Imagining lives


Walking home in the sunshine, she dragged her feet. It was too lyrical to rush through, the sun, the moment. Her feet stuck to the ground resisting the pull of gravity. The earth beneath was bold and beautiful, demanding stillness in everything that lay atop of it.

She watched curiously as people rushed past her, their shoes hitting the ground with a ferocious determination. They were eager to get home. It was 5 o’clock. The end of another work day in Melbourne and the men and women still immaculately dressed filed out of the train station. There was something about them that drew her.  It sucked her in as her eyes followed their steps, marking every imprint and sniffing for their perfume as they zoomed past. So close yet so far. Images of lives flashed in her mind like big, giant screens: where they lived, what they did on weeknights after work, how many kids they had.

There was not a trace of loneliness, confusion or fear in the lines they made as they walked home. Unlike her own strokes. She peered and saw no signs. Instead they were mirror images of perfection. Everything was elegantly trimmed and tucked in. Emotion was packed away under layers of flesh and cloth.

She moved in rhythm with the woman in the black pants and cream white jacket. The woman unlocked her car and slipped in quietly. The girl imagined the woman driving into her drive-way and freezing as the engine died. She remained still in the seat, her hands gripping the wheel for support. Leaving the car meant walking into the house and facing her drunk husband.

The girls’ thoughts came running back to her and she pinned them tight. The woman was too pretty to have a drunk husband, she concluded judiciously, as though prettiness had anything to do with it.

Her eyes caught the man in the blue suit and the white headphones dangling from his ears as he crossed the road. Would he later that night take out the trash and stand outside a bit longer than necessary needing the fresh air and noticing the stars dotted across the skies. He feels the tears running down his face but quickly dubs at them as he hears his 7 year old son calling for him.

The man seemed too sure of his steps to have tears rolling down his face, she decided.

She grazed these lives in her mind but they seemed nothing like her imagination. Where were the people who actually lived these imagined stories? what did they look like? When everybody around seemed so put together, where were the signs of life?

Perhaps it was just her. She walked through life exposed. Her heart was always broken, always tender, always present. It stretched over everything as though to prove to her just how far it could go and how much it could hold. She wanted more and so she gave more. She felt the drizzles and the storms of every body’s spirit pressing against her. She carried their burdens as though they were her own, bleeding and breathing again and again and again. And so she looked for the same signs of life in others. But they stumbled by in veneers, content in everything and nothing.

She tried to get comfort from the sun as  she snuggled up closer to its warmth. It soaked right through her skin and into her bones, sending hope to every part that needed it. People were just people, no matter where she went. Beneath the armour of “I’m doing okay” was a vulnerability that was frightening and mesmerising.  She remembered that life was beautiful and messy for everyone.

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