A crack on the sidewalk
Suddenly she sits down, back against the wall of some building, legs pulled against her chest.
Seven minutes until her job starts, but this morning, she won’t be arriving on time. In fact, she won’t be arriving at all. Her butt feels cold and so she grabs a nearby Panasonic TV carton and sits on that. She’s glad that she didn’t dress up today like she usually does, her brown coat rimmed with salt stains is perfect, cosy but plain.
She hears a colleague approaching from down the street and so she lowers her head, her hood covering most of her face. Then she listens to the voice, coming closer, her heartbeat getting louder, scrambling for an explanation, but then, nothing, the voice begins to faint again. Why the worry, there is a world of difference between the pedestrians and the people sitting on the sidewalks, two worlds that don’t meet.
She lifts her head again and watches the stream of legs rushing towards revolving doors that gobble them up for the day, just to spit them back out once the darkness rolls in. She lifts her head further and looks at the faces. The nostrils seem larger from this angle, dark holes emitting elongated clouds of steam. There is no life, just bodies. She stares at the ground and concentrates, determined to see the hidden conveyor belt that has trapped all these corpses and is directing them around the city. Then – a crack, she hears it clearly; inside of her something breaks; the realisation that not five minutes ago, she was them, that she had been for years.
Fear reaches out and grabs her. What else is there, except for this? Sooner or later someone would pick her up, her husband perhaps, friends. They’d realise that something was wrong with her, diagnose stress or depression, maybe even find a sophisticated name for crazy. They’d try to deal with her for a while, give her the break that never seemed possible before, they’d feed her medication, and deep down resent her for not having to get out of bed, out of the house. They’d know better, like before, but just worse, more suffocating. Eventually she’d have enough of watching them running around in hopeless attempts to fix what isn’t really broken. She’d do something drastic, liberating, explosive and then listen to their justifications why she needed to be institutionalised. She wouldn’t mind. Locked up or not, they were the prisoners. If anything, she was on her way of breaking out.
Somebody bumps into her feet and wakes her from her thoughts. The lady gestures awkwardly apologising, as if to shake off some germs, feeling for the sick person yet mostly disgusted by the thought of being so grossly interrupted in her safe life. The next moment the lady too disappears into a glassy tower, never to be seen again.
She smiles. It doesn’t matter what happens next. Nothing could be as scary as returning to where she just came from.