She’s walking down the town’s main street. Not on the side walk, but in the middle of the street, hands out, balancing on the solid white line that keeps opposing traffic in its proper place.
Alone in her own world.
The sound of her feet skipping as she progresses down the road is made louder by the emptiness of the usually bustling town centre. In fact, it echoes to me still as I gaze at the photograph taken of myself when I was all but ten years of age. Carefree is what it whispers to me, but I no longer know the meaning of that word.
I’ve been told that discovery is all about the journey. So maybe that’s why I find myself back at my childhood home, trying to recreate the portrait of my then care-free existence. At least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself. The more truthful reason, whether I like to admit it or not, is that I am escaping from the looks of forced sympathy and words of advice from people who think they have wisdom about my “situation.”
And to be honest, there wasn’t anything altogether wise about telling my boss I would be leaving my job “indefinitely”, taking all my savings and packing off to a place to which I have not been in decades. Though even then, despite all my efforts to stop caring and forcing myself to take things a day at a time, peace still eludes me.
I guess in a way I am once more alone in my own world. I choose solitude now, prize it above rubies. Memories of the looks I have received from friends and co-workers over the past few months follow me still. Their eyes were like fish-hooks, willing the tears from my eyes, each one wanting for themselves the pride of being the shoulder I would cry on. But I never gave anyone that satisfaction.
Today I find myself on the very same street of the distant photograph. It is once again unnaturally still – most of the town’s inhabitants having taken off as I had so many years ago. I see the street differently now, I realise. The stores that line it no longer hold for me the alluring sense of mystery that delighted my childhood eyes. Each one stands tall and proud, their brightly-painted faces give off a false sense of self-righteousness. For behind their painted facades hang dusty shelves of material desires – insubstantial objects that feed the whims and careless fancies of passing times – filling up the shells of each edifice.
By now my thoughts have carried me to the end of the street. For some weird reason I can’t quite explain, I find I am not able to face the stores any longer. I decide to end my stroll early, so I turn my back on the empty street and start trudging uphill. It only takes a few moments before I find myself blinking.
Maybe it’s just the wind, but there are tears in my eyes.