‘Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.’
The state of things as they are, or appear to be, rather than as one might wish them to be.
That which exists, independent of human awareness.
The definition of reality.
What about, that which exists, which is dependent upon human awareness? Ghosts and ghouls, tricks of the mind? The state of things as they appear to be, opposed to how they may appear to you.
When we each read the same story finding different meanings, we need to question what is real.
I know life is what it is but do you ever have the feeling that something is going to happen? You feel the pieces finally come together and form the image you have waited to see for a lifetime. I could feel it coming now, like a reoccurring dream I had forgotten, buried deep within me, part of me.
It was a quiet night, by Melbourne standards. There was no need to force my way through crowds. I wondered where everyone could be: Apart from the usual drunks and homeless, the streets were deserted. I walked down Saint Genet Lane listening to the echo of my own footsteps in the emptiness of the alleyway. I was about a block away from the No Exit bar when I heard the shouting. “Get out of here!”, and as if the bar itself was sick and had thrown him up, there, sprawled on the footpath was Rob.
A bouncer stood in the doorway, arms folded. I’m sure he is nicknamed Tank or Fridge or some other object difficult to move.
“Don’t come back”. The bouncer said. It was a level tone but you could hear it. He was tempting Rob to try, daring him, and desperately wanting a reason to rough Rob up again.
“Go to hell”. Rob spat without looking up. He was running his fingers inside his lip checking for blood.
“Already there”. Sensing his prey defeated the bouncer turned and let the door slam behind him. I never understood the title bouncer. Not the verb I would use to describe their profession, the majority hardly seem like jolly, light-footed people.
“Alright Rob get up off the ground.” I pulled Rob up level with me. He staggered, and then held his own weight, just in time to see two young girls turn the corner. “How’s it goin’ ladies? Hey, where ya goin?” Rob slurred. His smug voice thankfully reserved only for ‘the ladies’. They smiled and gave us a one second evaluation without breaking stride.
Rob the eternal ladies’ man and party boy. “Enough of that. You can barely stand man. you’re not chasing anything tonight. Let’s get going.”
I led him in the direction of the station, grateful it was only two blocks. There would be no need to catch a tram and have Rob interact with anyone else. I’d known Rob as long as I can remember and I´d been looking out for him most of that time. Still to this day I never know what he is going to do from one moment to the next.
“You couldn’t wait for me to get here. I didn’t even get a drink in and now I have to carry your sorry arse home. Doesn’t seem fair does it?” I said it as a joke but I was agitated, I never asked Rob for much.
“Does baby want his bottle?” Rob asked condescendingly.
“I wouldn’t be calling anyone else a baby.” I was going to add that I feed him and give him a place to stay. There was even the time he shit his pants. How baby-like do you have to be not to know when you need the toilet. But I let it go.
“Hey what would it mean to you, to know that everything moves in circles?”
“Why are you singing that song? More importantly, why are you singing at all?” I asked. Rob had a terrible voice, scratchy, almost like a pubescent boy.
“It was the last song on at the bar; and I have a beautiful singing voice. Your mum says I do anyways. Going on idol next year,” he replied.
“Sure mate.” I said laughing.
We made it to the station without any of Rob’s remarks being heard by their intended targets. Slumping Rob on the nearest seat I could find,
I let out a lung full of air and caught my breath, I was exhausted. “Ok, relax, got about 10 minutes till the train comes. No mouthing off.” I said.
“Ok daddy,” Rob replied in a childish tone.
Waiting further down the platform, a fellow passenger was watching us without breaking his stare. He was dirty, maybe even homeless.
The sight of him reminded me of my gap year abroad. That existential period we all go through in our late teens. Who am I? What is my purpose? Before the world crushes our spirit and sends us home to our mothers. I didn’t wash for weeks at a time. It´s funny, this station is where I started my trip all those years ago.
He stood and approached us slowly but surely. By the time he reached us we were aware of his presence. With a smile he asked, “How many traumas have we suffered?” gesturing at the state of Rob.
“Crazy hobo says what?” Rob shouts, laughing at his own joke. The man heard but didn’t visibly react.
