Synaesthesia Magazine Cities - Page 67

t seven years old he had been lured to dark places and learned things that

should not have been learned, forever etched in his mind; they became a yearning part of his darkening shroud that grew slowly and inevitably like cataracts.

Today, however, was a day to run from such things; a day spent alone and in the presence of the sun and the ever increasing heat of the day, lost in the heated hum of the slowly awakening city.

Bursting barefoot and without a plan upon an unsuspecting summer world he would explore the wondrous mix of urban and rural decay in his neighbourhood and all the dangers and excitement that came with it.

There was the nearby railroad track to be wandered and assessed for loose spikes;

small iron nails to be brought home and forgotten almost immediately. Strange tools mysteriously left behind that needed a place of their own, even if they were to be unused, they would be unused in a home instead of lost and alone.

If it had rained recently the boy would seek out the remaining run-off streams that raced importantly along street curbs or through eroded runnels in gravel parking lots where he would then Lord over them and imagine being the creator dragging or heaving great stones and diverting the rapids along new courses as his whim demanded. He was building a world.

The train tracks lead to the old wooden train bridge over the fast moving waters of the nearby river. He had walked tentatively across this bridge a thousand times before but it never got easier, the ghosts of oncoming trains still rattled the timbers and made the sleepers shake. He would bend down and place his ear upon the tracks like the cowboys did sometimes in the movies to gauge how far away the coming train was.

Eventually he would step onto the bridge and walk as fast as possibly across and always his feet would tingle as if the river beneath was rushing against them attempting to drag him in. Sometimes in his braver moments he would stand close to the edge and imagine just jumping in to be embraced by the waves beneath. He did that on the various rooftops he climbed in his adventures as well – he would walk to the edge and wonder what it would be like to jump into another form of embrace – he secretly doubted this brave voice in his head, but let it have its way anyhow.

From the crossed train bridge he would wander the river bank to the next bridge along the way, a dam where he knew he would find a loose collection of boys. Older boys would be cutting switches from driftwood and whipping each other, their feet teetering on the sharp pebbles like they were hot coals, while the young boys like him would watch on nervously. There were never any girls, or none that he noticed anyhow.

One boy, like the others around him, would wait his turn and then, with an intoxicating mix of dread and excitement, inch his way carefully along the edge of the dam and then, when he had reached the upper limit where the water fell, would throw himself into the torrent and imagine the unseen rocks and hidden branches waiting for him beyond the base where he was fired as if from a gun. Survival meant it had to be done again.

Eventually the crowd wandered away or got bored or he would grow tired. Sometimes they would go the next, nearby bridge at a deeper part of the river and swim into the darkness underneath where a ledge was known to exist. There they would sit beneath the steel drum beats of the tires of passing cars that echoed overhead; pale, cold, wet shoulders poking above the dark water like the bases of a chain of small islands. The older boys told frightening tales of the old snapping turtle that lived underneath the bridge and was known to enjoy the more tender parts of careless young boys who were not constantly alert to the threat. The boy understood this fear but it never drove him away (although sometimes, for unknown reasons, it made him think again on the conspicuous absence of girls) – he swam in resignation that it would come or it wouldn’t.

As the day faded into something cooler the boy would emerge from the dank and watery depths to don his dry t-shirt left on the grass nearby and wander into the streets heading back toward home along a different route. This was a good time, a time to press one’s toes deep into the squishy, sun-softened tar-filled cracks and know that - while the cooler evening was coming, the sun was still hiding in places where only the most inquisitive would find it and be rewarded.

Eventually, red skinned and worn out from the work of an adventurous day the boy would arrive home; home to mum; home to sisters and supper; home to questions of what the day held and short, grunt-like answers of one who would prefer to keep the memories to himself.

Once the dark finally took hold and bed was no longer to be avoided the boy and his memories would cover up. As night held sway and the shadows of the creaky house took over the memories became small films to be played again and again in the theatre of his mind. Memories as distractions from the nightmares bound to come until the rescuing sun rose again to banish it all and new memories could be made.