Roadside Dilemma – Theo Banks

Lie, spit and snake along on one’s belly, forward, uphill, yet never nearing that damned infernal ceiling plane. Hyperactive paratactic salesmanship vehicles ram full bellies fuller, the gut ruptures, the whole structure quivers, the body erupts like a flower-bud then is quickly smelled out by marketeers, sold, and gobbled by some bigger maw.

A multitudinous vision has gripped the mass, a psychopompic rattling of chains, video rolling, We see with many eyes. A billion shitty cameras line the streets and fill parlours, automobiles and offices. Recording, transcribing, viewing, reviewing, analysing, tweaking, tweeting, little children with open mouths and shaking shoulders stare at the screen as rolls and rolls of endless meters of footage are blasted through projectors into their tiny gaping souls, shrivelling them like grapes in the sun. We have been born into and born to bear a seamless, senseless cacophony. To see is to become involved. To become intimate with. To eat; taste, chew on, swallow, digest – and then, shit out into the roaring chaos of the street.

Feet below me trip on themselves, no longer mine, catching against pleading paving-stones all full of cracks and mud-stains. Though they move at hardly more than an amplified shuffle their steps are graceless and untidy. I roll on the balls of those feet. Horror. Extremity presents itself in ever increasing volumes as I gaze through kaleidoscopes at the mess of activity, the Hive. Above my head and all about me, constantly dropping onto my curls like apples, streetcars spinning out of any control of their operators dive in all directions. Their paths intersect and wildly they swerve to avoid imminent head-on catastrophes, dancing away as flies who dodge the swatter at the instant before impact do. These pseudo-sleek lumps of metal and seeded ash dodging and diving and moving randomly but for scribbles all over the tarmac they run on and the indicative flashes, fifty or more times every second, of coloured LED circles which gaze down greedily from just out of reach, snorting deep inhales of the wasted time which fills the air, rising like a bad smell or smoke from the sack-laden imbeciles who trot along below or gurn out through windscreens and visors.

I trot too now, more evenly, steadily, fewer stumbles, though still I have no control over my movements. The stumps below me are puppets for now to a will I have rarely met, one which is careful and deliberate, short, sharp and precise. Too furtive though, too camera shy, and it feels – I feel sure – the onlooking audience of that sea of camera phones and camera watches, and camera pens, bags, trolleys, jackets and eyes! A lot of eyes. It does not appreciate their ceaseless gaze; it cannot feed on their thrill, their applause. I am trotting where I am hidden, ambling along edges, into corners, up lamp-posts and within the mirrored surfaces of glass-fronted stores. Anywhere I will not be seen – or at least: if seen, not recognised.

It is not difficult to hide in a city. How could one search for another in this mass? Not even St. Anthony could find a tree in a forest. This Hive swallows men up like the ocean. Never fear to be found in a swamp if you are a frog, your body warted, like bubbling mud. My feeling is a clear mirror though, and I felt myself sinking deeper away from view than one hiding, to be hidden could not be enough when one felt the ever-gaping eye of a lens on them. Seek and ye shall find – surely, but what worry was there in being merely found? To be recorded, however, committed to the eternal, internal memory of the digital album tremendum, physically embodied as a ghost in that void -​that​ even the gods must fear. That is surely why they have run away from here.

My mind is swimming with tadpoles and plankton and my eyes are full of colours which impend on me like sudden doom instantly succeeded by sudden doom. I cannot see myself in all these reflective sheets of glass and metal which pass me by, but I know I must be loping like a sick dog. The earth rolls slowly beneath me, like an inverted hamster wheel – though my pace has quickened to a half jog I know I am completely still, hanging static in the universe, so far from everything except what is so close I can’t help but touch it. And everything close repulses me. These last few weeks I have felt a continuous queasiness somewhere near the root of my spine. It rarely bothers me, but always I feel it. It is the closeness of the air, the acute sensation of my skin in contact with t​he other,​ the intermingling of what I am with what I am not, and more – the distinct sense that I have had the bad luck to find myself among the worst of it. Not only the things, the materials, but even the atoms which push and jostle to be close to me are, my feeling tells me, of the least quality, the lowest stock. They, who see me as a target, something to be fed off of – or worse, entered into – swarm around me with no regard to my wellbeing, no care for my health. Thus I am sickened by them, and made queasy. Worse, I am angered by them, by their blatant disinterest in my interests, by their raucous disturbance of my inner sanctity and by their horrid sin of uncleanliness.

A light comes on around me. Beams of sunlight, alien in the greyscape of the road, pierce the air from my back side. Tingling, my neck and spine warm with each step I take into my shadow. In winter we long for this star, and as spring rises our senses begin to whet in the anticipation of the coming regularity and intensity of our meetings with that far away rager.