The Light, The Dark.

Upon reflection, there’s a beauty about being anonymous, and lost in a city, even though there’s a similar amount of inner crisis that ensues observing people moving so freely and knowingly. It is quite the paradox, and difficult to explain, but something that must be felt.

First and foremost, being totally alone and overwhelmed provides myself at least, with the opportunity to be precisely who I am. By this, I mean instances and occasions of human interaction, where your innermost personality can be shown by the way in which you deal with such a situation. For example, you’re late to work, marginally. Five minutes at the most, and you’re panicking. On the platform of the Underground, noticing the yellow writing on the display boards tick down.

Two minutes.

One minute.

Due.

Boarding the train ordinarily, you’re suddenly consumed by that subliminal yet constant ‘what am I actually doing here? No, really, what is it that I’m contributing, to myself (how is this helping me?) and to the world. In the great scheme of things, how is my journey going to change anything?’ The tube is a coffin of thoughts. You’re buried alive, with no phone signal, with only your thoughts for company unless you’re a lucky one. So, you’re bound to think of these types of questions, about what it is you’re doing. It’s a simple and almost meaningless question, perhaps even impossible to answer, but thinking about it isn’t necessarily going to change anything, but it may open up a few options.

Underpinning the journey is the grime. The subtle dirt around you that you’re aware of, which gets under your fingernails from the escalator and the almost fluorescent yellow handlebars as you hurtle down the pitch-black tubes filled with rats, and the feint hum of electricity. It’s somewhat surreal, that dirt and blackness can get under your skin, just as complex thoughts can be so intrusive into your body. You shrug it off. Wash your hands and your face at the toilet. Shit. Another thirty seconds to the journey time, and thirty pence to keep a cleaner in a job. Supposing that thirty pence hand-wash does indeed keep somebody’s job, it’s a worthwhile investment.

(What am I doing here?)

Trudging up the steps is a daily routine, the suited and booted rushing past you with their over exaggerated sense of self-importance. They’re earning themselves a lot of money, an incomprehensible amount. I suppose that’s what matters to them, and that’s good, isn’t it? But who knows, some of them could be on their way to a job interview, a meagre manager of a restaurant or hotel. You simply never know. The whole affair is anonymous. That’s what’s daunting about this type of place: the hidden millionaires, the hidden poor, the kind, religious, the hideous, murderers. They’re out there, but hidden. Then, there’s yourself. You’re simply earning a living, innocently comparing hand washing to the questions of life. How simple it is. C’est la vie.

A woman crying. She stops you dead in your tracks, forgetting all sense of time and awareness for everything going on around you; it’s as if Moses has parted the sea of people between you and the lady, and so you feel compelled to intervene; how you react and respond to this scenario. That is who you are. That is the important thing about being alone in a sea of people, an ocean of personality, love and lust, selfishness and selflessness.

Option one. Indeed, you’re unaware of this woman’s story, who she is, what series of events has brought her into your path, and too, what has made her tear. But, that does not stop you from going over, noticing her shiver and so handing over your coat entirely selflessly, draping the wool over her slender and pale shoulders. You demand to go for coffee, to make sure this woman that has been identified to you in an almost unworldly type of way is in control and okay. A somewhat bizarre surge of courage and uncertainty possesses your body. You’re unaware of whether you’ll be able to survive skipping a shift at work, but making sure another, fellow and normal human is surviving is surely more important?

Option two. You arrive for work on time, and the image of her tears caressing her face stay to haunt you for a little while, as if it’s a nightmare that you cannot do anything about. That’s the point. You haven’t helped her. You have been selfish, and so you must pay. An old cliché, what goes around comes around. You cannot live so fruitfully that you become disenfranchised with the humanness of people, with the raw emotion that death and sadness, happiness and birth provoke.

And so day to day, reaching the same spot, the top of the stairs with the slight whiff of real air and natural light, where you witnessed one of the most innate human actions which impacted you so profoundly, you can be reminded that is who you are. You choose not to act, when you could have. How you react to events independently signals who you are, in whichever scenario. It is not with friends, as you’ve grown accustomed to them, and a new type of normal has been created. It is entirely independently and individually that a type of meaning can be established.

Hold Your Breath

You let the waves lap against your fingertips, enjoying the icy caress, noticing the softness of the water. Kneeling down opposite the waves, you gain a real sense of position. You’re tiny against this immovable force, yet it’s treating you so gently, like a father cradling its new born daughter. The waves are overwhelmingly consistent.

Digging your finger into the sand an inch does little to prevent the waves from overwhelming your finger, still finding its way onto the tips of your toes. It’s something mesmerising, terrifying and relaxing all at the same time.

The consistency is mesmerising. The consistency found in unconditional love is just as peculiar as the invisible force creating the placid nudge from the cold sea. It’s just there, and will never cease to be there. How can that be? It’s terrifying. When you no longer exist, to the extent where you’re physically unable to, your body surpasses the will of the mind, unconditional love will still be there, and gravity will still be the prevailing force in the universe, pushing and pulling, poking and gently nudging like a child getting their teacher’s attention. You can take comfort in that knowledge at some things are only temporary, even if you come under that category too. There are certain and beautiful things which will certainly outlive the darkness of people’s sin, their racism and prejudice, violence and hatred.

The water is cleansing, and so you wash your hands instinctively. Crouching. You’re closer to Earth than you have been for a long time. You let the temperature of the water cool your body to the same temperature. The temperature takes over every emotion, even if it is only for a split second before you realise that actually, the water is bloody freezing. Concentrating on your finger, you take it away, unaware of the slow encircling of the water around your feet. It happens too quickly, but you let it anyway. You laugh at your folly, and slowly make your way up.