“Sorry what?” I replied trying to ignore Rob, hoping this stranger would do the same. Looking from Rob to me, he asked. “What do you think of me?” Apparently Robs comment had hit a nerve.
“Shower couldn’t hurt.” Rob fires, still laughing.
I shrugged, looking down at my shoes. “I don’t know.” I said, lost for words. I was trying to humor the stranger for the sake of keeping the peace. I was not in the mood to get into a fight because of Robs mouth.
“If you see a man walking without shoes, what do you think?”
“Get that man some shoes!” Rob burst out. Nothing could be funnier to him at this moment than himself.
“I don’t know. I guess he can´t afford shoes.” I said.
The stranger´s brow became knotted. “Not that he likes to feel the earth under his feet? Or that he may have broken his shoe. It happens to women all the time, a broken heel. I broke a thong once, had to walk barefoot, carried them with me until I found a bin. It´s funny, people stared as if it was the strangest thing I could do. Wasn’t like I just had one thong on, or I was wearing them on my ears or anything.” I waited for one of those maniacal laughs reserved only for witches and evil villains but he let out a light chuckle. He paused. “I’ve been travelling a long time I’ve learnt sometimes a little perspective goes a long way.”
The stranger put out his hand. “I’m J-P.” I shook it. He didn’t bother to try the same with Rob.
“That’s Rob, I’m Russ.”
“Russ is named after Kurt Russell cos of Snake Plissken. That eighties movie. Gave his mum a hardcore boner. A MUMBONER!”
“Thanks for that Rob.”
“No worries, wouldn’t mind giving your mum a boner myself.” Rob said making obscene gestures with his hands and tongue.
“You got some major mother issues man.”
“Rob and Russ the snake. O’ Rob, O’ Russ. Quite the coincidence wouldn’t you agree?” J-P winked.
“What are you on about, old man?” Rob asked He looked as if he was beginning to sober up which was a good thing.
“It’s a symbol. The snake eating its own tail. The three stages, birth, life and death forming a circle.” J-P explained, making a circle with his hands.
“Like that Lion King shit. I get it.” Rob said enthused.
“To some extent. When I was your age I saw a man die in a horrific accident. I’ve never forgotten it. It began this train of thought. Circles within circles.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. I could feel myself drawn into what he had to say.
“From seconds on the clock, to the earth, the sun and the moon. When these trains leave they just come right back. Spiraling, there’s no escaping it in this lifetime.” He looked down at the ground as if he was trying to recall some distance memory. He continued but you could see he was distracted. “The sum of all parts is equal to one. In the beginning so to in the end. A return to the source. How many coincidences does it take to make fate a fact?” he trailed off.
Rob and I looked at one another. I think we both thought the same thing. You never know who you will met on a late night train, but on most occasions you are sure to have an interesting group of people.
J-P was staring off towards the next platform, “One always dies too soon – or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are – your life, and nothing else.” He let out a hmpf sound, as if clearing his throat. He was looking around again when his eyes fell on a stocky man in a black t-shirt with the words ‘same shit different day” printed in white.
“Same shit different day. If they only knew.” J-P muttered to himself shaking his head in a sign of disgust.
A horn blared in the distance. The train was arriving early for once, a rarity in Melbourne these days.
The P.A system cackled to life above our heads “The 12.28 to Bariona was been delayed. The train now approaching at Platform 1 is an express. Please stand back from the yellow line.” The announcement broke off with the usual electronic squeal.
J-P walked casually to edge of platform, he let his toes test the edge. “I’ve done enough. You will understand. It`s time for me to go.” J-P said nodding, as if finalizing a deal that had been made between us.
“No, that’s the express. I said. It doesn’t stop it goes straight through. It´s not time yet.” I could hear the pleading in my voice but I couldn’t understand why.
“All this has happened before and will happen again. Again. Again.” The sound of the train began drowning out J-Ps words.
This was the feeling I had carried with me all day, a feeling of unattainable truth, of fate, now reaching its peak. I could feel my heart beating in my ears. My whole body was shaking.
He spread his arms assuming the pose of Jesus on the cross. He was serene. He smiled at me and fell backwards in time with the passing train.
Reality comes to an end.