Sitting on a low wall, but crouched: shrunken, she’s head down, hair covering her face. Hands and knees pressed together, tense: there’s something wrong.
Or maybe I’m making a mistake. Maybe she’s thinking, wants to be alone, doesn’t want anyone annoying her. She could be sick of interfering people.
But I’m getting, or imagining, such strong signals from her: things are not alright – really awful. It could be extreme, could be suicidal perhaps.
The wider scene: bus stop, she’s sort of near it but not looking for a bus. The police station: she’s sitting on its wall but possibly undecided whether to go in.
Why am I dithering? She’s young: I’m not. I don’t want to hassle her, give her more grief than she has already.
Some strange bloke walking up and breaking in to her safe solitude could just make things worse.
I don’t know what to do.
But I am a human … therefore amazing … and can sort stuff out. I lean on the bus stop, in shade. From here I can keep an eye on her – not invade. Here I can go into my internal and infinite place to find what I’m lacking … or have forgotten.
If I close my eyes I’ll see more. Yes, there’s a time when a lift got stuck because the building had twisted in hot weather, or something. The doors opened when someone came with big tools. You could only see the bottom half of people but we lifted them down, even the huge man while trying not to make him conscious if his weight. It was a laugh actually but a bit scary because the shaft below was exposed.
There was that donkey frightened or furious on the temple steps. A woman and her daughter strained to pull it up but a bunch of us had rope and put it round a pillar. Seven of us, in the end, it took to beat that cantankerous beast. Eventually we got it to where she could unload her panniers and set up the stall. We each got a free fig – picked only an hour or two before.
I didn’t know why the seawater round my legs was both boiling and cold. Then I saw it hissing and spitting as it lapped a bulkhead. God knows what was going on behind that. Someone screamed when washed against that buckling metal. We hauled him away and stopped him passing out under the water – right up to my chest by that time. Then deafening noise stopped all talk, like an inhuman shriek it was, as pressurised steam escaped ruptured pipes.
I wasn’t last up the companionway because the next man pushed me at it – he’d seen me struggling to stay conscious and all covered in blood.
Oh, and that time when I stopped to help a racer whose front tire was flat. I couldn’t fix it because his setup was far too high tech for my simple kit, but he was so nice about it.
How we got into the water I don’t remember. There was a bit where all the strong were trying to be a raft for the injured to hang on to. Then the bastard enemy torpedoed our ship! I couldn’t believe it: no guns were firing and fire had gone from end to end. She was obviously crippled, listing badly, and going down. Those torpedoes just killed anyone still in the sea nearby. Was this some malicious revenge for sinking their famous one? It wasn’t our fault they sent out an obsolete craft to take on the strongest and fastest in the world.
I was too young to be so high up that tree. I don’t know who I was trying to impress, probably me, but my sister came up and talked me, foothold-by-handhold, down. I was crying and shaking.
Oil, freezing water, blood loss… After a while there weren’t as many of us in those merciless waves as before; some people slipped under when we were not looking. I was nearly about to when the enemy dropped scramble nets from a cruiser. One of their sailors, a midshipman, actually jumped in to help us get to it – to rescue the very people who had been trying to kill him and his mates an infinite half-hour before. That’s when I first saw Heaven and Hell and realised what they are. That midshipman obviously knew them too. History says he got a real telling off after.
Those times insects flew into my too-hot room when I was studying, struggling, irritable and the buzzing brought all of those together … but I helped the little buggers outside anyway because they couldn’t work out how for themselves.
Right there’s the truth. I always knew it: so simple. Everyone knows it but stupid ideas get into us from other people’s heads and mess up our thinking, wrapping everything in confounding ideas which can make black look like white: anything. Why, if we’re so confused ourselves, do we try to make others believe our nonsense? I’ve done it too, a lot, and don’t know why.
With a jerk of the shoulders I push from the bus stop, open my eyes and head for the woman. “You OK? I hope you don’t mind me asking but you look so miserable. Is there someone I can phone? Do you want me to fetch someone from the police station to talk to you?”
©Gary Bonn, 2021