The sound of the city

Modern life is insane. It jitters in an incomprehensible half-talk, spitting away sounds without meanings. We are walking, with open ears, down a busy street of faceless figures. We maze through the shadows and brush past shoulders. Brief is the breathe and it hits us in a ghost-like, fleeting contact.

“Jeremy, we’re going to be late. Have you got your -” “-bannanas! A bunch of them here for you, my lady, for the special price of-” “-salvation; he died to save us all from-” “-getting a loan out in order to pay for the boat he can’t afford. I told Tony to invest the ten grand into variable ISA accounts to maximise the interest he could receive, but no, he buys a fucking boat and now he’s complaining about the-” “-bad bacteria that you can’t see. Well, our product kills 99.99999999% of bad bacteria to ensure that good bacteria-” “-does not exist. How can He? If God was real, we would know, we would have a-” “-brand new car with the most innovative technology to improve your driving experience. Imagine gliding quietly through-” “-life. He was a man loved by many. George Turner will be greatly missed. He was a loving father, an attentive brother and a-” “-fuckin’ cunt! Say that again to mah face you spineless prick! How can you sleep with her and think that I won’t beat the livin’ shit outta” “-the prime minister held emergency talks today with representatives from both Ukraine and Russia. An outcome has yet to be established; however, what is clear is that-” “everyone is going to die when they see you in that dress, Jackie. You look fantastic. No-one will be able to tell that you’re-” “-an ancient relic, dating back to 10 AD, will be shown on exhibit in the local museum next to-” “-a 26 year old man who was found dead late yesterday evening outside the cemetery in-” “her knickers. That’s all I want. None of this official relationship bullshit. Sex, that’s what it’s about and what it will always be about.”

The city talks to itself. Today is a rush of syllables carelessly strewn among a fever of feet which all march towards money. It is 8.30am and we can only assume the majority of the people around us are on their way to work. Suits, umbrellas and ties. Ludicrously high heels dance around puddles which pulse to the constant battery from heavy lines of rain.

Our ears prick to the emerging sound of a confident stride. It breaks through the hiss of scraping soles with an audible authority. A pathway opens up, as the mass of bodies divides, for a tall figure with sharp shoulders who moves swiftly on through. The figure disappears from view as quickly as it appeared to us. The sound of its confident footsteps gradually fading behind the sounds of talking faces. We try to follow these footsteps, but are swept away in the current of bodies that push past us. The pavements thrive like a living thing; it is a mess of limbs with a unitary drive. We are hit by a barrage of insults as we try to work our way out from the crowd. Life feels too quick for us; it is a panic of clashing moments which seem to push us further into the crowd of people. We choose to walk with the crowd, to follow the current to see if it leads us to an escape.

We move with the other suits and end up at a train station. The platform is full of men and women stood in silence, staring at an overhead matrix screen. Breathes are held and, once the matrix reads: ‘CANCELLED’, those around us release into a synchronized groan. Our head turns to the exit in hope of an alternative route and, as we march onward, our ears rest on the fragmented conversations of our fellow commuters.

“You have got to be joking! Out of all the days they choose to cancel my train it has-” “-nothing to do with me, sir, I’m merely a ticket officer. If you wish to make a formal complaint or have your ticket compensated you’ll have to-” “fuck me. That’s the third time this week. Tom, I’m gonna have to call you back. I need to find another way to get-” “-no fucking signal. One bar everywhere I go. Perfect. Now there’s no way for me to-” “form an orderly line, so that we can empty-” “-your purse fell from your bag. You should be more careful. There are plenty of pickpockets at train stations these days.”

The gentleman’s words dissipate like smoke. Mouths become silent and eyes follow the backs of other commuters. No-one knows where they are going, only that they have to leave. The crowd reaches the exit of the station and disperses into the streets of the city like the seedpods of a dandelion when blown by the wind. Feet dart into the sunlight in a tense panic. Suits strewn themselves in a number of directions; all searching for a way to get to their destination.

The rain has ceased and the clouds have divided to reveal the warm glow of the sun. Loose coils of steam release from the drying asphalt and fade into a semi-existent state. The air is warm, heavy and wet. The rain hangs around our face like a ghost. Its history hugs our skin and is almost suffocating. We survey the scene to see ringlets of hair appear and work shirts drying into a two-tone pattern due to the rain. The crowd appear wild around the edges. Stray hair and ceased jackets surround us.

Our feet move before we think and soon we are in another part of town. We are closer to our destination. We aren’t late. We are, in fact, right on time and decide to stop in a small coffee shop. A medium latte with two sugars. We order the same thing regardless of the cafe. The tongue is trained and does not wish for change, so we do not pursue it.


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