There’s this bell that starts ringing when the bucket is nearly full. It’s a huge bucket, massive, and it sits on top of the kids play area at the pool. It fills up then it tips, white water crashing down onto everything below and before it’s full this bell starts ringing, getting faster as it gets closer to tipping point. My daughter’s still too small, so I took her up in my arms and went to the spot just beneath the bucket, a point where the water won’t hit you, and I told her to get ready – Are you ready? Yeah. Are you sure? Yeah. Then the water crashed down all around us, a cone of liquid, just her and I inside. She flinched and ducked into me, then peeked out and watched the walls flowing down around us. Smiled those little white teeth.
I used to see her at the train station, waiting on the steel bench seats, headphones on, reading a book. I used to see her and wish she’d look up or that she might get on the carriage and sit near, but she was always just waiting. One night in the winter I got off at her station and she was there. Breath puffing clouds up through the streetlight and I walked over, her in a beanie and gloves and reading a book and I sat down on the bench seat, waited. I was all pimples and bad hair, I know I wasn’t anything, but I hoped that something might happen, that there might be some reason for us to talk.
‘Cold isn’t it?’ I said, but I said it so quiet that no one would have heard and then I could hear a muffled hi-hat whispering from beneath her beanie and I sucked in a breath through my teeth. Wringing hands in the pocket of my hoodie. Who was I? I thought. She was wearing black jeans and boots and I was too scared to look up any higher than that and she lit a cigarette, the smell filling the air all around and I turned to the smell and she was looking right at me. Eyes painted black. Staring.
‘What are you doing?’ She asked.
‘Oh me, oh, nothing.’
‘Why are you sitting here?’
‘Oh, I just sat… sorry.’
‘No, don’t be sorry, but there’s seven other seats all down the platform and no one else around, just wondering why you chose to sit there.’
‘Oh…’ I had nothing. ‘I didn’t really think about it, I just sat down.’
She held her stare as she took a long drag, let it leak out her mouth, trailing into the night.
‘What train are you waiting for?’ She asked.
‘Ah, the next one.’
‘When is it?’
‘I don’t know, it’s coming soon I’m pretty sure…’ I leaned forward to see the TV screens.
‘You don’t even know.’ She smiled, her eyes narrowed. ‘You have no idea about the train, do you?’
‘Oh, I don’t know exactly, but…’ I faded, kept looking for the detail on the TV screens, couldn’t make it out. She moved into my line of sight, here eyes moving all round my face.
‘Come on,’ She said, and she stood up, pulled her ear phones out from under her beanie. ‘Come with me.’ She held out her hand.
We walked along the footpath in the night, out through the park and past the abandoned playground. We walked along the flow of headlights washing past and the fast food stores and service stations all buzzing through the darkness and she lead the way up a hill, feet slipping on the grass. She pulled me up to the top. It was an overpass, a footbridge over the traffic. Four lanes of cars flashing back and forth beneath. She sat right up at the edge, her legs dangling over the side, pulled my hand to come down and join her. We watched the lights zipping beneath our shoes, so close. I could feel the rush of the trucks humming through my feet.
‘Sometimes I just come here.’ She said. ‘And I just sit here for hours watching. The lights flowing through.’ She was looking out, her hair flickering in the gusts. ‘If you close your eyes you can pretend like you’re the one who’s moving, the noise and the flow rushing by beneath as you glide along.’ She closed her eyes, put her arms out ahead of herself like Superman. She turned to me, smiling. ‘Do it.’ She said. I closed my eyes, pretended to fly. Imagined the still cars and trucks flashing underneath. It was an odd sensation, a trick of the mind. It did feel like you were moving. Flying. I opened my eyes.
‘It’s cool, right?’ She said. I nodded, closed my eyes again.
‘It’s cool.’ I said.
‘I’ve seen you.’ She told me. ‘I see you on the train all the time. I’ve always hoped you might get off at my station.’ And the flying sensation filled through me. The shadows moving across her face in the passing headlights. ‘For some reason I thought you might like this.’ She told me.
