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10. salvation

Winddraft cackles like a sledgehammer and the hard slap of paraffin rustles along the glassy, sunless streets. No one makes a peep. The skin-crack frost forges a crease into the burrows of my face, makes my eyes water and my nose crinkle. The sky is still: I can pick out the edges of the different boroughs when the halo light changes a shade. Itís a frozen ocean - signatures of white circles every now and then glinting, the contrast to the black waters and frozen tundras. Buses become red ice cubes as they slice through the sub-zero airs, the drivers turning quickly into cracked ghosts as they smile weird grins and blush up the distance of the near future. No warmth anywhere and I snuggle into my quilted jacket and try to generate a bit of heat with just my ailing body. All the landmarks squint back at me: the wheel, the ropes of lights, necklaces across the streets. Sad monuments when the mercury has nearly slipped under the earth. Everyoneís shuffling quicker when they realise itís getting colder, when they know to get stranded out here would wreck the hot-head sanctuary, would leave a shiver all along the routes. Iím so tired. Is there someone waiting for me? Not tonight but somewhere in the blueprint. Or just the foxes, sprinkled here and there on the glacial nets, silent beasts marking out the moments of the night. Eyes glinting. And Iím stranded, but gradually I know Iím going home - jaded - flashing through the snowed-in shrines.

Weíre all on the routes when the moon pours a Dulux phosphor over dark blue same-same-same streets. Still something niggling away, the urge to be more free, to not think about anything related to these things anymore, and I feel uneasy when the carriage finally departs and I move off from the vomiting central vistas. Russian winds encroach, trespass on these shores, blustering in on the unlit lanes, over the roofs housing the brave, the drifting souls who go from room to room in the wintertime.

And the underground current remains - almost indiscernible - like a radio or stereo turned down really low, the putty of the city, its bloodstream. I feel the sense of the others edging to a revelation, hearing the cogs build to a kind of spirit-affirming end point, a destination. If itís true then Iíll point my head to the skies and thank whateverís up there, gesticulating crazily at the dark flush of air and odd fogcloud. The buses plough on - the relentless stream of numbers. Changing codes and changing places. Heavy with the smog and the battered shorelines across the vista, hours and minutes tumble. Our weakened smiles simmer if you look closely as we retreat to the homes weíve made for ourselves.

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© Copyright 2016 John Maher