspaper, and a overly serious-looking woman, maybe in her late 40s, I grip the overhead bar while the train persists on its regular route.

I feel overwhelmingly tired and numb. My head is elsewhere in some unknown dimension. Nothing feels real and my ears are deafened to my surroundings. I give the train a vague once over. When I crouch my head back down, hand still on the bar, I get a strange sense as though I am being watched by everyone on the train, everyone or someone, I’m not entirely sure. But I can indeed feel that I am in at least one person’s deliberate line-of-view. I raise my head again to check if this is true. And it’s not. Everyone on the train, from what I can see anyway, is going about their business, minding their own.

I release a heavy nasal sigh and close my eyes, trying to get my mind, body and soul back in touch with the rest of the world. An aura of alienation shrouds me, and I suddenly feel as though I am in colour, and the rest of the world is black and white, but I’ve always thought of myself as being in black and white, then the rest of the world in colour. The sensations of indifference refuses to renounce, so in a slightly paranoid manner I look up at my right hand on the bar then at my shoes to check if there’s anything ‘odd’ about them. I also give my face a quick wipe down with my left hand in case there’s something on my face of which could be the cause of me feeling as though someone is watching me. Not a thing.

The train makes its first stop since I boarded, and a few people get off. Given more space, I feel a little more at ease. Maybe my stalker got off, too. The train starts to move again. I adjust my backpack and lean against the doors of the train. My head feels hazy and weightless; my mind is floating into some grey abyss. Deeper into my mind, perhaps. I close my eyes and travel to a solitary cosmos located in the innermost of my being.

There, I wake up to thin, ominous clouds stretching across a grey sky. I slowly angle my head to my left. I see a road, a long, perfectly straight road. I realise I’m lying on the ground at the centre of some unknown forest. I turn to my right only to see the same grey road stretching to an imperceptible end. Just forestry on either side of the road, and me lying in the middle of it. My legs evenly spread apart, and my arms extended across the road, I return my head back to the position I woke in.
“Lets go”, I hear a voice say from a direction I cannot depict. I swiftly raise my head and give the area an intricate scan to try see where the voice came from, and whose it was. Nothing. I lay my head back gently and ignore it.

After some 20 seconds, I get up. My backpack’s gone missing, but I’m in the same clothes as what I’d left in this morning. I make my way down the long road. For a good 15 minutes, the scenery remains unchanging; the air is a perfect balance of humid and cool, the sky still grey, the atmosphere easy, and the scene tainted with the smell of timber mixed with a familiar scent I can’t make out, but familiar nonetheless. When I reach the end of the road, I look back at the forest. The other end appears increasingly black and uninhabited. I carry on walking down a short path where the ground is not as perfectly straight as the grey road, but however, still level. I end at the forefront of an old gate, no more than 4-foot high. I give it a push and it makes a piercing creak. It’s on its last few months, maybe even weeks. I carry on walking and I hear, “Wait”.
The same sounding voice as before, this time it seems to come from somewhere within, as if from an undiscovered vocal cord which I am not in control of. After surveying the setting, I decide to amble left. I find myself on yet another road, this one not so desolate; there is an ambiance of life and existence. There are other life-forms about and cars and shops and houses. Now, there are ordinary people on this scene, going about their ordinary affairs.

I am then accompanied by a settling feeling, although I am not entirely sure where I’ve ended up, I feel somewhat placid and at great ease. As though I’ve come to a place which I am very much familiar with, which, ironically, and rather curiously, I am not.

I tour casually down a street, and in the distance I see a figure approaching my direction. When the figure and I come at better visible distance, I see that the figure in fact a man, who’s covered in a big coat which glides down to his shins. He has a black top hat, and his hands are in his pocket. I think to stop him and ask where or what this place is. I halt and call out excuse me, sir, but the gentleman walks directly passed me and gives no response to my pronouncement. He carries on walking not even noticing me, I watch him as he walks away for a moment, fading off into the distance. Puzzled, I continue strolling down.

