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UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES

Untitled journal entry #414

05:32am

I woke up inside a pile of rubbish under the railway arches on (x) street this morning, with only a dim recollection of the events which led me to wake up here alone, sprawled beneath styrofoam cups, pulped cardboard boxes and pigeon droppings. I remember that when I got here yesterday in the early evening, the arch had been populated by all sorts of utterly random people who seemed to have congregated together entirely by fluke. The only thing uniting us was the fact there was no reason whatsoever for any of us to be there at all. I myself do not recall how or why I got there and neither did I know when I would leave, but at the time it seemed as good a place as any to sit about and wait until something came along.

Sitting in the damp, filthy air – a greyish admixture of fog and car exhaust particles –we whiled-away the hours by watching the traffic jam. It was an especially good one; the lights at the pedestrian crossing must have gone out of sync or something because a long line of cars were idling impatiently at the crossing, waiting for the lights to change and, despite the aggression as people sounded their horns, yelled and spat at each other, nobody was bold enough to jump the lights and drive on - even though there was clearly no reason for them to continue waiting. Likewise, a large group of pedestrians had assembled on either side of the crossing and were doing the same thing; even though the cars were stopped, nobody took the initiative to cross the road but instead preferred to wait for the little green man, who did not seem to be coming. A group of boys heckled each other to go first, but then owing to something which frightened them they hid behind their mothers’ skirts and shyly refused to come out again.

The people under the bridge, (I counted twenty-seven at one point,) each concurred that somehow they had just got under the bridge and that it didn’t matter much why it had happened. In retrospect it seems odd that a group of reasonably well-educated people would not have had the least inclination to try and understand why they were sitting about like dogs in such a place as opposed to sitting at home with their families in warmth and comfort. But the fact remained that they were here; nobody was interested in leaving just yet and anyway, there was no sense in changing the status quo. One of the women – a tall woman with reddish hair and a polyester suit – said that chance, having got them in there in the first place, was probably the only thing that was going to get them out again, so there was no sense in making the effort to try and leave on purpose; that would only upset everything. And everyone just sort of nodded, but not really to any purpose. It was obvious they weren’t listening, and anyway, it seemed to me the woman just wanted to hear herself say something like that, or perhaps it was just so she could check she still existed.

At around 3 o’clock in the morning a new bloke rolled into the pile. After watching the traffic for a bit, he said in a non-committal sort of a way that he thought he was the sales manager of a company that manufactured cheap geometry sets for children. When nobody showed the slightest interest he continued, explaining that he’d been drifting like this since Tuesday morning after having failed to remember where he worked, and that he had already been deposited into three other large piles of garbage like this one, somewhere further East. But he could not be specific, he added, because he wasn’t sure if it mattered any more anyway, because one pile of garbage is much like any other, and moreover he was beginning to get used to it.

I sort of fell asleep after that because nothing was happening, and I wasn’t really interested anyway. The incessant discord of the car-horns had somehow lost their malevolent aura and just soaked into the rest of the picture, inoffensive and meaningless. I nestled myself under an abandoned mattress, stained by damp and cold, and stuffed broken pieces of cardboard deep into my trouser legs to keep out the frost. Then I must have nodded off because I awoke again, perhaps only 45 minutes later, to find that everyone wasn’t there.

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