Art Pact 144
I was feeling somewhat rushed that morning, so I skipped my usual leisurely breakfast in favour of a couple of pop tarts and a swill of my mouth with milk (slightly sour, I discovered to my detriment). In hindsight I can say that I had just as much time as I normally would have - there was no real time pressure on me - but the morning felt rushed, as though there were something important waiting for me in the near future, something that was squatting impatiently on its haunches, ready to go without me if I took too long.
I'd woken up that way, slightly vertiginous and with a feeling that I had been dreaming but the inability to remember any of the contents of the dream. I suppose it was a sort of wrong feeling - perhaps not that the dream had been particularly upsetting or unusual, but more that it had been incorrect, that I had been dreaming wrong. Is it possible to fail a dream? I have never seen any meanings in my dreams (none more than simple wish fulfillment in the case of certain erotic components, that is), so the idea that there might be a way in which I had fallen below the competence required was and is ridiculous to me. Still, the disquieting sensation persisted throughout the time I took to get dressed and preened, no doubt aided at least in part by the bad milk now curdling gently in my stomach.
Another bad omen - despite the in-no-way-extraordinary duration of my morning routine, I nevertheless managed to miss my bus. I must have had some inkling when I left the house, because I noticed how quiet the traffic was. The sound of the dawn chorus (well, the early-mid-morning chorus) was quite enchanting, and for once even the dull constant roar of cars going across the flyover was absent. I suppose that there must have been a traffic jam further down the bypass, and the lack of sound was just a reflection of some greater noise elsewhere. I never did find out the cause, but the effect hit me as I opened the gate at the end of my front garden - the bus, which should still have been stuck at the big roundabout three minutes away, instead shot past me, making perfect time towards the bus stop three hundred meters further down the road. Now, I am reasonably fit. I can still run six or seven miles when I put my mind to it, and even early in the morning I can be quite spritely on my feet when I put my mind to it. But running at forty miles an hour for a third of a kilometer is a task best left to cheetahs and ostriches. I made it about a hundred meters at full pelt before I had to drop back into a more modest jog to protect my lungs (about to explode) and my heels (which, uncushioned by running shoes, felt as though they might shatter like porcelain hand grenades at any moment, filling my socks with deadly shrapnel).
So, already knackered and sweating into my shirt and jacket, I arrived at the bus stop just early enough to watch the vehicle itself turning slowly onto the estate where it would loop around and vanish out through the high street and back onto the bypass at the other end of town. I propped myself up against the post and panted my breath back, then had a panicky moment when I realised that my hands felt oddly light. I looked at the ground around me, then realised that I had left my bag at work the previous day. One disaster averted, fortunately. I pushed my loose fringe back up my forehead and smoothed it down, then examined the timetable. I hadn't looked at it for five years (during which time I'd relied on the only bus that I cared about, the one that would get me from my road to the station), and in that time it had apparently been replaced with a new schedule. A new and unfavourable one, I discovered. I had assumed that it would just be another ten minutes until the next bus, but I appeared to have fallen into a lacunae in the schedule - an barren zone between half eight and midday in which the buses were running only once an hour. The idea seemed mad, but I vaguely remembered protest letters in the local newspaper a couple of years ago from the pensioners and home mothers on the estate. At the time I'd fatalistically dismissed the whole thing - I sympathised, of course, I wasn't that heartless, but the bus company seemed largely impregnable to alternative ideas and criticism and it seemed a waste of time throwing my lot in behind a relatively minor losing argument. Now that I'd been bitten myself, though, I cursed my political apathy and myself as an idiot, and quoted (inaccurately I'm sure) Martin Niemoller to myself.
Realising that the wait was going to be pretty awful at the bus stop but that I was within half a kilometer of my house, I began to walk home. It was only when I opened the gate that I realised something else important about the location of my bag - it had my keys in it. I briefly considered breaking in through the kitchen window, but the cost and hassle of repairing the damage would have been considerably worse than merely sitting down for an hour. I found a place on my stoop that was comfortable enough and within range of the house's wireless, and settled down for a bit of web browsing.
I'd set an alarm to go off giving me five minutes to get to the bus stop, a wise precaution. My misfortunes would not let go of me, however. At four minutes to go my phone rang, and I began the conversation that was to lead to me missing the second bus, and (ultimately) to everything that followed on from not being near to my bag before eleven in the morning.
"Hello?" I asked.
"Yes, who is this?"
"This is your brother," said the voice. It definitely did not belong to my brother.