A faint misty fog starts to build up in the air. With no wind brewing, it looks as though a gathering of ghostly souls are accumulating in the atmosphere, joining hand-in-hand all ’round the place. A small car a few yards ahead of me pulls up outside a laundrette. A DAF 44? In this day and age, I could barely bring myself to believe they really existed. They were only very popular in the early mid-60s, a good two decades before I was even born.  The colour of the automobile was a very light, faded teal, and out of it came another man, this time maybe in his early 30s. He goes to the boot of the car and takes out a fair sized black sack. Full of laundry, I presume. A few seconds after this, a woman, also in her early 30s, withdraws from the passenger side of the DAF 44. They exchange one or two words before the man shuts the boot. The woman then retrieves the black sack whilst the man locks up, and they both enter the laundrette. I observe this brief happening from a short distance away.

Across the road a little further down I spot a cab service station.  I decide to go there and ask for possible directions back home, or even just where I am for starters. At that, I hear my stomach heave a frustrated grumble. I clutch the poor guy and try to commemorate my last meal. My mind’s blank. Very blank. I can’t seem to recall a thing since… Well, I don’t even know. My brain is refusing to focus on anything; in my head, thoughts are dashing all over the place, like an elastic bouncy ball being tossed around an empty room constantly.  I lean up against the nearest wall, feeling my pockets for my cigarettes, which also seem to have disappeared.

[short snippet]

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Fleeing to Auckland, NZ.

I head off to a nearby cafe before I retire off home. I order a medium latte, then sit down right beside the window, watching the world go by on this regular, mid-Autumn afternoon. I peer at my watch; 5:17, take a deep sigh, then sip my steaming latte. Reaching into the chest pocket of my jacket for my pack of Purple Clovers, I spot a familiar looking face. I edge my face closer to the glass and squint my eyes for a better view. Darcy? Indeed it was her, sitting outside a small bagel restaurant on the opposite side of the road from the coffee shop I am in. I gentle my gaze and put a cigarette to my lips, all the while still staring at Darcy. She’s sat alone with an empty plate and the wrapper to whatever she’d eaten. I see her lips moving and realise she’s on the phone.

Darcy is the girl I’d only spotted not 3 months ago, who’d apparently been attending the same college as me. Never had I seen her beforehand and whenever I contemplate this, I always come to think how could I have not noticed such a face? She was in effect stunning. Every one of my peers, both boys and girls, thought so, too. Golden-blonde hair which trickled gracefully halfway down her back, light brown-cross-green eyes, an alluringly beautiful smile completed with a brilliantly white set of teeth, a slender, thinnish body with elegant fingers. She possessed a certain cleanness and purity about her presence. What struck me the most about the way she looked is how simplistic she looked; she was not overdone with products or a particularly fancy hairdo. Just plain old, beautiful Darcy.

A third way down my Purple Clover, I sip my latte to inquire its temperature. Still warm but cool enough to drink. A waitress attends my table and asks if I would like anything else. “No, I’m fine for now. Thanks.” I say with a smile. Before she gives a response my attention quickly turns back to Darcy who’s still sat there. She hangs the phone up, puts it into her black handbag and substitutes her phone for a pack of cigarettes. She then dignifiedly lights one up and smokes. Her head rested on her left hand, supporting the weight with her bony elbow on the table, and her other arm laying across the table with her hand which has the cigarette in hovering over the ashtray, right leg crossed over left. She sits casually, smoking in no particular hurry. Is she waiting for somebody?

I think over on whether to go speak to her or not. We’d spoken a few times in person, but only socially or when we’d randomly bumped into each other on the road or in college or one time when she was leaving the gym as I entered. I’d never had a lengthy conversation with her so this time may prove to be somewhat.. Awkward. Besides, I might have been intruding on her afternoon post-lunchtime snack time or a peaceful smoke. I leave the thought, and simply continue to observe.

Some 90 seconds later, she dubs her cigarette out in the ashtray, and puts the packet away in her handbag. She then brings out a small hand-mirror from her bag along with a soft red lipstick and applies it before taking a sip of bottled water and eating what appears to be a mint. She then stands up and my stomach seems to tug a heavy drop. As if her and my stomach are on a seesaw, her rising removes weight and in result my stomach sinks. Darcy walks off naturally stylishly, and I’m left half hoping she spots me, half relieved that she doesn’t. Soon after, I finish my latte and head home.

