By Joyce Matthews

I turned into the tide of people and walked the opposite way. Scouring each face for a clue. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew it would find me. I was battling upstream, they were going with the flow, down. I couldn’t find any rhythm, no straight lines, the route of least resistance was a weaving turn. Cutting through the mass of bodies, I was completely on my own.

Their faces were looking up, at signs, spires and buildings. Side by side they gazed ahead, or at their own selfie reflection, too busy to see the other person. The next Instagram was framed, a picture to send global. On the ground beneath their feet, lay the small, crushed local.

‘How can I expect an answer from my fellow humans ‘ I thought, ‘when they’re not even looking at what we’re doing?’

I slowed down, the better to see, and feel and hear what was in front of me. My feet tingled with the rarity of being fully grounded, rolling over pavements they’d previously pounded. Shop music blared, encouraging me to speed up, my breathing, my browsing. While books advertised the opposite ‘How to plant a rainbow’. The smell from Fisher’s Close was exactly as it should be; strong, pungent, disgusting. This was the aroma of the city, with everyone pushing, jostling, trampling the route to get to where they think they’re going. Searching for the next instant hit or ego stroke, without noticing the crippled and the feeble, clutching the walls just to keep moving.

‘How can I expect to connect with my fellow humans‘ I thought, ‘when they’re not even feeling how we’re doing?’

Talking, drinking, chewing – the story is unfolding, their faces constantly moving. Sucking instant gossip, caffeine or nutritionless gratification. The pattern is now obvious. Side by side, not looking, too focused with intent to miss the starving and the shrunken.

‘How can I expect a crumb from my fellow humans, ‘ I thought, ‘when they can’t even hear our stomach rumbling?’

I looked down to a drain of putrid, yellowing, gunge, to see if the beauty was somewhere else. It was a step too far, but not fully revolting. I needed an in-between rung to reassure me first. I grasped onto the railings, the cold metal jolting. The functional had form and attraction. The closer I looked the more delicate the inanimate became, a teardrop of gold, hidden in an everyday thing. An unseen work of art passed by, discarded, treated with disdain.

‘How can I expect an answer from my fellow humans, ‘ I thought, ‘when they can’t even see the beauty in everything?’

The Curiosity Lighthouse lay at the top of the town. I strolled there, my question in mind. Already decided the answer lay outside my fellow humans, an old fortune telling machine was the perfect find. I inserted my coin and waited for the paper ticket to be churned.