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The large bay window had some garish bruised-blue-purple curtains with faded red lines going vertically down them. The curtains went almost all the way across the glass but did not quite meet, and in this tiny strip, a strip of neutered navy, Sean Richards watched the frequent stream of planes come out from one side of cloth, then, after a second or so, disappear behind the other. Abstract blobs, illuminated dots, turning and twisting and morphing and slowly becoming the clear shape of what they really were. Thousands of planes. Within them, all of those people swooshing along on the outskirts of the world – either ready to join the enveloping chaos, or making a scramble from it. Running away from something. Sean could see this even from the fingerprint-smeared windows of his gloomy room: and he sort of wanted to join them. (Aloof and in the clouds, looking at these Google Map streets gobbling each other up. The big grey splatters of mashed concrete and arterial routes, making patterns beyond the fathoms of even the brightest sparks’ imaginations.) He imagined too that from their vantage they could see the smudge of the sprawl; a lasagne of lights. Sean zoomed back into the moment – into the line of planes gliding through the rectangular strip, moving slowly, it appeared to him at his distance, but much faster at 4,000 feet. He kept his stare. Kept it until the time came to stop wasting time, and go outside.

There: life is always at arm’s reach. Seeing it all in the eyes of commuters – feeling the sweat of their adrenalin, the throb of their testosterone. These commuters locked in their own worlds as well; not ready to give up their own space and zones. On the mish-mash of buses, in the asbestosy bowels of the Underground. Sean felt invisible. As though he wasn’t really part of this picture, as though things were designed to revolve around him, though not involving him. A bit-part. Standing. No, leaning. Leaning against the Perspex divider, watching the eyes that didn’t watch back, watching them go right by him. Everyone looking into nothing. Sean felt like he was relentlessly waiting for the journey to end and waiting to drop back into real places. Places above the sweltering catacombs, places where a conversation could break out. But this was all no-face, hyper-sweaty wordless zoning out. A massive desert of human contact just centimetres from hundreds of other humans. Sean checked himself out in the opposite Perspex divide. He knew he was ruined.

© Copyright 2016 John Maher