The voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune
Of a broken violin on an August afternoon
I had intended to lurk in a corner and read during the break at orchestra, but one of the longest-standing members of the orchestra was leaving and had brought sherry and nibbles for the break -- a nice change from the usual murky tea/coffee (which is it? who knows?) and generic biscuits -- and it seemed churlish to partake of the food and not hover for the conversation, for I think I must call it conversation, even though.
I suspect only half my mind was engaged in the exercise, though; the other half was (as it has been for most of this past week) wandering around somewhere in the windswept darkness, kicking its way through the heaps of fallen leaves. The cold dry air knifes some life into me.
Sometimes I wake up feeling as though I've been walking around all night. Sometimes I spend the first half of the day feeling as though part of me is still walking, the way you walk when you're exhausted and the only thing that's keeping you going is the built-up momentum of putting one foot in front of another. Other times I spend the second half of the day like that as well. I wish I remembered dreams of endless corridors, because that might make sense of the feeling, but I don't; I remember predictable anxiety dreams of tutorials on unremembered work and exams in unrecognisable languages, and I remember wild and gaudy feverish dreams with intricately tangled threads.
I went to Tesco after orchestra instead of going to the pub; it suited my frame of mind far better. There are times when I need to be in places that people go through, rather than places where people go: late-night supermarkets, and motorway service stations, and train stations, and even trains themselves. The people in these places always have that look of being there almost by accident, stumbling around in their own grey haze under the fluorescent lights. They are only half-present; they barely even ripple the surface of the reality on which they are floating. They do not disturb me.
Sometimes I feel that all the supermarket sells is words. That all anybody sells is metaphors. Selling language by the pound. So I walk past bistro-style and crunchy and quick-cook and fun-size and finest and deluxe, and I pick a few words off the shelves and buy them. I buy some fresh, and some healthy, and some golden; I deliberate between traditional-style and new improved but eventually plump for the former. I even treat myself to some finest, but feel guilty afterwards.
The lights in the supermarket never quite become part of the scenery; they can't quite help flickering, tugging at my sleeve like a child angling for a chocolate bar. They stop my mind from wandering. I couldn't fix them even if I wanted to; but I'm glad of their visual equivalent of background noise. They're like the gentle whirr of the computer I'm sitting at now, like a constant exhaled breath.
I remember, when I try, to breathe. In, out. This is life. This is the only one you get.