On Monday, I follow an elderly man with dough-white arms, strolling down the middle of the road. Thankfully, no cars come. His left arm is bent behind his back, hand curled upwards, fretting at the air. Like a pecking beak – or as if he is making an imaginary crumble topping. Every few steps, he pats his head. I wonder if he has dementia. Why else would he eschew the safety of the pavement, hold his arm so awkwardly like that, his wrist looks snapped… To see how it feels, I stretch my left arm behind my back, rub the air between my fingers. A ghost of fear prickles the nape of my neck. Is the space behind us not safe? Perhaps he knows this. Does he remember why?
Tuesday, I lift a coat off the rack at the hairdressers to retrieve mine beneath. Why am I everso-everso mildly affronted that someone should cover my coat with theirs? The hook loosens, rattles, I worry it might detach itself from the wall. Turning round, I become aware of a young woman, round-spectacled, mouse-haired, centre-parted. She is watching me. The faintest twitch of a lip. What is my expression as I gaze back at her? Anxiety flits across her face. Maybe. Like a tiny bird, I cannot be certain I saw it. Was that her coat, I wonder, draped over mine?
Late evening, and my thoughts wander to Mum. Quiet, there-but-not-here Mum, brushing imagined bits of fluff from her lap. It occurs to me that the wilderness within her was chained off, padlocked. My mind’s eye confirms this: I see wild white horses galloping, nettles for manes, their hooves striking sparks off the stone. Piercing, grey-blue eyes. Mum always dismissed her blue eyes as dull and uninteresting. They weren’t. Aren’t, I should say. They are the colour of the mythical mists of Avalon.
Wednesday, an unknown number calls me, twice. Introverts don’t do unrehearsed phone conversations, particularly not on a landline. I ignore it, then check my answer machine. A man explains that he is calling back about a test drive. Ah, he thinks I am the Morgan Motor Company… My number is only one digit removed from them – and, as it happens, the dentist. I get quite a few calls about toothache. I sigh, delete the message without playing it through to the end. Instantly regret deleting it. The poor man won’t realise he left a message with a freelance translator, not a luxury vehicle maker. I call the number back. It goes to answerphone. I leave a message, explaining he has left a message with the wrong person. This makes me feel charitable, I know I have done a Good Thing. By this point, I would have quite liked a brief chat with this stranger. Connections and missed connections… Sounds profound, probably isn’t. Oh well.
I update my answering message, to maybe stop this happening again. I decide my new answering message is too vague, and I will probably keep getting messages about cars and caries. I can’t be bothered to change it.
Thursday, I fret about not having enough work. It has dried to a trickle. I am not sure that I have even covered my bills this month. A dear friend unexpectedly knocks at the door. Two hours of chatter. How lovely to not be busy, to have time to just sit and talk.
In the furry heat of the afternoon, I sit in the shade reading my Tarot book. My Acer swooshes in the breeze, leaves lifting, turning. I am mesmerised by the beauty of one blowing branch, marvelling at the unseen wind. How astonishing, that it is there! You can feel it, hear the leaves rustling, but not ever see it. Implausible! In my mind, I cobble together a wind-catching device – mirrors, boxes, funnels – to capture it in flight. This may, I surmise, alarm the wind, make it clatter and flap. No, the wind is not for containing. What colour would it be, though, if you could see it? Well, the colour of water, of course! Although there are times when the wind seems to blow grey-black.
Friday begins with trepidation, exultation and irritation. I have resolved to do my weekly food shop at a different, cheaper supermarket. For a timid soul, navigating an unfamiliar aisle layout is akin to riding the rapids. The automatic barrier glides open; 3 for 2 on fruit! So much lovely veg! A slab of butter for under £2! A stupidly long queue for the two staffed tills as my competitively-priced ice cream melts around the edges. Much tutting, segueing into triumph: a week’s shop for less than £75!
Later that morning, I am sitting behind a Citroen Picasso at the traffic lights and the man driving sweetly reaches across to stroke his companion’s hair. But ohhhhh how slowly and erratically he drives! To dilute my frustration, I keep reminding myself that he stroked his companion’s hair, and that is a nice thing to do, a gentle thing. Still, I mutter.
In the news, five men have been killed in their quest to visit the wreck of the Titanic. Fish are floundering in a dried-up lakebed in Ukraine as local residents queue for water. More migrants have drowned in a boat… Sad, sad, impossibly sad.
In search of comfort and, perhaps, serendipity, I take my Tarot book to my favourite café: I’m in a sociable mood and might meet someone I know there. Sure enough, “Hello!” says a friendly voice behind my left shoulder. Somebody I haven’t seen for a long time, and she is radiant, happy. Her joyfulness is a tonic.
My phone blinks, displaying the directions to Sainsbury’s Local. Google Maps has self-activated. Since this is turning into a synchronous day, I wonder: could this be the universe calling, hacking into my Samsung S20? Perhaps I should detour via my local Sainsbury’s on my way home? Oooh… whom might I encounter there?
Nobody, it turns out. Well, nobody who is significant to me, but several people who are very significant to themselves and, I trust, to others. (Does this thought only occur to me as I write?) I study the man in front of me in the queue. He is my height. Shaved balding head, white sport socks, tattoos on his calves. A stranger. I am disappointed.
If the universe guided me here at all, it was to make sure I don’t run out of washing-up liquid. Or (yes, I think this afterwards, as I stash the bottle beneath the sink) to remind me that a person’s significance has nothing – nothing AT ALL – to do with their relevance to me. That ought to be obvious.
Browsing Facebook, I scroll past, then back up to a quote attributed to Carl Jung:
“Know all the theories. Master all of the techniques. But as you touch a human soul be just another human soul.”
Aha! It WAS synchronicity (smile in relief). That’s why my phone sent me to Sainsbury’s. I am indeed just one soul among countless others. (It really ought to be obvious.)
So, so many souls. All boundaried by matter. All mattering.