As I write, the world outside my window carries on as if I do not exist or matter. And it would, if I stopped existing. This is not a suicidal thought, so don’t worry. And it’s not an invitation to some violent maniac to wipe me out. I do matter! My thought is intended as a beginning, not an end.
I hear the rain outside. In Scots, the day looks ‘dreich’. It’s still dark this morning, so there’s not much to see: just a few street lamps, dim outlines of buildings where other minds similar to mine are sleeping, dreaming, maybe starting to wake up and wonder if anyone, anywhere cares what they think. Or cares that they are alive.
A friend of mine recently gave birth to a boy. It was the end of a long journey, the start of another. Before the boy was born, she showed me a photograph of a scan of her baby: a pale outline of a tiny face in darkness: an image of a world ready to be born.
We all begin. We all matter. We are all worlds. That’s where I think the thoughts in my head on this rainy morning are leading me. And to other places too.
For around 10 years, I’ve watched as a lot of people had their worlds twisted into the shape of terrified souls. It usually began, for them, with a phone call or a brown envelope dropping through a letter box. News that their barely-enough income was to be cut to nothing. The sudden, gut-gnawing prospect of – hunger, no lights or heating, and the certainty of dozens of tense phone calls and meetings before a precarious life was made possible again.
People like me helped people like them. And at times, I cracked and I needed help myself from people like me. So, sometimes, I am me and sometimes I am them. We are all them. We are all us.
It is very quiet where I sit and type these words. Apart from the sound of rain and the soft swish of occasional cars passing by on the road outside, there’s only the sound of my breathing and I only notice that because I’m listening to this world. And, because I am listening, I notice – from somewhere high above this small block of flats, the very faint and vastly magical honks of geese flying in great V shapes to warmer lands. They are following a call from deep inside to go where they need to go. There’s no choice: they have to move forward.
As I write, it is growing lighter outside. The rain is still there (of course it is: I live in Dundee) but the geese are gone. Thoughts come and go more frequently; like the increase in the number of cars outside. It’s election time: politicians are grimacing their way around the country, jabbing their fingers at each other, making promises they do not intend to keep. Yet, some are genuine, I hope. Some may do they all they can to end the horror of those brown envelopes and the tortures they bring.
And I think about writing: about trying to say what you think and feel and sending it out into the world like a message in a bottle, hoping that someone in their own island will pick up the bottle, take the message out, and maybe smile, because they think: “Yes, that’s it. I know what he means.” And I smile inside when I write this. Because – I am never very sure what I mean.