City Limits

Feb 05 2018

“It’s such a sunny blue day,” said Jane, “The perfect day for this kind of walk along the docks.” The port buzzed with the busy merchant activity surrounding the vessels and warehouses, but hummed more deeply with the life of the city.

“Can a day be a hue?” I teased, “The blue of your eyes?”

“A medievalist fantasy can be a colour, even if a day can’t be,” she replied, evading my flirtation as nimbly as she stepped out of the path of a barechested sailor with a trunk hoisted on his shoulder. “Watch it lady,” barked the sailor.

“Were there really docks in medieval times?” I asked. Jane answered with a wry glance. “And what kind of walk is this then?” I asked.

We passed a woman with her child. The child was attempting to get her attention with his antics; he was declaring himself to be a mighty bark under sail, he was articulating his bravest creaking sounds as he showed himself to be fearlessly buffeted amongst phantom gales. But the woman paid no notice, shielding her eyes from the sun and scrying in the horizon. The pair did not give the appearance of being wealthy.

“I’m not sure how much of our walk was planned, and how much left to chance,” Jane said mysteriously.

“There is some chance in everything,” I observed, almost tripping over a coil of rope. We were walking further; the distance of the docks was persistent and it was uncertain how much further they might continue. The sun lingered hazily at its afternoon slope, suggesting that soon it might be time to think of evening – food, or some other pleasant diversion – but perhaps never quite yet.

“But chance is no constant,” Jane quipped, as she stepped nimbly out of the path of a luxuriously robed gentleman bearing a small ornate chest under his arm. “I beg your pardon, my lady,” he enunciated courteously as he continued on his way.

“That was the sailor from before,” I observed squeakily.

“But sideways,” said Jane, unblinking at me sideways, “And look, here we come to our seafarers again.”

It was the same child as before, playing his buoyant pantomime, but this time for the unacknowledged benefit of a girl. The girl had been a woman previously, I saw; a woman who still gazed unerringly oceanward.

“The little boy goes in no different direction because he prefers to always remain. But his mother is always going backwards,” Jane was explaining. Her countenance was sombre. I had stopped walking, I realised. I had been staring. The girl could be the boy’s sister now, but not his mother, which she was. I began walking, again.

“What happens when she can’t go backwards anymore?” I asked.

“How should I know what she does?” said Jane with an almost laugh, “She goes backwards again, I suppose. It’s always possible to go further backwards than before.”

“But we have been walking in the same direction!” I almost shouted. “Where are we? What is this place?”

“Eternity,”
she said.

“Oblivion,”
she said.

“What just happened?” I demanded. “Were there two of you?”

“No, there was only one of me,” she said, “But two times at once.”

“But eternity and oblivion are completely different things,” I said, “They don’t exist at once.”

“What is the difference between them then,” she asked, “Where does eternity end and oblivion begin?”

Everything had become very serious now, I realised. I tripped over a coiled rope; I sprawled on the docks; I hauled my body upright and walked unthinkingly onward; – no, but I walked thinkingly onward – I thought.

Suddenly I felt the pressure of the wide limitless blue bearing down on me. An illusion of a sky, a sheltering sky, a screen drawn modestly before a void. “What if I run away over there? Into the city?” I asked. The city promised something indistinctly soothing; some shade, some change, some safety.

“Over there is where here begins,” she said, smiling. Yes, it had become clear, I would be here if I were there. I was outmatched. But it was as though she wanted to reassure me. There was a sympathy in her blue eyes.

“It’s such a sunny blue day,” said Jane, “The perfect day for this kind of walk along the docks.”

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