Monday, April 22, 2013

Cars On The Highway, Planes In The Air

Everyone else is going somewhere
But I'm going nowhere, getting there soon
I might as well go under with you

(I was a 13-year-old Fountains of Wayne fan, circa 1997.)

My best friend is in Tokyo at the moment - just a few weeks after her Spanish vacation - while my brother and mother are headed there in about a month's time. My cousin is going to Perth (for work, poor thing) while an old friend who dropped by last night just returned from Turkey. Everybody's travelling.

Even I am going to Bangkok for a short break in May (not my first choice of destination, but what can you do with a four-day leave). Still, I'm not really going anywhere. None of us are.

These days - or nights, rather - I prefer to take long solitary walks with the dog, up a 2km-long new road that leads to a rarely used MRT station. That will soon change, of course, once the land surrounding it is developed and the old buildings are replaced by infuriating condominiums and newly-painted flats. But for now there is nothing but a long blank stretch of road on my right, and the cricket-filled forested darkness on my left. The dog tries to scamper off into it at times, drawn by the scent of a stray snoozing somewhere in the thicket of trees in the distance. I keep a tight hold on his leash. I don't blame him for wanting to go - I often want to run off into it myself - but I'm realistic about my inability to handle things like frogs or mud.

We like walking to the MRT station, which has the appearance of a manmade lunar structure, lit by medical fluorescent tubes and constructed from smooth grey granite and metal panelling. The escalators hum continuously, but perhaps only one or two people at most rise up from them every hour. (The dog is terrified of the escalator stairs, the way they keep coming towards him without actually moving any closer.) Round the sides of the MRT exit you can hear the generators occasionally shift into a different mode, an efficient rumble that means business. There's no one at the well-lit bus stop across the dead-end road, and the single bus service never seems to arrive. Behind the building, the forest stretches on, damp and fresh-smelling, like the alien landscape that it really happens to be.

We pause in front of the escalators, straining to catch a flutter of air-conditioning - it's hot work, walking all the way here - and then descend the grey steps and back onto the centipede-filled pavement. They crawl out of the leaf litter that edges the path, fat black wriggling things that stain the pavement when their front or back ends get crushed by lone commuters, who don't notice the squish (there has to be a squish, they're that big) because their earbuds are surgically attached.

I like that feeling of being somewhere different, so close to home. Here you can be alone in time and space. An hour before midnight, I'm standing at the black edge of the forest, scanning the shadows for signs of canine life - I've brought a baggie of dog kibbles for the stray, but it's nowhere to be found - and I pause and imagine my dog and myself, in matching space suits, gently leapfrogging the cratered surface of the moon in absolute silence. We don't need to talk, partly because we have a mutual understanding, and partly because he's a dog. I imagine the scarred barren landscape, the rhythmic hiss of oxygen in our helmets, the deep darkness illuminated by burning gases, stretching on for infinity above and around us. I imagine that this time, we're really going somewhere.

1 comment:

blauereiter said...

I myself was in Kyoto in April. Loved it so much I didn't want to come back.

I would like to think that someday I could really go somewhere, and not just as a tourist.

Of course, it is probably smarter to be more pragmatic, but one can always dream a little, no ? :]