Many people are not privileged enough to fully live in the present moment.
I’m one of them.
I have been working overtime again and I guess, I don’t even really care. It is not like anyone is waiting for me at home anyways. I won’t even take the shortest route home tonight. Riding a pushbike at night is probably one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities I can think of. In fact, from all the activities I can remember, cycling is the only activity than allows me to immerse into a meditative state. Of course, there is also the carefree empty-mindedness you have after a long night shift which I like to call “premature enlightenment”. One gotta love the relaxing humming sound the tires make on the freshly laid asphalt on Cejl. Combined with the smell of the street after the rain on a warm day and nostalgic childhood memories, this has to be one of the most satisfying sentiments there are.
After midnight, the streets are empty and you don’t have to worry about cars and traffic lights preventing you from going all out i.e. going full speed down the slope at the observatory and subsequently, racing down the street to Mendlovo. Occasionally, one would encounter some patrol cars and instinctively remove one of the earbuds to avoid an unpleasant conversation with the law enforcement representatives. Last time I got busted was two years ago in Oz for not wearing a helmet. I skillfully played the ignorant-foreigner-card and managed to avoid a fine. In the Czech Republic, the regulations don’t seem to be that strict, however, Brno cannot compete with Perth or Melbourne in terms of bike-friendly roads.
I look at my phone and realize it’s already half past eleven which is fine. On the other hand, my fridge is still empty and my only option would be the 24/7 Tesco at Královo Pole. God bless the self-checkout. A couple of water drops hit the plastic lenses of my glasses. The rain serves as a reminder of the slight throbbing knee pain I have been feeling since the mishap yesterday. I don’t want to brag but am actually quite skilled in the art of falling down without sustaining major injuries. The first time was also on a rainy night and involved high gear speeding and slippery tram tracks.
I lock my bike outside as my paranoia kicks in and I realize that there is no efficient way of locking the thing without getting at least one part stolen. You have probably experienced that at least once - a locked bike missing the front wheel or the saddle. The most expensive part is usually the frame itself, so there are not many options left how to lock the pushy. Inside I take a look around. At this time, there are not many people around, at least not during regular work days. As far as I remember, I have always had trouble to fall asleep at night. Night dwellers like me feel mostly awake and productive at night, and mainly useless in the mornings till late afternoons.
One might ask what a person suffering from sleep disorder can actually do at night, except cooking soap and running an underground boxing club. To be honest, there are not many opportunities to do certain activities at all. There are neither any swimming pools which run 24/7, nor any other sports activities available at night. Some time ago, I was jogging at Lužánky or went to watch the last movie at the cinema. Recently, I feel tired. I lost all motivation to exercise and most of the time I just repeat the same dumb activity which I perfected at work - spending nights staring at my 17-inch desktop monitor. At least I do not expect different results, Mr. Einstein.
What do I actually need? I am the pragmatic type. I cannot remember if I ever had an efficient shopping experience without planning ahead. I guess one can always take some bread. And if stick to the basics, like milk and eggs, I will not end up going home empty-handed. I see a familiar face at the self-checkout. The lady who seems to be in her late 40’s throws a bored look at me. Not the most pleasant low-wage job I guess, but at least almost no responsibility whatsoever.
It’s raining cats and dogs, my knee hurts again. I cannot find the key to unlock my bike. I check my pockets and my backpack at least five times. There it is, the familiar feeling of anxiety. At least, this time, it is not the wallet. The common drawbacks of having not much sleep are short attention span and low situational awareness. To my surprise, no one is in the store any longer. I could swear I saw some customers like 15 minutes ago. The lady at the self-checkout vanished as well. I’m getting more nervous than I should. The fact that I hardly speak the local language and that I cannot remember whether I have a spare key do not provide a boost in motivation either. A sweep through the now empty store is without success and I’m outside again staring at the dark empty sky. It is just a half-an-hour walk from here. I remember Hagakure and that there is something to be learned from a rainstorm. The corners of my mouth lift and I start walking.
In the blink of an eye I’m unlocking the door to my apartment. “Tadaima!” No response. Sleep mode. I hit the enter key and two seconds later I stare at my desktop. Let’s check the messenger. The only green light is next to Simon’s name. Nerd, figures. Obviously, he had the same idea and I read:
“Dude wtf. no work today?” (1:07 a.m.)
We both don’t like small talk, so I type:
- “U know it’s not exactly an intellectually stimulating job, got wire-cutters?” (1:08 a.m.)
- “Nope, why?” (1:08 a.m.)
-“Gotta steal my own bike.” (1:08 a.m.)
-“Lol...that’s a good one. No, srsly why?” (1:08 a.m.)
- “Dude, I just told ya.” (1:09 a.m.)
- “Whatever Mr. troll. We both know that after ur accident ur pushy was 86’d and scrapped.” (1:10 a.m.)
Simon is misinformed, how would he know.
