How Long Can You Stew For, Before You Fall Apart? (2)
By Jane Hyphen
It wasn’t the first time I’d been stood up on the astral plane. However this was different, I was getting, dare I say it, lonely.
I’m usually the biggest fan of being alone but when it’s forced upon you it’s different and it’s really opened my eyes to the millions of people who live in a world of loneliness. Especially those who, unlike me, crave the constant company of other human beings.
It occurred to me that I might have got the arrangement wrong, I went back over my “arrangements”. Whatever, it didn’t matter now, I was awake, at least that’s how it felt. There was some confusion about the state of things. The world was so fast, that was the thing, it was a fast world and for some reason we all thought that a fast world was a good world. A fast world meant success and that everything was working as efficiently as it should be.
I recall a time when my children were small and needed me to chaperone them to and from school. I had my little patch on the playground where I used to wait at ten past three and I was sure to regularly roll around on the tarmac to put down my scent, mark my territory as it were. After school holidays I would squat down and pee there just to make sure nobody got any ideas about trespassing on my patch.
Occasionally other mothers would engage me in conversation although I was never invited into the “Real Housewives” style clique, I was just too weird and that’s okay, I’ve got over it. The thing is these mothers almost without exception were unoriginal in their conversation. The theme was how busy they were, how time constrained, what with a career and three children and training for the triathlon and PTA and pilates and tag rugby and managing the flats we rent out handmade soap dot com I, run to help women in Ghana and and and..
My eyes would glaze over. On Fridays many of them would turn up in lycra and do leg stretches in the playground. There were dads there too on a Friday, some of them were quite hot and some of them thought they were hot. Many of them had a speech bubble hovering above their heads which said, “Oooh look at me, I’m a good dad, doing dad duty, taking little Oscar to school,” Well I’ve got news for you buddy, Oscar’s an animal, he’ll have a hard-wired addiction to torture porn by year eleven I guarantee it.
The dads were kind of scared of me, I could see it in their blue, hedge fund eyes. I used to manage a hedge, if they’d bothered to ask me about myself they would have found out that the hedges I managed were both rich and fascinating. Native and non-native, some were evergreen, some, for example Beech and Hornbeam are suspended in a juvenile state due to being regularly trimmed, they hold onto their dead leaves throughout winter. Amazing isn’t it.
The world had slowed down, quite unexpectedly and if you imagine being on a roundabout, the sort of roundabout they used to have in playgrounds. I think they still do although they were always mounted on concrete slabs in the good old days just in case someone fell off, they could get a proper injury to show for it. Imagine being on the roundabout for a very long time so that your eyes and overall consciousness adjusted to the speed. Then imagine it slows down suddenly and quite considerably. There would be a period of adjustment, of being confused, boss-eyed, mash-brained, imploded-stomached and generally out of sorts.
When the dust settles and this slower world comes into focus, we will surely be able to see more. We might spot weasels hiding in the bushes around the playground or perhaps the rats which live among us spreading their harmful spores of fear, you might spot a fat snake in the grass. Maybe you will just notice the birds and butterflies and a big improvement in the quality of the air we breathe.
So back to the astral plane. I waited, for how long I can’t say because time doesn’t exist there but I was aware that I was waiting. Although surely the concept of waiting is obsolete without the concept of time so it’s possible I wasn’t stood up after all. I still woke up feeling lonely though and couldn’t wait to participate in the most exciting thing which happens in real time these days, the dog walk.
My dogs are really what’s pinning me to the ground at the moment, without them I would be flying through the air and not in a good way, I would likely be hitting walls. It’s important to say that I am physically healthy, and for that I am very thankful. I have cats too but one is the queen of mean. The other one is extremely handsome and lovable but has been through a hard time recently. He was hit by a car and had to be caged for six weeks until his broken pelvis healed, during this time he was on opiates to numb the pain. We took him off the drugs and he got all weird and quite aggressive, then gained a lot of weight. He got through this period and became placid again and recently we let him outside and he’s been going for very long walks and writing songs. He’s basically Jim Morrison but I really hope he has a longer life.
So I was out with my hounds. We ventured into the edges of the countryside but we saw a lot of people, walkers and wanderers, it was like Piccadilly Circus actually so we went farther. I let them lead the way, figuring that if we got lost it wouldn’t really matter and eventually we stopped seeing other people. We were off the beaten track and we likely wouldn’t have seen people anyway, in normal circumstances. It was the fact that there was no noise from the skies, no planes circling, no trains emitting double barrel toots and the lack of the general industrial humm normally present.
The “world got still”. Those were the words I had in my head, I repeated them and realised it was a lyric from a song. “The town lit up, and the world got still.” I continued to walk gazing at the skinny outlines of my dogs trotting below me when I felt a cold, skinny hand slip into my own.
I wasn’t frightened at all, in fact my right hand had sort of been expecting it even if I hadn’t. I glanced up and saw Tom Petty walking beside me, a youngish Tom Petty, in his mid forties maybe and in his cowboy hat. I wasn’t keen to behave in a girlish, star-struck manner so I tried to act all cool and wise and just said, ‘Oh I’ve been expecting you,”
Had I? No, not really but it was a nice surprise nevertheless. Now Tom is a fast walker, he takes very big strides and his leather jacket had chains that would jingle and this was quite distracting. He didn’t say much and based on his hands I wasn’t struck down by any urge to get physical with him because I think that could have resulted in a lot of bruising but still it was nice to have him around.
We cut through a golf course and I asked him what the point of golf was. He said it was a sport invented simply to slow the world down then he smiles and I noticed he had more teeth than the average person. His lips were like curtains and they closed very slowly back over his teeth. The ground had really dried out I noticed, having walked in slops of mud for months on end, my trainers remained clean.
In silence we walked on but I felt his grip loosening on mine, Tom Petty was fading. I quickly searched the files of my mind for something relevant to say. ‘Oh...how’s Roy Orbison?’ I asked but he’d already gone, returned to whence he came, somewhere on the astral plane.