People say that if you put a sea shell up to your ear, that you can hear the rushing of the ocean. The waves rushing up the sand then back out. But you can’t. What you hear is your memories. Sea sounds washing round inside your head. Cold edges of the shell pushed up against skin.
He can remember the softness of her eyes when she’d washed off her make-up, the curve of her spine up against his chest. The pops of her lips touching along his neck. He can remember watching her face when she didn’t know he was looking, strands of hair playing across her face in the sunset. These are the things. The details fading over time. He can’t figure how to keep them.
Put an ear to his chest and you won’t hear these things in his heart. What you’ll hear is just an empty shell. Lost at sea.
It was peak hour traffic, crammed into the three lane roadway. It was raining heavy, the screeches of the windscreen wipers like screws tightening further and further. He switched lanes to avoid the traffic lights, where the right turning cars halted the thoroughfare and he pulled out and accelerated past then another car pulled out in front of him and he jammed on the breaks. The seatbelt choked against his chest and he sat up and raised his hands, looking at the car’s rear view mirror. The silhouette of the driver held up his middle finger over the shoulder of his seat, then accelerated off. He gripped the steering wheel and scraped the gearstick into first, rammed the accelerator to the floor.
He got up as close as he could behind the other car, a yellow car with a large sticker across the dark tinted back window. He chased, his right hand on the wheel as his left hand searched in the back seat and he looked over into the back seat, then back at the road, then into the back seat again. He gripped his hand round the rifle muzzle, hidden under an oil smelling old blanket. The yellow car stopped at the traffic lights and he pulled up close behind and pushed the gear stick into neutral and cranked the handbrake then he opened his door and rushed out to the other car. He fired a shot at the driver’s side window, burst the tinted glass like a bubble, then he fired again, like a camera flash inside the yellow car. Then he fired again. A woman in the passenger seat of a car in the next lane screamed, smacked the door lock down hard as she could, leaning towards the middle of the car. He rushed back to his car and lifted the gun over the front seats and put the car back in gear. The lights switched to green and he rammed the yellow car into the intersection and peeled off onto the left hand turn and accelerated away.
The right lane moved slowly, cars continuing past, shattered glass spilt onto the bitumen. People looked in, then covered their mouths. Other drivers had got out, were standing around and leaning down to see into the yellow car. Then they covered their mouths too.
The man and the woman sit across from each other at the cafe table. There’s a storm outside, they’ve stopped in to avoid the rain and while they’re there they’re drinking coffee and waiting. The man reads a newspaper, the edges damp and shaded. The woman looks at the man, smiles.
‘Do you know poetry?’ She asks.
‘I know of it.’
‘No, but do you know any?’
The man doesn’t look up from his paper.
‘Poetry.’ The woman says.
‘No. I don’t know any.’
The woman watches his face as he reads, his eyes moving across the words. She looks out to the rain, the headlights of the cars washing by. Dark clouds pulled across the sky like a blanket, a cubby house from when she was a kid, over the whole world. She looks back to the man, touches the back of his hand on the newspaper. His fingers wrap over hers.
One of the hardest things, for me, is staying creative. That’s why I have to try and write 1000 words a day, to keep my creative mind open, so I can continue to see opporunities in every day life, every day things. It’s easier to ignore that imaginative side, just get on with reality, but when you’re doing something creative, you have to keep it open as best you can. I do this by watching films, reading books, writing as much as I can – sometimes making visual art pieces like the one pictured. I’ve heard that ‘1000 words a day’ target mentioned by many writers over the years, and it is true – the more you push yourself, the more you’ll find the words will come to you. There’s always hard points, times where things just won’t work no matter what you do, but writing every day, keeping that creative part of the brain active, it definitely helps.
‘As a kid I used to dream about being put in the bins, escaping from things, without my mum knowing she’d put me out in the bins. So I’m in a black plastic bag outside a building, and hearing the rain against it, but feeling alright, and just wanting to sleep, and a truck would take me away.’ – Will Bevan, aka ‘Burial’