Our daring protagonist made it through his thirtieth birthday unscathed except for that continual nagging sensation, somewhere deep in his cranium. That sensation one would get if one had forgotten whether the hob had been turned off, or a candle had been left burning. That sensation had characterized his stream of consciousness for too long.
He imagined the content of his days as Tetris blocks falling from the sky, a straight piece of eight hours in the office. The awkward S shaped blocks that might be his social life, crammed into unoccupied spaces or abridging difficult relationships. A T shaped block might be a productive period at the end of the day, or it might signify four hours of computer games when he had vowed to catch up on his reading. The blocks kept plummeting down relentlessly and only occasionally did he manage to fill up enough gaps for a horizontal line.
His dad got better, or at least discharged from hospital. He took the train home to see him. It was strange and disconcerting seeing his dad walking with a stick, moving from room to room as though looking for something he might have lost. His father’s dozing in front of the TV seemed to happen that little bit more frequently these days and his father’s speech was that little bit quieter and that little bit softer. The doctors were still baffled by whatever had caused the collapse.
Whilst he was home he walked to the next village, to the pub there. The moon was fat and white over the wheat fields, like an old woman’s face. The wheat stalks swayed in the evening air. Somewhere in a back lane a dog barked. The sound carried far in the stillness. He felt he could get his head together here, away from the city. The continual drum of traffic had been getting to him. Here there was only a Zen garden of calm. He could cope with that.
He had been having difficulty parsing recent events. They refused to collaborate with him, hanging apart like ill formed flatpack furniture. Like cupboard doors missing hinges. He thought hard about it. It seemed to him to be a form of cognitive indigestion.
He traced back through things. His father had collapsed in the laboratory, breaking his nose on the lab bench on the way down. He called our protagonist from the hospital, telling him not to worry. Of course the doctors didn’t have any real idea what had caused the collapse and so our protagonist did worry. The worry rattled around in his mind, like a peanut in a coke can. That’s the sound the worry made inside his mind. A metallic *plink*
Another thread he tried to trace: His employer had short changed him on some work, cutting pay for no real reason. He worried about his friend moving to Montreal. “Montreal is very far away”, thought our protagonist to himself, “and on this low wage, low prestige job it is going to be very hard to visit my friend” – This was the second friend in twelve months who had moved abroad. Everyone seemed to be moving to other countries all of a sudden. He thought of ocean liners and of stowing away under piles of sun-dried rope whilst the ship rocked from side to side. He thought of icebergs in the Atlantic, bobbing up and down with deeper roots than you can imagine.
The other thing was that he could no longer deny that he was getting older. His thirtieth birthday loomed. Thirty orbits of the sun. Orbits that heralded receding hair and growing paunch. The untold aeons of the world and his life just a blink in the eye of the planet. He used to wish for some epiphany, some moment of ultimate sense or of total awareness. These days he suspects that he may have cauterized his sense of wonder in order to minimise any pain that might come his way. He suspects that this cauterization has rendered him immune to epiphanies.
Of course this is all just a story.
Also this song is worth a listen
Building Better Bridges