What might be’s

Been a blurry day, bitterly cold, with showers sweeping across the city. My day feels like a bunch of snapshots. Preceding this are literally snaps I took while I was out this morning. They seem indicative of the day I’ve felt, like a bunch of scenes mixed together, polished and shiny in my memory against the gloomy backdrop of the day.

I slept in more than I usually do then showered and went out, this time for a change to Maling Road, which is where I took the photos. Maling Road is a place of many memories for me. For many years my mum used to live around the corner from here. I would frequent the charming little shopping village there dozens of times then, and since. I’ve been to pretty well every one of the cafes up and down the road, and browsed every shop.

I can recall one grey day back in 2004 (or was it 2005?) when I had walked up and down the street wondering if I had done the wrong thing in committing to a job working in Brisbane. The fork in the road was plain to see, and I had to choose – I felt then that I had made the choice I had to, but that it was the wrong choice. It seems a small thing now, much water under the bridge and many more forks since all of which goes to underline how the ‘big’ moments of life are so often transient.

I had breakfast this morning in one of those cafes then walked around feeling as torn today as I did that day long ago. It drizzled with rain while I wondered what, eventually hopping in the car and returning to the house for a couple of hours, before leaving again.

The rain came and went and came again. I drove to the shop and walked down the street. I ended up in Readings and walked out with a couple of $10 books I couldn’t afford. It felt good to have literature in my hands again and walking out into the street it felt briefly right, as if in doing this small thing I was reclaiming something of the identity that had been lost in all the rubbish of recent times.

One of the assignments I completed on Thursday was about career development, and identifying the steps along the road to take me from where I am today to where I aspire to me. Obviously that meant I had to nominate what that place was. I did that, some professional and fruitful career objective, ambitious, but perfectly reasonable  in the normal scheme of things – though of course I currently exist within an altogether different schema.

I plotted out the steps from here to there. The assignment demanded detail, examining dependencies and contingencies and all the elements need to get to one place to another. It was not terribly difficult, but it was strange. Here I was describing a future pathway as if I only had to set out on that road for it to be there for me. Could it be? Of course it could. Would it then? I paused at that. How nice it would be, I thought, but thought wistfully that no, it probably wouldn’t.

Now walking out of Readings into the dim Wintry light all that came to mind again, and at the same time I realised how many other possible futures there were. I had picked one, perhaps the safest, and most conventional. It was right for me in a way, but perhaps not as right as others. Who’s to know? Even after all this time I don’t.

There were books in my hand though, words, possibilities. These things I knew. As I crossed the road I felt a kind of ache. Trying to understand it now what I felt was an emotional pull knowing that I had strayed far from this, far from me perhaps, caught up in the sausage machine. I was over it. I had felt it all day. Now I was dead to it.

I went to a nearby cafe. I ordered a hot chocolate and looked out the plate-glass front window. I felt it like you do when things slow in you. I sensed things turning in me, drifting like flotsam that in my rush I have overlooked for too many months. I took the books from the bag. I flicked through them reading the blurbs and on random pages passages that meant nothing to me. I yearned to just curl up somewhere and read for once. It almost prompted an ironic laugh. What chance that? I have nowhere to curl up. And no peace either. Much as I would like to, I can’t forget the other things. I can’t be just innocent. Even now, writing this, I think if life was even halfway idea all I would do tonight is go to bed early and read. So simple, but impossible.

The books in front of me represented another life. I life I don’t have now, but once did. They also represented something that might be. Of all the infinite futures I might have written about, why not this one? A life where my heart warms by living simply and cleaving to what I love. Why can’t that be so? Perhaps it could be?

Then it was time to go. I put the books back in the bag and went back to the shop, the one place I didn’t want to be. I didn’t stay. I was meant to, but today I couldn’t stomach it. I left it for other people to worry about.


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