I woke this morning to a surreal landscape. Even with the blinds closed, I could sense something different. I stepped out the front door. It was cold, the wind blowing and the clouds low in the sky. Through the clouds came a sepia-tinted light that seemed otherworldly. I stood there taking it in, once more given to wonder at the strangeness of the world we live in.
By the time I left the house, the strange light had dissipated, but it was a gloomy landscape. I got in the car to drive the short distance to check out a potential property. The roads there were strewn with leaves and small branches, and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped at my hair. It felt the first truly wintery day of the year, but I was dressed for it in a turtle neck woollen jumper and a topcoat.
The property was a bust. It was in an area not far from where I live but less salubrious. I’m close to the beach here, and cafes and bars and shops are five minutes walk. Everyone has a dog just about, and if not, then a bike, or both (like me). It’s an easy place to live. I’ve just outgrown my home.
The place I looked at was smaller. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed. Over the back fence was a dog park that Rigby would have loved, but the place itself was scruffy, and, as usual, the rooms were about 25% smaller than what they appeared in the photos online. About 20 other people were checking it out, but I was gone within three minutes.
It was earlier than I’d normally be out on a Saturday, except to walk our dogs with Cheeseboy (who returns to two weeks quarantine on Monday). I didn’t want to go home. I was in the car, it was the weekend, and I felt sort of free.
I drove and parked near the shops that usually I would walk to. I ambled down the main drag. It was bitter cold and the wind came and went in gusts. Other than the odd guy all rugged up walking their dog, it was quiet.
I crossed the railway line without a firm plan, but thinking perhaps a coffee would be good. A few minutes later, I found myself sitting in the window of the Brown Cow nursing a flat white and looking out at the traffic pass by, and the people emerge to do their Saturday shopping, or walk their dog, or find somewhere warm to sit with friends over breakfast. And soon enough, my breakfast arrived, poached eggs on toast. It was all very ad hoc.
I was in a state of mind, brought on perhaps by the strange light earlier, or perhaps because I’d been reading poetry in bed before I left the house. That probably makes me sound like an aesthete, to put it kindly, whereas it’s an infrequent event. Still, it puts you in a mood and, in my case, puts me in touch with the feelings I’m too busy to worry about mostly. And I felt so aware of myself as a physical entity – a body in a turtlenecked jumper, tall, wavy-haired, an aching tooth from sinus, a man alone.
I looked at people as I ate my eggs. I wondered at their life. So much is routine. We do things by rote. I also. But then something jumps you out of that rut, and you see it for what it is. It’s not something bad or wrong, but perhaps it seems disappointingly small. Where is the poetry? Where is the wonder? But then, isn’t that just life? And life as it has been in some form for hundreds, probably thousands of years in some form?
I sent a message to a friend. What would you think, I asked if some bloke told you he had masturbated thinking of you? Flattered, disgusted or scared? It was what I had dreamed of, someone doing that. My friend is a sport, and I knew the question would engage her; obviously, the answer would depend on the man and her relationship with him, but I was curious for her reaction.
I set the phone aside, restless inside. The wind blew. The world passed by. I sipped at my coffee and declined another. On the bench table beside me lay the rolled-up topcoat. I felt as if I needed to understand something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made my way back towards home, stopping for milk among the other shoppers in the supermarket. I wanted to see into someone’s eyes, but everyone was too busy. I bustled away myself in the end, back to the car and the short drive home. I still don’t know what there is to understand. Perhaps nothing.