In a world as fraught with complexities as this one is, why would you be anything else?
There is strength in all of us.
Feel that strength, that courage, that motivation inside you.
Channel that into your everyday life.
If you can be anything in this world, be nice.
His dreams had been random, mixed, drifting dangerously close to nightmares, but intense enough to seem safe.
He dragged himself out of his slumber, sitting up slowly and self-consciously, reaching for his glasses and the cigarettes on his nightstand – putting the first on and lighting the second as he swung his feet off the bed and onto the floor.
As usual, the dream had had a rhythm to it. A pulsing feeling, deep inside of him that he still couldn’t shake.
His phone buzzed. One message, three words:
“WHERE ARE YOU?”
Marching through town, his body still waking up, his brain demanded the extra kick caffeine gave that nicotine always failed to. But there was no time for that; even as he passed the cafe he’d always visited in the past, he knew that, with its door barred, he would have to wait.
It was still odd to see all of the shops closed, all of the doors locked and shuttered, closed against an enemy they couldn’t see, couldn’t fight. Years back the very same windows had been smashed, the shops set on fire, but that enemy had been real, physical, visible.
Now the deserted streets stood as testament to something nobody could fight, so the people shrunk back within themselves, within their homes, vulnerable and scared.
Life still had a part to play, of course, and quite literally “while the cat’s away, the mouse will play”. With no people on the streets, wildlife started to take a hold.
“Shit,” he cried out, jumping as a cat jumped out in front of him.
It was amazing to see birds, squirrels, foxes, badgers, deer on the streets, just not when he wasn’t expecting them to appear so suddenly.
The cat, seemingly pleased the success of its game, mewed and turned back down the alley, searching for some other foe to jump out on or play with.
His phone buzzed again.
“YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE!!”
He begrudged the capital letters, but appreciated the sentiment. He had promised her this one thing, to be on time for this one single appointment, and he now ran the real risk of missing it.
She had begged his help with this. He’d failed his sister so many times before that he felt guilty at letting her down once again.
It was just an appointment, just an hour out of his day, but it meant going to the one place he wanted to avoid. The one place he dreaded. It was stupid, he knew, but he would often walk three or four streets out of his way to ensure he didn’t pass that place.
He didn’t know why he hated – or feared – it. Logically he had no reason to; the people there had only ever wanted to help him, but he saw that as a failure, even though it meant the bravest thing he would ever do.
And now, after all this time, he was heading there, straight into the lion’s den.
The first time was when he was barely more than a child. All ripped jeans and a mop of blonde hair, it had been the place he had sought sanctuary when their parents had died.
Within those four walls, he was no longer an orphan, he wasn’t pitied, coo-ed over, he was just, well, a normal teenager. His mates were there, and they talked and laughed and joked as they always had done. They listened to music, played games in the same way as everyone else, and that allowed his grief to be forgotten, if only for a few hours.
But then, on that June evening, it had changed. Changed irreparably. Forever and ever, amen.
It hadn’t been his fault, not really. Not that he could remember, anyway.
And that had been the problem. He couldn’t remember. Couldn’t recall how he had suddenly found himself with blood down his favourite tee-shirt, cradling his friend’s limp body in his arms.
When they found the two of them, crouched together in the alley behind that building, he genuinely couldn’t recollect how they had got there, what had happened to his best friend, best mate, best buddy. Couldn’t remember his own name.
Psychological trauma resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder was how they had described it. An event so devastating that his brain had shut down and hidden the incident from him.
His brain had placed that evening in a wooden box, locked it, and buried it deep within itself so that he could carry on as normal, move past it, heal physically and, eventually, get on with his life.
Mundane, ordinary things became his thing; school was all but out, so he didn’t return; chores became his routine instead, and he had gained so strong a focus for him that he shut everything else out.
He never went back there, of course, and his mates, who had been their mates, stayed away following their parents’ warnings, or simply dropped away after his constant refusal to interact with them.
He became a loner and avoided socialising wherever and whenever possible. He had no recollection of that night, but he knew deep down that he was safer on his own, and had a sense that other people were safer without him.
But, with the unswerving help and support of his sister, he moved on, slowly but surely, step by step.
Then the news he’d not anticipated. News of that place. That refuge that had become his dread. The demolition was close, and he was late for it.
Something a bit brighter for these crazy times.
Colour seemed to unleash a lot in those who have submitted this time around, so enjoy!
Name: Cooking-Post Nerd
Location: United Kingdom
Note: I managed to escape from my kitchen and made it out into the garden. Nature has moved on while humanity has paused, and the April sunshine has brought the plants and flowers out. I love lilac, and this starburst of a shot, with a really narrow depth of field, is my submission this month!
Name: Killing Time With A Camera … (https://steviegill.wordpress.com/)
Location: Queen Street East, Toronto
Note: A few weeks ago, someone started placing colourful plastic flowers on benches, lampposts, etc in our neighbourhood. I have no idea what the significance of this is, whether it’s related to spring, Easter, or perhaps as a symbol of hope during these trying times. Anyway, this fabulous plastic rose is attached to a community noticeboard that I pass on my way to the Valu-Mart (got to love North America!), and seeing it adds a little splash of colour and also a sense of mystery to my day!
Name: Postcard Cafe https://postcardcafe.wordpress.com
Location: Hunters Bar, Sheffield
Note: This long exposure shot was taken while shooting a night time ‘9 in 45’ (click the link if you wish to know more about 9 in 45). The location of this shot was determined not by me but by the rules of 9 in 45! A long exposure introduced the colour trails of passing cars and a quick edit in Photoshop isolated them and the grass verge from the rest of the shot. Both the presence and absence of colour in the one image. I like the minimal aspect of the composition and the colours between the gate posts on the left hand side, which look like someone has stretched some plastic sheeting across!
Name: Cap Does Craft
Location: Attercliffe, South Yorkshire
Note: This shot is of the Gripple factory in Attercliffe. They are a wonderful, forward thinking, innovative company and the design of their building reflects how they do things differently. This is a small section of one of their buildings. Without the colour and reflective elements to the windows this could just be a grey industrial building which might not be given a second glance. The colour is what lifts this image to something far more interesting.
Location: Taunton, Somerset
Note: Again, while curating this post, I became very conscious that I had not really connected to what I was going to include. On my one-a-day I have still been taking photos, but nothing really leapt out at me. So, I have dug a bit deeper with this one, looking pre-lockdown, and my first visit to the (now) local town of Taunton. One one street corner, a hoarding hiding a patch of disused land, is this piece of street art. It leapt out at me as a potential photograph, and, with a slight tweak here and there, it soon matched this month’s theme.
Name: Doctor Ken, Gin Sop
Note: A sign of our times that caught my eye. Still, it’s a splash of colour in a seemingly endless grey…