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‘Safe and serene, but also sad and getting sadder.’ Echoes of that voice. ‘Which version of you are you this time? All of the versions are merging and becoming the same version, which is somewhere towards introspective paralysis. The shadow of a person who is excited by the future. I feel for you – what you want and what you’re getting are becoming two completely different things. And the gap is growing. But despair less. There’s loads that you can’t control; the insecurities and niggles that seep from other people and tarnish the air around them, how others think and feel, general moods and the overriding spirit, and if the weather - often grey and brain-deadening - terribly affects any of these. The weather gets to you, doesn’t it? I’ve leapt back from the sight of your contorted face as it wriggles away from a muddy, joy-sapping nothingness of a day, those regular ones when everything feels heavy. You’re blemished by it. You are allowing the mundanity of it to re-define your current tranquillity, to shape the vibe in a way that seems to pull apart the urgency for brilliance or for sprightly things. The gloomy weather beating on your brow? The physical emblem of a distracted mind. You are making it worse by generating some extra concerns that rub against the ones that are already existent, and cause you to lose focus on the real ones, the ones that demand your attention and could do with being ticked off, dispatched. It is you adding to it all. You’re seeing too much pain in the sudden hailstorms that come in from nowhere and flurry away the gatherings of warmth that were about to settle inside you. That concern is driving you mad. Look behind the storm and displace the intensity of that feeling, because there is a calmer effect on the way that will limit the torrential pounding to a mainly hidden memory. Its impact will be like all those brief moments in the hugging sun that you think are just an illusion from a self-made past, when for some reason the endless crowds had vanished and even the intensity of pressing the open/close buttons on the train had dropped down a level and sipping tea by the open window felt rest-sating, fear-draining. Elements of all that were fake, yeah. But not all of it, how could it all be an invention? Those days happened - they didn’t last as long as you remember they did and it wasn’t as hot as you thought - but for a blink-short twinkling the rules changed and the playing field levelled. You were caught in the light – you, smiling, as the milk and tea pastured your winter-wilted throat. Don’t focus on that though. Use it to shape the further-on days, enliven its essence, its goodness, but don’t lazily rely on it. Serenity is purer than that. Again this is proof you exist in the deep fizz of contradictions; angst and calm, expectation and doubt. Clarity emerges through the pillar of your focus – yet the clamouring chaos got you out of kilter, and as a whole became just one more obstacle that made you uncomfortable. So don’t get out of my way because I can see you and when I do it reminds me of the youthful, spirited version of you. When I see your melancholy frown imprinted there it acts as a robust, capitalised big-C contrast. How else could I be reminded to keep warning you of a near-eternal and ruining slide into urban malaise? Yet there has to be a mood change in this struggle and it must come from you. It is not foolish to expect efforts to come good and a smooth return to blissful naivety.’ Now blackness where I had heard the noise. A sharp urge for the shelter of that sound. ‘Which version do you want to be? Let the thought settle for a moment as your cheeks are pinked by the furnace of streetlamp beam-bulge. Ha! I still see you twitch. A city’s harm soaked up in that movement. Try to close the gap, I know your right version doesn’t have a single face at all.’

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© Copyright 2016 John Maher