Now, you’re at ease with the water rushing in between your toes, still gently caressing, seducing you, enticing you into its depth.

As you look out amongst the vastness, loneliness consumes you; miles and miles of outstretched emptiness. You feel sorry for the ocean, as if it’s a person inviting you into its life with every lap of the wave over your toes. It’s nervousness forces it back into itself, the same as a nervous man trying to say ‘I love you’ for the first time. It’s on the tip of his tongue. He can muster up a kiss, just as he can gently touch your face as if he is an ocean tickling your skin.

Of course you can see his anguish and embarrassment, it’s in his eyes. He smiles because he knows he loves you, he acts in the same way as the child poking and gently nudging. Finally, you decide to help put a stop to his embarrassment, and leap straight in.

Your clothes are on but you’re laughing. Your feet were wet to begin with, you have a towel in the car. So who really cares? You start running into the waves, the water jumping at you with happiness, his smile projects the same. A welcoming like you’ve never had before. It’s a real contrast. His eyes and smile are so warm, so loving, yet the caress of the waves so icy cold; both manage to make you feel warmth, a refreshing sense of real life.

Stretching out your arms is the only thing you can do in order to embrace such a meaningful offering. You keep running until you are chest deep, slowly bobbing around. This is where you decide to take the plunge.

‘I love you’.

10:30pm. A Monday.

You could have known by the weather that there was something in the air, a peculiarity hanging over everyone, everything. One second, glistening sunlight, shimmering street-lights and the next, an overwhelming sea of raindrops, coating the concrete in a thin film of oily water.

Yet, as night approached, a calmness ensued throughout the town, everything was back to it’s rightful, normal place. As I walked home, I felt surrounded by this calmness, perhaps overwhelmingly so, almost like never before. I walked with a slow pace, thinking about nothing in particular: what music I was going to put on when I got home, what I thought was in store for me tomorrow – a whole host of things.

I seemingly turned a corner and stopped. I had to stop. There was nothing I could do but look at this immensely beautiful scene. The man was carrying his suitcase with an annoyingly loud rattle along the pavement. Yet, it wasn’t that which attracted my attention. The way that the woman walked hand in hand with him, holding onto him, kissing his neck was incomprehensibly beautiful and pure. He must have been away far, or away for a long time, perhaps even both. Maybe even just a day. Yet, to me, it was love. Pure, immortal love, you could almost see a visible connection piercing through them, drawing them closer.

It wasn’t so much of a jealousy that overcame me, more of a feeling of complete an utter infatuation. I was so pleased to see something like that in the world, something so happy and care free, lost in one another.

I continued my walk with a vague sense of optimism, not for me personally, but an optimism for the world, that there is light. The couple are best described as a small flickering candle amongst a raging ocean. The ocean, omnipotent in its power, a haunting rage as the waves crashed and flowed towards the shore. Yet, impossibly, one thing managed to stay afloat. A beam of light, so impossibly small that it couldn’t be overcome or drowned out by the menacing and malicious waves. There was without a doubt, very little direction to the way they were going, which was probably the most calming aspect of the couple – they were carefree, taken by each other, just as the candle may well drift across oceans for decades, or within the next day, be washed upon a beach somewhere entirely unknown.

Anonymity is, ironically, an undiscovered and underrated sensation. In whatever form it comes in, shows itself to the world, it invokes responses which we cannot be responsible for. The couple remain completely anonymous to me, and little do they know the profound impact I’m having writing about them, nor do they realise that to me, they are a flickering light in a sea of darkness.

Similarly, the lady I saw next will remain anonymous for some time to me. I presume so at least. I walked past her in my navy woollen pea-coat, the lapels raised to protect the back of my head from the cold, I could have been Sherlock Holmes if one only caught a glance of my slender figure as I walked past. That’s exactly what I did to the lady before turning back. I walked past, ignored her presence completely, only my subconscious held onto what she said. This made me turn around.

She was on the floor, shivering in a blanket, obviously all she had. Her entire belongings consisted of a shoddy blanket, a bobble-hat with tassels and grey-green eyes. I approached, and asked what she needed – there was very little chance of me giving her money. I didn’t know the woman, after all. And that doesn’t solve the problem. All she asked for was some ‘pop’. I got her a cola and a bottle of water; her gaze was fixed on the water, not the coke. She gave a smile, a hungry, tired, but grateful ‘Thank you, God Bless’.

As I walked into the night, knowing she probably watched me as a flickering light in the darkness, as I had watched the couple moments before, I felt an uncontrollable sense of melancholy, an unshakable sadness. I felt a tear stream, for why, I couldn’t quite understand. I had seen and come by plenty of people who were homeless, yet nobody had the profound impact that this woman had had. I was in awe. I had so much, I was going home, probably to have a warm cup of tea, curl up and read my book in the warm, the safe shelter of my attic abode, whilst she would, and still will, have to fend off the bitter wind, rogue and impolite, violent people.

As I walked, looked up at the night, looked on down the street, all I could think of was the scale and scope of the injustice and inequality of the world. However cliché that might seem, it’s true. As I’m writing on my laptop, knowing I can help her, even a little bit with my insignificant wage from my part time job, able to give her another chance of a life she could lead, the realism within me slowly grows. As much as this sadness has had an impact on me, I cannot help everyone. There is still a scope to all of this, however. Do as much or as little as you can. That is all I ask. You may not feel obliged to do so, you may not have the means, the courage or the knowhow. But, sometimes, sudden urges are bestowed upon you, throughout you. That’s my eternal optimism at least. I do not do these things as much as I should, but I believe everybody has the capacity to be somebody’s flickering light amongst a sea of disturbing darkness.