In the city.
My body shakes as the pounding footsteps of a grotesque unending millipede army drown every surface, flowing to and from work, in the tube stations, on the buses, in the bars, in the restaurants, by the rivers. I try not to touch anything, tube bars, ATM machine numbers, door handles, in case too much invades me.
My ears constantly vibrate from the millions of buzzing urban insects in the forms of refrigerators, oven fans, green juices being blended, air conditioning, ceiling lights, bedside lamps, street lights, car horns.
My eyes clench shut and reopen to what I dreaded; a sun, moon and stars that never switch off, blessed cloud cover and darkness that never comes. The blinking street light outside my window, the first thing I sense as I drift out of unreachable sleep once more. Lights in millions of boxes piled up on top of each other. Swerving car lights, dancing fairy lights at the cafe, fridge lights at home and in restaurants, flashing coloured lights in clubs and trendy churches. Flickering candlelight by my bed in a bid to shut out electricity.
My nostrils cannot shut out the uninvited assault of greasy cafes, or buttery sugary patisseries, wet tarmac, city sewage, dog mess on deceptive grass, sweaty bodies in too close proximity.
My mouth is confused, it has been screamed at from all angles in this damn city about what it needs. Unsatisfying green sludge is quickly pushed down. Then gobbles greasy cheese washed down with regret. Blood tastes metallic as my teeth chew my lip, fighting that inner anxiety that cannot hide the chaos inside. The chaos of death.
The chaos moves inside. I can hear my blood rushing, cells dying and regenerating, imagined itches across my skin. My thoughts that cannot sit still, that race and rage. The adrenaline rushing at the slightest provocation; anger, pain, sadness, weariness. I am exhausted in my own skin, out of my own mind.
In the country
I move away. Outside the city. The chaos rages on inside. But over time, it lessens. It loosens its grip. It gets a bit quieter. I can now hear a different sort of chaos. The chaos of life. It's not silent amongst nature. It is noisy, very noisy, but it is life I can hear, it is the cycle of the seasons. Lambs calling for their mothers, cows bellowing, grass moving in the wind, rumbling thunder, and rain pounding on leaves, roads, windows. Crackling fires as wood sparks and whistles, spades crunching through dry earth. The smell of manure, trees, salt, roses. My mouth tastes sweet cherries plucked straight from their branches, warm scones baked with slow deliberate pleasure as flour is sprinkled from my fingertips, the dough kneaded through my knuckles. Sweet tomatoes crunched under the blossom of the apple tree as the sun warms my face, the wind strokes my hair and the smell of peonies drifts by.
And my breath, as it moves in and out filling every bit of me, letting me know that I am still. I am still here.
I walk through narrow lanes where heavy laden trees form a breathing living canopy overhead. I walk past a cottage with yellow roses climbing up the walls, I hear music drifting through an open window in the kitchen. An old couple sit there in peaceful contentment, sipping soup as dust floats in the sunlight through the window. Later when I walk back past them, home again, he is at the kitchen table watching something on a little screen and she is in the garden, pottering with soil. She shouts a cheery hello at me over the fence. I feel like I've been kissed on the cheek, that she's let me in to her peaceful world by acknowledging my presence. She can see me. I exist and I am alive. Life is beating and pulsing all around me.
Death in the countryside.
There is death here too. Carcasses bleed out on the roads, rotting apples sink back into the soil. People who've never left their village of birth, whose minds have stopped questioning and no longer are capable of curiosity. They don't pulse life. They barely twitch. And sometimes they seep poison out of their mouths, poison about people who are different to them. They bring death with their words. They are like a stagnant rotting pond. The frogs stay well away. Soon the pond will dry up and we'll see all the segment left at the bottom. We'll dig it out, fill it with fresh water and see if the frogs will come back.
In the city. Once again.
Fleeting visits, short enough to shock and delight my senses. The city is pulsing and breathing too. Full to the brim of sensory delights. Food from every continent dance on my tongue. Echoing libraries, museums, cathedrals to awe and inspire. Music that seeps deep inside until it has no choice but to pulse back out again through my swaying hips. And people, people everywhere, each one living their own life, with thoughts, ideas, tears and unique perspectives to share. Each life lit up like a light bulb. People from every continent, each speaking and wearing their own cultures and history, and delighted to tell me about where they've come from. I can visit India, and Poland, and Indonesia without leaving the cafe I'm sitting in. The whole world in one city. Bursting with life.