The place was seven floors above a sprawling little clump of townhouses, swamp and temple. In between were laced thin streets and potholed roads populated by roving motorbikes, sluggish cars and women tottering on bicycles. The sun shone over from the west, out of sight but casting its retarding glare over all the grey, decrepit buildings. I could see a raised highway in the distance, strangely level with my balcony. Cars swept past on a constant array of unknown errands.
In the mornings the sun would shine straight in, blasting its way through the fog and onto our floor, heating it to a pleasant temperature. It woke us up without fail. The bright blocks of light that it illuminated onto our tiles would gradually drag their way across the hours until about 10 o-clock. After that there was no more romance to be gleaned. The city was simply burning.
It was through that furnace of the day in which I rode to work. My bike would carry me over the bridges, through the markets, and past the prowling policemen as the sun burned my exposed skin to a tolerable light brown. The constant red lights and heavy traffic meant that the journey was a slow case of zig-zagging and weaving between bigger and more expensive vehicles. Forget about the cars, even the majority of bikes were bigger and more expensive than mine, the black air they emitted that much more sooty.
Quite often, when I was home alone in between friendzied shifts of motorbiking, studying, teaching and drinking, I would lie on the soft matting in the appartment and doze. Sometimes I would get to sleep and dream about flying off on my motorbike, or bouncing through the traffic like a pin-ball. Other times I wouldn't manage sleep. At those times my head would seem to grow and grow, cluttered with all manner of things, even though my yawns got bigger and bigger with the strain of forgetting where I had to be in an hour or so. Then I would turn on music loudly to drown out the nonsense chattering through my mind, which of course precluded sleep and gave rise to new strings of thought entirely dependant on the mood of the music.
After a number of weeks of stifling activity, I found myself with a number of days off. It was almost as difficult to manage the time when it was completely empty, as when it was full of work and activity. So I decided not to decide, and did all the little things that had been put off by work. I dusted and mopped the floor, I rearranged the furniture, I did the laundry. And while I did these things I played music loudly, sometimes singing or air strumming along, and tried to forget about things. But invariably things returned to my mind, and I had to confront them, at least momentarily. To my annoyance I would find myself missing some of my favourite songs in this manner, having to return to them again. But having already just heard them, at least on the surface, playing them again seemed to spoil them, they lost their sheen and their power over me. And so the thoughts returned to the forefront.
While I took a bag of laundry down in the elevator to the laundry room, I began thinking. How could people enjoy themselves ever if they had to sacrifice themselves to their incomes all the time? Or more precisely, what happened to the people who did enjoy themselves and didn't sacrifice themselves? Were they all bums? Artists? How did they survive?Was there a price to be paid later in life? Then I began doubting my own sacrifice. Why should I spend my time working rather than doing what I really wanted to do?
I put the clothes in the machine, poured in the powder and softening liquid, and slotted the coins so the machine began working. I could hear the soothing sound of the water pouring in and the machine purring into life. For some reason, it gave me great satisfaction.
As I was leaving a woman passed me by and I caught a glimpse of her features. She looked serious, and she had lovely eyes and delicate soft features, a slender nose and well tended eyebrows. Her legs shone with shapely and tanned grace. She ignored me and walked to her car.
As I was entering the lift again, I thought what it was I really wanted to do if I wasn't working. I couldn't really think of anything except making love to that woman and drinking cocktails on a beach somewhere. Or of skiing in the alps and drinking a cool schnaps. I tried hard, forcing my mind to work, but nothing serious could come to mind. I thought of smokey English pubs, of Jazz clubs in places I'd never even been to, but the woman would always spring into the picture somehow. Singing Jazz, working in the pub, even as a ski lift attendant. We would meet in some random fashion, laugh about the humorous circumstances and instantly feel at home in each others company. I would buy her a drink and then we would really hit it off. And so on and so forth.
In later seconds, as the elevator slowly rose through the bowels of the building, I let my imagination go. Even better, I would be an astronaut, and she would be a cosmonaut. We would meet on the international space station, there to greet the first contact with extraterrestrial life. To our immense shock and surprise, this life would turn out to actually be humans from a long lost sister world, the original colonizers of earth in fact. The woman and I would be the first sent to travel there, but it was a long journey and we would have to share the spacecraft for months on end together, alone. And so on and so forth.
When I got back to my room, I felt strangely guilty for my failure to imagine a realistic life outside of my current predicament. Guilty that I was just messing with myself, not taking myself seriously, and guilty for my actual partner, who never seemed to feature in these day dreams.
But then I thought, well to hell with it, she featured in all my night dreams, the serious dreams that came from my soul. Those were the dreams that really counted, surely. And then I knew that I had fallen back into the thinking trap. I quickly opened a beer and turned on some psychedelic guitar music. I sat down on my balcony and looked out over the house tops to enjoy the rest of my day off.