The sun was at its zenith, startling and blinding careless onlookers; scorching the busy tarred highway below. Cars were speeding on both side of the concrete median strip, dividing the highway. High-masted lamp posts had been planted at regular intervals on the concrete block in the middle of it all. Civilisation, as a whole was fast forwarding at the same speed as the cars. Progress was all-powerful and unstoppable. The sun still existed, but reflected in the side and rear mirrors of the cars racing by, shattered in a million shiny stars. High energy, velocity and shiny metal were the new dictators of this geometrically organized urban landscape.
In the midst of this madness, there was a man. Invisible to most, yet unmistakably present. He sat in the middle of the concrete strip, alone and majestuous, as if it were his throne overlooking his kingdom.
He could have been an apparition, an illusion. A shadow.
He could not have existed. Except that he did. He had no present and, at best, a very uncertain future, but he had a past. He had once been someone.
His tattered back leaned on one of the metal grey lamppost. He seemed unreal in this ultimate glittery urban scenery; too human, too “flesh-and-bones”.
He was oblivious to all, the cars, the stares, the honks, the metal, the speed, the sun, the ambition, the greed, the pain, the gain.
He sat there motionless and did not feel the heat, the hunger, the smells, the fatigue. He could not remember how he had gotten in the middle of the three lane highway, and most importantly, he did not care.
He had lost all feelings in his legs.
He had lost all feelings. Everywhere.
He had lost everything. Even his identity. He had no papers, no ID, no passport, no name and no face.
If his body was rigid, fixed and seemed relaxed, his thoughts had taken a life of their own and were wandering freely. He had lost all control over them.
He was tired, dirty and forlorn.
A nobody in a land where only somebodies had rights. A dark stain on the very continent that invented the detergent. An anomaly in the politically correct landscape built upon the ruins of failed political schemes, and artificially soothed consciences.
Amidst the noise and the exhaust fumes, his mother appeared. She stood there, gently looking at him, her face overrun by her big grin. Tears started running down his face, leaving a trace on his caked cheeks.
His father stood next to his mother. Noises on both sides of the motorway seemed to be getting louder. His father’s lips were moving and he guessed more than he could hear his father’s words: “Get up, my son. Get up”
His father too was crying silently.
In the middle of it all he saw the town where he grew up. More cars, and he saw his family home, the parties thrown by his parents, the happy faces. Honking all around. He saw her. His first. His only love. She became all that mattered from the moment he saw her. Some commotion on the right side of him. Henceforth, his life back home was spent devising ways to impress her. Soon his job at his father’s bakery was no longer sufficient to pay for all his madness. Screeching tires. Soon he had to borrow money from the hood rascals. Soon they were after him and before he knew it, he had to run away. He did not have the time, or the courage, to say goodbye to anyone. Fumes of the cars all around that were making him nauseous. He did not have to say goodbye to her. She had never acknowledged his existence. More honking, and sirens.
The agitation was picking up. He had known all along that once he left there would be no going back. The brouhaha had reached his head and was rocking his insides dangerously. He would never impress her. She would never love him.
He tried to get up but fell back, dangerously close to the edge. Another speeding car, another screeching tire, another loud honk. A shout, an insult. Nothing had prepared him for what he saw on the way. It took him three years and two wars, one long sojourn in detention to get across the lands and the sea and finally reach his destination.
Cars were racing, drivers were rushing their destiny. He was dangling. He had no precise idea of what his destination should be and it turned out to be as vague and tortuous as his lot.
More sirens now and their blaring howls. The farther he travelled the more he was losing his identity. His life mattered less than that of the house pets whose food he often stole.
Nobody wanted to hire him. Nobody wanted to see him. Engines roaring past him and his non-existent life.
He had no way of going back home. His pride was always in the way. He would rather stage his own death than admit to his failure. Theoretically he had died after the sea anyway. He was up now, looking ahead at the pandemonium on the highway, lit by the sun’s fires.
He had a smirk. He felt seasick. The hooting, like his thoughts had become unbearable. The boat that took him to the promised land capsized. Most of the poor souls travelling with him were one-way ticket holders. He had been told he was amongst the lucky ones. He never felt it. Not in the detention centre. Not when being humiliated. Not when hunger would strike. Not when homeless on the streets. Not when bitten by the freezing winter cold. Not when he became a nobody. Not when he ceased to exist.
He was looking for his parents. They had disappeared again. The sirens were sounding too loud in his ears making his vision blurry and his head ready to implode.
He could still hear his father’s words “Get up son! Get up” falling and getting up
But he was up, and walking and stumbling and falling before getting up again attracted by the light. All the cars were blasting and revving together.
There he was now, in the middle of the highway with his father’s shouts becoming louder, and still more cars hooting.
When the ruckus in his head became insufferable he looked up for a second, then, blinded by the sun and blinking, he realized it was not his father calling him, but a police officer.