As I sit here in the corner of a cafe on the edge of Hardware Lane, just near Lonsdale Street, I wonder if I have swapped a black banana for a rotten apple. It’s well into summer now, and I thought leaving the office for a break from the stale recirculating air and flickering fluorescent tubes would somehow revitalise me. Instead, my lower back still aches as I sip on my odourless coffee and peck at my day old chocolate muffin. I begin to feel like asking for a refund. Nearby, a young man, skilfully uses his IPhone at the same time as he runs in front of a bus, causing the driver to slam the brakes on and loudly hoot at the gasping man. He appears to be shaken but simply smiles and runs on, only momentarily distracting from the IPhone. The bus moves off letting out a mass of diesel exhaust fumes, overpowering the already tainted taste of everything in the cafe. People appear to be talking, but in reality they are forced to shout just to hear each other above the noise of the inner city traffic.
I still have my jacket on as sunshine struggles to visit here; only the gaps between the high rise office buildings allow sunlight to peek through. Surely I can’t be the only one to notice things like this. Look at all the pale faces in and around the cafe. Maybe the city’s shadows simply encroach on people here and just give them this appearance? Why couldn’t they build the cafe on the roof of our building? Surely the sunshine is up their near the plant room. That’s not the priority though, perhaps an unfavourable cost analysis is. Was I really born into this? Should I just accept my inheritance? At least the diesel fumes have dissipated now, but as if on cue are replaced by cigarette smoke. Smoking is banned in this cafe but passive smoke still drifts in from several young women who have decided to occupy the corner now. I cough. Is every smoker an accomplice to at least attempted murder? I turn the other way to no avail. I feel I have no choice but to close my eyes and imagine.
I can see the blue sky at last. I can’t believe that I mistook a gently running creek for a laneway. I even thought these gigantic elm trees were office buildings. Shame on me. I should have looked more closely at the people walking by; they are actually happy with the summer sun warming their backs. A farmer strolls by with his dairy cow, which moos loudly as it almost tramples on a daydreaming teenage boy. His face flushes, as a group of teenage girls giggle at him, while they sit on the bank of the creek with mischief on their minds. A gentle breeze evokes my senses with the aroma of freshly baked bread. I have to take another deep breath. I’m not going back.
‘Sir, excuse me, sir.’
‘Yes, I will have another bowl of those freshly picked Red Hill cherries.’
‘What on earth are you on about, we don’t sell them here. Wake up sir. If you are finished, someone else needs your table.’
Andrew Mansell, June 2010
I wrote this sensory monologue to question the unnatural surroundings that have been created by humans over time, which are directly detrimental to our health and well being. It’s most relevant to people that live and work where these surroundings are concentrated, and most apparent. I write what I sense and feel, in the hope that other people may be able to at least question, and even change their current surroundings.