By Mubashir Noor (azurite)
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It is a beauteous evening, calm and free
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
It was an odd time to remember Wordsworth. It was odder still that his mind had wandered to that particular piece, as if to feign opaqueness to what it perceived around itself. The cold-biting winds that threatened to battle-scar his face hardly shared affinity with the visions of his mind’s eye. George Best often withdrew into what he called the voluntary rejection of his reality. In that state, he was no longer a one whole; rather his meta-physical state parted with his flesh and bones arbitrated existence and tapped into the reservoir of emotions of the Creator himself. During these periods of being ‘spaced-out’ as his highly amused friends encapsulated it, he felt himself sitting inside a dense shell that was his body and looking out at the world through translucent goggles that were his eyes, not unlike astronauts inside their cumbersome attire. Unlike them however, the battle was not survival in alien surroundings but surviving increasing human indifference in the face of an increasingly suffocated world that was just as alien as the gaseous nebulas of another solar system. His wife just thought he was being escapist.
It was no secret then that Sergeant George Best didn’t like his beat. A boy used to as organic an alarm clock as catching the glint of the sun’s early rays to wake up could hardly make do with the Northwesterly sun’s insistence at being continually absent without leave. The dull, drab gray emboldened in bold strokes upon the concrete skyline of the area seemed in perverted homage to the heavens above. The maudlin atmosphere there as a result cast a silhouette of despondency that George thought seeped through the entire populace. He turned around yet another corner leading to the end of yet another night in his life, trying to immerse himself in the happier thoughts of his childhood back home in the central plains; trying deliberately to keep out the voices the wind seemed to carry about itself, that somewhere in his mind he felt he should pay heed to…
…In the eerie silence of that frigid night, it seemed to 8-year old Tommy as if everyone had suddenly decided to eavesdrop on his little world. They had made a concerted effort to stop doing whatever they usually did at that particular time and join him as the audience on his very own show. The thought made him momentarily forget why he lay underneath his bed, teddy bear clutched tightly to his chest in anticipation; and the distant agitated voices he hid from. But the diversion was fleeting. Reality came crashing back, flooding his senses with the now-familiar deadweight. Tommy just couldn’t explain why it was so ominously quiet that night. After all, this wasn’t the first winter the world had ever seen.
If Tommy had been a Broadway play, he would have met with eminent success. His screenplay would have appealed to that broad spectrum of society that has long since lost its ability to mimic primal human emotions like sadness and elation, yet finds comfort in the evidence of its own humanity by watching the heart-felt creations of one of its stereo-typed misfits. His parents might not realize it but every new episode of this un-ending saga only served to mark new imprints on an already pockmarked soul. Each day, he willed himself to muster the courage to walk out of the ‘safe-zone’ that was his room and venture out to inquire to both individuals who were supposed to be his family, why they made each other go through this? What made his mom bear all the spite and apathy when common sense demanded she wish him to hell? His resolve would grow stronger with every question he put to himself before the intensity of the arguments outside his room would reach its zenith and he would back down. ‘Not this one time’, he decided as he crawled from underneath the bed and quietly tiptoed over to the door, the voices outside growing louder with every step. Yet he did not stop, his conviction nurtured by a distressed voice inside that kept screaming that he had to do it…
...George Best went about his duty with the usual stupor; hands in pockets to shield from the howling wind, he completed the 4th round of the blocks of buildings that constituted his beat. Each time he saw the same building again unraveled yet another etched facet of its decadence.“ They should bulldoze these damned brimstone abominations”! , He reflected, “They hardly add to the scenery, not that it couldn’t do with some additions”! He was now also aware of a distinct crackle interspersed with static. It sounded as if someone had gone home and left their portable radio lying in the snow for him to find and bless them for providing some much needed distraction. Trying to disprove the theory that no two snowflakes are alike was hardly a tasking exercise for all but the imbecile mind. But where was it coming from? Seemingly from nearby, yet could it be the wind up to its old tricks again? This last unsure note found him on the sidewalk of the northeastern-most building of the block, where the ellipse of his daily rounds of duty ended only to begin almost immediately the instant he took a right turn. And like every other day he took it, noticing that a high- frequency noise had taken the place of the static bouncing about in the wind. Instinctive police training made him quicken his steps. Stink as it may, duty was after all duty and he had his wife and kid to think about.
…The commotion that greeted him two blocks from where he stood a couple of minutes ago was something out of the ordinary; something far removed from the perpetual monotone of this generally overcast neighborhood. The scene, which he perceived to be the climax of whatever had unfolded here, was characterized by the flailing arms of a woman emanating from the window of a police car, an occupied stretcher being ensconced inside an ambulance and the desperate efforts of a little child to get free from the female cop who held him and run towards his mother. Though he couldn’t hear the exact exchange of words, George felt he didn’t need audio to fill in these particular blanks. As he drew nearer, he caught the eye of one of the patrolmen on duty, who immediately gestured him over, heaving a sigh of relief that the local dog was around to help clean up things behind him. The patrol cars were soon wailing away into the night while George set about to wrap up the day’s work by following Standard Police Procedure # 167-C. He could almost see the sub-editors gleefully scoring another one for the city in the column marked ‘faceless dysfunctionality’. It was an anathema that grave psychological repercussions to human beings could be mercilessly summarized in a few sentences of black and white and forever confined to the annals of society as crime # so and so. All just to sell pity.
3 days later…
George didn’t particularly like Jim, and frankly if it hadn’t been for the fact that he had the best root beer around, George would have been hard-pressed to find a reason to go to ‘The Brioche’ at all. He struggled with the overbearing nature of Jim’s sermons on his own particular brand of morality, not only because he mostly disagreed but also because Jim became overblown with them and that bugged him. George opened the door of The Brioche for the umpteenth time and walked in. He could think of better places to spend the one-hour before his duty, but Jim aside, the place had a curious sense of belonging that appealed to him. Now if only Jim would get lost….
“Hey there Jerry boy! How’s the life in blue”? , Hollered Jim, as he took a break from the middle of his rant and fixed his beady eyes on George, who sat down two stools to the left of where Jim was having his daily state of the union address. “ Not bad”, George replied quietly.
“The usual then”?
“Yea, guess so”.
“You look out of it”, commented the ever-observant barman, eyes still affixed towards George.
“ You must be, with all the stuff that’s been happening around your beat. By the way, have you read the papers today”? “Like mother like son eh “? He thrust a much-crumpled newspaper towards George that must have been through a hell of a lot considering that it was just 12 hours old, pointed to a headline in an inner page and went back to his congregation.
George felt his ears starting to ring because of the continuum of clinking glasses, random noise and Jim’s booming laughter but wasn’t sure whether that was the real reason. He read through the page-long article and laid down the paper on the counter. It seemed to him as if he had just read the summary of 2 years of his wife’s complaints, frequently ignored phone calls of his son’s school principal and countless invitations that went something like ‘… to grace this occasion with their presence’. He got up, oblivious to the fact that his root beer lay untouched, and sped out of the place. Where everyday he took a turn to the right to get on the pathway leading to his beat, he decided a change of direction was necessary to reflect a change of heart; and went straight down the road towards the twinkling lights of the neighborhood toy store. Unbeknown to him, his inner clock had finally ticked past high noon.