The room is quite dark, and even sort of gloomy. All I can see is the reflection of the framed photograph on the wall. There are Simon and me and some other folks I hardly remember. I cannot read the clock on the wall, even when squinting. Anyways, got to put the groceries into the fridge. As I move downstairs, the pain gets more intense and I can hardly grab the railing to regain balance. I live in one of those two-story flats. The bed and the computer are located upstairs, kitchen and bathroom are one the ground floor. When I grab the handle of the fridge door I get this familiar feeling of being separated from my body, as if I watch myself from the side. This body-soul-desync is followed by a surprise. I see an egg carton and a milk box on the top shelf. I stopped putting things on the top shelves a while ago and I cannot even remember why. Well, better safe than sorry, I guess. I chuck another box of eggs and the fresh milk onto the bottom shelf and close the door.
The notification light on my phone is blinking. Who would’ve guessed, it‘s Simon. “Heya m8, I know ur still up. It’s Friday n8 and there’s a DnB session @ Faval, lets meet there and talk about that wire-cutters thing.” My clothes are damp and I feel a little cold. Whatever I do next, a shower comes first. As usually, I am sitting down in the shower. That way, it is more relaxing and water splashes less around. There was another reason which I don’t remember. The warm water eases up the muscles and the pain goes away. Simon is perhaps the only real friend I have. I have known him since primary school. We have served together and even ended up working in the same city. Finding work for expats is relatively easy here, prerequisite being that your English proficiency is somewhat half decent. Imagine how many people you can actually call in the middle of the night and ask them for a favor or help. It’s not like I ever really did it but I guess you get the gist. Sometimes we call for help and don’t even realize it.
The temperature outside dropped slightly. I am heading south along the old railway tracks next to the rivulet. Despite the fog and persistent rain steadily drumming on my rain jacket visor and my glasses, I can still make out the outlines of the Siemens factory across. At the next bridge I should turn right, I guess, towards the center. The oppressive and somewhat haunting atmosphere slowly disperses as I approach and pass Vaňkovka. Suddenly, familiar anxiety raises up from within. The same thought I had back at the department store invades my mind – where are all the people? I pick up the pace and can’t actually believe what I am thinking. I am mindful and aware of my feelings and thoughts and therefore able to control them, am I not? When I am angry and I become aware of the feeling, I can accept it and switch it off. Why can’t I simply switch off fear now, even if I realize it’s just an emotion? Emotions come and go, they are not real. I am in control, as they are merely a product of my mind. Recurring knee pain. How far is it to the club?
I feel tension in my stomach when I grab the door handle. It’s the perfect dance music and the familiar 420-smell that actually make me open the door. A young man sits on a chair and is texting someone. I take off my rain jacket and hand over a 200Kč note. I get 50 back and the event stamp, business as usual…
Intrusive lightning, raving people on a mid-size dance floor. Simon is sitting in the left-hand corner staring at his notebook. Another young man, seemingly intoxicated, is sitting across from him, bending Simon’s ear. I approach the occupied table and don’t really know what to do. Simon bends over the table and looks at his confused neighbor, who stops talking immediately. “All right man, take a hike.” Simon continues staring at the young man, until the perplexed unwanted guest gets up and stumbles towards the bar.
- “Sit down buddy, want a beer?”
- “Nah, I’m good, you know I don’t like it.”
- “You don’t know why we are here.” Gotta love Simon, dude’s direct and straight to the point. “If you knew, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Panem et circenses?” is the best I can come up with. Now, I am experiencing a déjà vu.
One gotta admit, the drops are beast. Who can blame the people who simply enjoy themselves, dance all night and to live in the present moment. I can’t recall the last time I felt that, if you can call that a feeling. Simon is not done:
-“We are here because you are not able to let go. You have always been a try-hard. We both know that, don’t even try to deny it. I have to admit that your level of denial is somewhat extraordinary”.
-“Are we going through the accept-yourself-and-let-go-of-the-past-routine?”
- “Knowing ain't enough mate, you gotta apply it. You can read a certain truth over and over again but as long as it does not come from yourself and becomes your own truth, the book remains useless. I’m not sure, whether your strategy to pretend to be someone else long enough, until you actually become someone else, is bearing any fruit. In the end, the only person who can save you from yourself is you. But I still think we are making great progress.”
-“Is that so? What about that double standards issue? To start with yourself…”
-“That’s right, you got the point, but it does not apply to me any longer, and you know why. And you also know the reason behind the extreme knee pain you are experiencing right now.”
Shivers. Cold sweat running down my spine. Numbing pain. I am afraid to look down but I know I have to.
-“Has been a pleasure to see you again, mate. You know I really would like to help you more, but I cannot. A projected memory can be only so powerful. As long as you do not reach the next step all by yourself, we will be stuck in this loop for a while. Don’t forget, it wasn’t your fault. I really hope we won’t see each other again.”
The phantom pain eases off as I turn around.
The phone clock on the wheelchair indicates 4:19. Work starts at 7.