The Quest



He packs, there is not much to fill the duffel with, he wonders if he should get on his knees. Under the bed. He hates it, being thankful, on his knees, it always reminds him. Older times. The procedures that fill the life, other people’s habits, ring a ring a rosie, he puts a hand on the bed side table, lowers his ageing frame, he recalls the time he left his bifocals behind him, he had never been able to replace them, one reason to search under the bed, he wears those throwaway glasses, not an exact fit for the eyes, but they will do. He manages to find a sock, and a lot of dust, do they ever clean the place he says as he wipes the dust trail from his sleeve, it’s a newly washed shirt, a passing out present, he’ll feel good wearing clean clothes, at least the dogs will stop sniffing him, three weeks in the wash out center for breaking a shop window, a habit he formed, if you are stuck in a foreign place, so his friend had said, you need a bed for the rest, cause a public disturbance, they have to take you in. He sits on the bed, his knees stiff, the effort. Only in his mind does he run, only when asleep does he feel normal, good dreams, it’s always the same one, the dream, a sanctuary, the Island as he calls it.

For three weeks he has eaten regularly, and the staff polite too, a double bonus. He wonders what it cost to stay there permanently, what a thought, he catches an image of himself, they even allow mirrors, do they encourage suicides, well, that’s what the cynics say and the scare heads, mere dogs, all they want is a chase, a conclusion, and they start over again. He edges down the bed, he wants a good look at himself, before he returns to the dark scruff he usually resembles. Mary is in the corridor, one of the cleaners, her voice creates a smile, that woman sings, she ought to be a professional he imagines, he would if he was her age, she is hardly forty. An ensuite bathroom, being able to wash every morning, he began to miss it already. His toiletries are still to be put away, he turns the tap, the sound of water, it makes you piss they say, the noise of water, when you are out in the open with nowhere to go, it’s a little different. To be able to sit on a clean toilet bowel, not worry about who last sat there, were they clean, did they think about anything, the days seated on the toilet bowl, a dream for some, a nightmare for the rest of us. The stories they fill the airways with, an insect climbs the bowl while your sitting there, the little malaria bug, in search of another body of fresh blood, hopefully the malaria bug is afraid of marijuana, can’t coordinate..

He wants to leave the place with a reputation for clean, he would return some day, perhaps. So his mother would say, if you’re clean you are welcome.

There is a knock at the door, startled; he drops his tooth brush on the floor. A minute he says, the door opens. He exits the bathroom, the supervisor of the dry tank, and a woman with a writing pad in her arms, stands before him. Michael, you are going home today she says in a warm cheery voice. He’s heard the speech a few times, patience has taught him to hold his whist, listen smile, be attentative, they all love that, thinking they are being listened to, over the years the advice worked. It’s amazing how people listen sometimes. They are half listening to a conversation going on before them, a woman enters the room, suddenly their sense of smell is activated, the hair, would I look good in that, is she too old for that, will I meet the new secretary for a drink, how do I get her to trust me, what stimulus can I use, you were saying Matron. Back in the now, the speech is near the end, he is waiting for the envelope and the emergency cash, good for a nights boozing. Alcohol though is not on his mind, probably on theirs, cynical.



Is this the walk of death, the feeling of going somewhere but not knowing where to at the say time, is this the meaning of an emuete, as the French would say. After you have seen too much, do you pick up the gun or pills. He is on the way to the communal dining room, a cup of tea and a slice of cake, he has been through the routine, they are part family he supposes, his old life a blur most of the times. He doesn’t want them to figure out why he loves breaking windows; the doctor even gave him a name, a pet name, Mr Glass he loves to hear things smash. Don’t hurry, what have you to do, he labours over the tea, charting the next two hours; a visit to the library would give him time to read the notices, he is searching for a message. It will appear in print, so the angel told him years before, you will go on a sage that will never end, and when you get to your destination, you will begin the process again, with all that you learned. How could he tell them of his quest, for the secret Island?


In the meantime, he needed a bed for the night to come, before it began again. It wasn’t raining. He had met many searchers on the trail, maybe this was the meaning of all those walks and pilgrimages, the process of continuous searching, flowing Spirits. One day you walk up truly enlightened, in the meantime, you are a desserted Island. Another cup of tea and he would be chasing the facilities elsewhere, the practicalities of the pilgrim he sighed, getting to his feet, ready for the quest to continue, amen.

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