The Underprivileged City

He gazes forlornly into the crowd. Surrounded, but alone. They pass him by, day after day without a glance or a smile. Talking intently on their mobile phones, seemingly cemented in their hands. A dull drone emanates from their blank faces, changing pitch, but never the song. Forever pushing forward against the strings that hold them back. They are the puppets of society. Buzzing like flies over dead meat, they never settle. Their mouths painted in lipstick. Their bodies clad in uncomfortable suits and skirts. Their feet follow the same route every day. They will not change.

Nobody falters, or pauses in their stride. Do they even know where they are going?

“Gucci”, “Dolce and Gabana” and “Chanel” are all burnt into their wallets. From them trickles a rigid evil, into their fingertips, seeping into their bloodstream. They march relentlessly to jobs they hate and to home to people they once loved. The desire, the scalding need for money, urging them on like slaves. They have lost control, they are addicted. To avoid an inescapable silence at home, they discard their time at bars. They fling their treasured money at bartenders, and foist drinks on co-workers. Silently begging for happiness, a friend, someone they can trust. Their laughs are hollow and awkward and their eyes empty. Prisoners to their jobs; policed by money.

An unsteady silence fills the city. They stagger back to the trains and buses, ashamed and disappointed. Slouching through the park, they avoid jagged glass and pointed rocks.

He lays less than a metre from the path, mistaken for a mound of rubbish. He groans and shifts, each tiny movement sending spasms of pain up his spine. Surprised, they shriek, terrified by the monster that lies near. Their nostrils sting; offended by the stale smell of fake leather. The clothes covering him, devoid from any brand labels, fill them with disgust. They sprint off into the park; the loud thumping of their heart is all they can hear.

They slow, breathing returning to its robotic rhythm. Glancing behind them, they can just make out his feeble figure. Their wallets begin to burn their leg and they become increasingly aware of its size. Their eyes lower to their scuffed leather shoes, the morning polish still shining in the street lights. They slink towards the station, their keys clinking loudly from their pockets. Shaking off dirty memories, they clutch their wallets reassuringly. Their touch cools it, as they remind themselves “I work hard. I deserve this.” Their eyes glaze over, and their minds forget.

They fall into a tattered train, another day done. Heading home to their cold couches, a cruel reminder of the choices they’ve made. The blanket of sleep falls heavily on their eyes. Sleep knows no wealth.

Motivate

The clock. It hangs in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen. I stare at it, but it stares back with menace. I stare harder, willing it to stop, but it refuses. My eyes sluggishly rise to the window in front of me. The warm glow of the sun fills my room, and the trees sway silently in the afternoon breeze. I can feel the hot stare of the clock burn into my face.

A minute passes.

I write a word. I stop and stare. I write a sentence. I stop. It stares.

Five minutes pass.

I am blank. My eyes glaze over and I stare blindly outside, daring my thoughts to wander. I sit motionless, not a single idea entering my head. My sentence seems irrelevant and daft. It is mocking me.

Thirty minutes pass.

I reach beside me for a post-it note and scribble “stop procrastinating!” in large, bold letters. I stick it over the glaring clock and immediately feel more accomplished. The constant ticking of time still drives my motivation, but in a manageable form. I reach for the blinds, shutting the sun from my desk and my eyes settle on the near-empty document.

I begin with dot points and my argument steadily appears. With structure and direction my unwritten essay falls into place like a puzzle, waiting to be completed. I power on and begin to glance at the post-it note less and less.

I am consumed. A steady stream of words begins to drip and then gush from my mind. My fingers tap melodically, as sentences and paragraphs appear on the screen. I am in a trance, engulfed by a concentration deep and undisturbed. The noise of roaring trucks and screeching brakes filter vaguely in from outside, but are not recognised. My mind buzzes with movement, leaping from thought to thought, searching for the right words.

The whir in my head slackens, and I slowly return to consciousness, breaking from my deep concentration. I add the final full-stop, satisfied with my work. Leaning back, I stretch my neck and yawn loudly. Gazing around, I return to the same dull room that I left and the outside noises seep into my brain. I tug at the blinds expecting distractions to flood in.

I’m met with darkness.

My eyes dart to my post-it note. I remove it, but the clock seems more subdued and content, watching me from afar but not governing my movements.

The Affect of Disgust

You are stumbling up the driveway after a messy night. Your feet ache and ooze with blisters, so you take off your shoes. Tiptoeing quietly, you feel an unfamiliar crunch between your toes. Immediately your whole body tenses, and your eyes widen. Your eyes drift slowly downwards. You have to look. The remnants of the snail squelch up between your toes, covering them in slimy goo. The shards of shell scatter on your feet, sharp edges threatening to pierce your soft skin. Desperately you shake your foot, but the snail’s insides cling to you. You grate your foot against a rock, but it only coats it in thick, moist dirt. You can just make out the shape of your foot. You can see the head of the snail, still intact, protruding between two toes. Its slimy head leans towards you, silently screaming in pain. Your whole body shudders violently.

The urge to vomit rises quickly. Gasping for cold air, you try to suppress it. But it cannot be calmed. It rushes up your digestive tract. Your eyes burn and you blink repeatedly, trying to fight the urge. It rises like molten lava, determined to find an escape point. The hot sludge reaches your throat and gushes into your mouth. It hits the pavement like a missile, splattering all over your bare feet. You try to stumble away, but step in it. Tiny chunks of pizza mix with the dead snail, seeping into your skin, staining it. The putrid smell fills your nostrils, each tiny hair shrieking in pain as they curl away from the stench. It is everywhere. You can taste it in the back of your throat, smell it on your clothes and see it dripping from your hair. The sound of it splattering on the pavement haunts you, it’s playing on repeat in your head and you can’t turn it off.

You rush to the hose, turning it on high. The water pelts your foot, hitting it with the force of a million tiny bullets. You wince in pain, but it’s worth it. Rinsing your mouth out, you spit chunks of meat-lover’s pizza on the pavement. Tiny slimy pieces of salami stick in your teeth as you frantically try to scratch them out with your fingernail.

You sigh with relief, and turn off the tap. Finally you rise to your feet, pushing the memory away, trying to ignore its persistence, but it lingers. You take a step.

SQUELCH!