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3. traveller/roadside phantoms

The red bus ploughs through the frosty fortresses - flumed beacons, they are the silhouettes of flowers against clear almost-blue sky. Springtime. Getting warmer but still cold enough to burn gentle hands pinkish. I am returning to the fear of my new-lost love; the time when I see the emotion of my heart in everything, feel the rawness in the conversations of others, in the freshness of the night air, in the snippets of songs caught from passing open windows. This could be my year, I think. Time to draw a line under the past. Run into the future. The optimism comes from lighter nights. A chance to change.

And I can see all the vistas from this bus. I can see the way roads turn and move back on themselves, the way the lights curve along the skyline. I can see the river before I get to it. Its shoreline. I am the voyager when we shudder past each tube station, following the invisible coloured-in line further south. The noise of the traffic is endless although it is a warming buzz, knowing the rest of the city is still alive. I am insignificant but right now itís as though all these elements are wrapping themselves around me.

The vehicle will swoop and skid and rattle till it reaches its destination, in the crammed depths of these southern boroughs. Then the driver will turn her Ďround and start the long journey north again, gazing at the city from the opposite direction. Going under Tulse Hill station. Inching towards Lambeth Town Hall. Past Stockwell. Curving away from the bowels at Vauxhall. Across the Thames. Rustling beyond Victoria and into the mash. No-one will stay for the whole of the ride. Most will only stay for a quarter of the route, some half, but none all. And a few will never make the trip more than once. Iím thinking about all this as we delve deeper - but Iím also thinking about what Iíve done and what Iíve done wrong.

ĎCos my emotions are still so erratic and chaotic I think that everyone is talking to me, so I keep turning Ďround only to be disappointed. I also think that everything they are saying is about me. And itís doing my head in now. But there are loads of questions that need answering. Iím still in love. In love with what Iím not entirely sure - but itís there, and it wonít dwindle. Love mixed with anger and pain - you know the sort. My face feels fresh, Iím generally pleased to be out here amongst it, back in the mix of things. Heartbroken but with a sense that the tears will be eased by this grand vista; Iíll never get tired of seeing these things. Each corner brings a different adventure.

Yeah, there are modern adjustments, additions, updates, exchanges: betting shops, metallic cars, satellite dishes, electronic road signs, iPads, Christmas lights, but essentially these streets are the grounds were histories have been played out, cultured territories that would have stories to tell if they could open up: decades of love and loss. But weíve built up around the waste ground, the streams, the stone walls, the roads, the wishing wells. Built around them, built them into hospitable fortresses. Built them into pubs and factories. Built them into bus terminals and train stations. How am I supposed to deal with all that history? Itís shouting out to me as I pass it, screaming into my face - all contradicting signals, mixed messages. Spirits that have yet to completely fade, disintegrate, slip into wherever they slip into. The burial grounds must not be totally covered up and forgotten, stories of the dead still waiting to be told. Unconsecrated ground - muffled cries of those that deserve a more rounded obituary. New homes placed on top of broken hearts. You can feel the conflict in that; how they are struggling to break free from their tortured pasts, to let us hear their desperate souls.

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© Copyright 2016 John Maher