Seeing Through Smoke, Guy Webster

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This is me waking up. This is me reaching for my phone, pushing the blanket away, walking to the bathroom. Reaching for my toothpaste, brushing my hair, and avoiding my eyes in the mirror. This happened a week ago. Opening the fridge and cooking something that you don’t need to know about, running for a bus and looking out a window at streaks of movement and blurry scenes. This is me knowing where I’m going and waiting to get there. I won’t give you names and details, I’ve decided not to. I’m looking out a window and seeing clouds form and surround people on the street – seeing mist dissipate as the sun rises, catching the glare of something reflected and blinking through spots of light in my eyes. I’m holding my phone and searching through names and details. I get off the bus, I walk through a crowd and catch the eyes of many – see them suddenly look away, see that they were never looking. It can be 10 am if you want. I’m walking faster. I think of what I want, what I could want, but you don’t need to know that. Changing the song, I calm myself down. I don’t remember when I became stressed. I didn’t tell you that I was listening to music. This is me following the signs, cursing people who walk slowly and reprimanding myself for cursing them. This is my destination, I walk through a door; my hands are sweating. There are too many mirrors and I see myself everywhere. I see hands move toward a phone, a whispered conversation and another door opening. I am lead through and down various corridors, there are stairs and an acidic stench. Can you see that smiling man at the end of that corridor, preparing to greet me? What about that lilting portrait or that vase of sunflowers? This is where I was supposed to go today, this is who I’m meant to see. There’s a window behind him, it takes up the entire wall. Through it I can see the apartment blocks behind this building. But I watch him only, I’m here for him to ask me questions, for him to offer me a job. I’m here, I promise. He talks to me and I respond as I should. There’s a fire outside. He’s talking slowly, and his eyes never leave mine. There is dark smoke rising from the building next door, I see it. He smiles and I nod, the window seems to stretch and expand. There are storm clouds building and rising, there is incense in this room that smells of burnt cedar, and the distant echo of approaching sirens. But if you’re still watching, this is me answering his questions, with names and details that you don’t need to know. There might be more to it than that, in fact there definitely is. But this is all you get.

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