The thought of seeing Darcy still lingers in my head, and I mull over a number of scenarios of how things would have turned out if I’d approached her. I picture myself crossing the road to go greet her, then us having a comfortable exchange of words. How-have-you-been or how-are-things-going type of conversation, you know, petty talk. We’d then get deep in the conversation and arrange a proper dinner-date on the following Thursday or something. After a successful meal, we start to meet regularly? Or perhaps I’m waiting at the traffic lights to go approach her and before I reach, another man takes the seat opposite her, and I’m left with a great big sulk?

I continue tossing these thoughts around my head when it occurs to me that I’d gotten her number off a friend a few weeks ago. Deliberating on whether to call her or not, I sit up on my bed with my phone placed in both hands. What if she’s asleep? I ask myself. It’s 9:40pm, what 18-year-old sleeps at this time. I finally bring myself to calling her phone. “If she does not pick up after 9 rings, I’m hanging up”, I mandate to myself. A deep sigh to prepare.

On the 6th ring, Darcy picks up.

“Hello?”, she starts in her soft voice. Taken aback, and unprepared, my mind lags, refusing my vocal chords to utter a response. “Hello?”. She tries again. Without allowing my brain to process it, I bark out a stuttered greeting.
“H-hey… It’s me”. I realise how trivial saying ‘It’s me’ sounds, knowing full well she doesn’t have my number, or even know I have hers. So before she answers, I say my name.
“Oh.. hey, how’s it going?” she says in a tone of confusion. Although, she gives a fair effort of concealing the confusion with a friendlier tone.
“I’m not too bad, I guess. How about you?”
The conversation goes on moderately boring. What have you been up to. Where do you stay now. Plans for the weekend. That sort of thing. She tells me she’s just got out the shower, and she places me on loudspeaker, clearly not paying full attention to the rubbish I’m mouthing. I ask her what she’s planning on doing this year, as she’s finished college. She tells me she’s moving to New Zealand in just under 2 weeks. This takes me by surprise.
“For real? What are the reasons? You excited? Sad? How long for?”
“Woah-woah-woah, slow down” she says with a small laugh. “My dad’s found a permanent job out there after doing a 2 year placement, he seems really up for it. Good paying, too. We’ve all always wanted to move out of here some day, and I guess there seems to be no better or suitable time than this, I suppose. I’m really quite excited, you know, the whole ‘starting a new life’ feeling. It could be good for us”. What she says sounds scripted, the typical ‘my-dad’s-found-work-abroad’ type of idiomatic reasoning. I remain silent for some time, trying to take this all in.
“Well, as long as you’re happy” I say. I hold back a slight anger to my tone. Anger? Why anger? Have I developed feelings or some kind of infatuation for this girl? No, can’t be. I’ve only known her, what, 3 months and I’m acting like she gave me false hope. Hope for what anyway? These questions play around in my head. I feel a slight build up on my throat. A weird emotion overwhelms me for a moment. A mixture of sadness and a lack of interest.
The emotion then subsides as I remember her saying she’d just come out of the shower. I picture her sat on the edge of her bed, wrapped in her towel, with droplets of water still stationed on her smooth, delicate skin. Her soaking golden hair, all placed to one side on her slender shoulder, routinely caressing it gently and draining the remains of excess moisture with another smaller towel. Her tender, long legs, polished to perfection with a golden tan. I mentally linger around the rest of her body, the whole while she is speaking. My turn not paying attention. I’m swept back to the conversation by an abrupt pause, as if she’s realised I was not fully listening due to my irresponsiveness.
“Oh.. sorry. I got caught up thinking about you moving so suddenly.”

The chat doesn’t go on for much longer after that. She suggests we meet up sometime before she leaves.
“Sounds great.”
“Yeah” she says half-heartedly. An uncomfortable silence follows, for about the 70th time in this one phone call.
“Well”, I break, “I’d better let you get on with whatever you’ve got to do. I’m sure you’re very busy now, leading up to your fleeing to Auckland”,
“You’re quite right”.
“Best of luck, I’ll see you soon” I throw in.
“Thanks”. She hangs up.
I let out a deep, deep sigh. The type of sigh which is subsequent to bad news, or a result of hopelessness. Was this really bad news, and do I even feel hopeless? You’re overreacting, I tell myself. She probably forgot me anyway, or even my name. I lay down on my bed gazing into the ceiling. The thought occurs to me that this ‘meeting’ we are supposedly going to have really isn’t going to happen. I close my eyes, and drown myself in thought. As per usual.