There was a glitch in the code today. A hiccup in reality.
And no-one noticed but me.
It hit me like a tic, a twitch of the eye. A silent stutter amid the jammering, hammering of everyday. A misstep of a mind on the edge of sleep, just before falling too deep into myself in the swaying motion of the morning commute.
It brought me rushing to the surface with a sharp sigh, looking around and wondering if I was the only one to feel it. I saw nothing in the strap-hangers and earbudded nodding dogs bouncing to their internal riffs. No missed beat. No chord change. Not even a new narrative.
Just blank looks and preservation, the tools that get us through our day, to earn us a right to say that we’ve done our bit, made a contribution, mattered.
Collaboration is our default setting. We assimilate, isolate, congregate, denigrate. Annihilate The Other to make The Whole stronger, and abandon the dregs to see their hopes and minds shattered on the hard city streets.
A disconnect. That’s what I felt. A detachment from the hive mind, a glancing butterfly wingbeat of empathy with The Other. The enemy. The thing we fear the most. Them.
Just a flutter of emotion, faint but powerful enough to bring the careful construct crashing down like a pile of wooden bricks.
I know my place, I always have. Somewhere right in the middle, maybe a little higher. Just enough to offer the illusion of the individual, while holding up the façade.
But if I was to step outside, would it feel the strain, or remain? And what’s in my name, when we’re all the same. Am I Stella, or Hope, or just plain Jayne?
Does anybody know, anybody care? Is there anybody out there? In that place we think there’s order, solid as a rock, strong even to squash the mocking mutters of the underworld and pretend it just isn’t there.
Stepping off the train, and felt it again. More than a twitch now, like a rough hand brushing against my cheek, enough to give me a peek into the shadows and tune into the whispers getting louder. Vibrating with emotion, stripped of devotion to the glue that binds us all.
The crowd waiting to ride the stairs moved wordlessly towards open air. No second glances, no raised brows. Could I really be the only one to feel the pull to the other side? Was it there for them all, just smothered by fear that it would wreck their comfort zone like an angry teen trashing their bedroom in a tantrum?
Riding up to the light, I looked up into an urgent laser gaze of another heading down. A glancing connection, a shock of recognition, an unspoken knowing. In the time it took for our paths to cross on twin escalators, a minute warning shake of the head stopped me from crying out, flying out of my proper place to scream out, to shout
Nothing is real, you’ve got to feel.
Forget 'Keep calm and carry on'.
We’re all ticking mind bombs.
Wake up and smell the garbage.
Of course, I didn’t. It was just too big, too scary, too…. everything, to step out of my slot and into the outcasts.
So, I screwed in my earplugs, tuned in to the community hum and drowned out the coda throbbing from the dark corners. I’m a creature of the light, after all, a responsible citizen with rights and responsibilities, a duty to do and a role to play.
I offered my wrist to the scanner as I entered the Square and dared to hope no-one there picked up the high notes of my fleeting rebellion. I smiled my automaton smile, walked on, and prayed that they would (please) forget my name.