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Ian D Gilmour

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Waiting To Cross
By Ian D Gilmour
Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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People who feel lonely and ignored have always interested me. This is fiction that stems from the image of some shoes hanging on power lines.

Were they someone’s despair or victory? It really depended on who was looking at them. Hal was in despair but he so needed them to be a victory statement, like when it’s raining and you just really need some sun.
The shoes dangled together from the tram lines in the middle of the intersection, tied together by the laces. On each corner about ten or fifteen people waited for the lights to stop traffic and the buzz they all listened for. Each would step off the curb and head straight through the middle from the four corners – and no one would collide. Hal was always stunned at the effort people made to avoid touching each other as they passed on the street.
The breeze gently rocked the shoes where they hung. They were some kind of sports boot. Hal couldn’t see the brand properly but they were white and orange high-tops. Probably basketball boots. Had they lost an important game and been symbolically discarded? A gesture, leaving a bad memory behind and moving on? Hal hoped they were winning shoes, flung in the air out of triumph or slung across the lines as a unique memento. It was a good symbol he thought. Everyone must notice them and wonder why. He looked down at his own boots. They were scuffed black leather with hard round toes and the soles coming away at the heels on both of them. The tread was worn away on the insteps and the leather at the toe was going.
The buzzer sounded and woke him from his assessment. He stepped off the curb and began to cross at the back of the crowd he had stood with. The crowd that met in the middle should have collided but once again, with little apparent dodging, those in front of him missed the wave coming at them and across them. When Hal reached the middle most had already gone. There were a few late runners who skipped past him with hardly a glance.
Hal stopped in the middle. The traffic was still being held but the red ‘don’t walk’ signs were flashing with urgency now. He looked up at the shoes above him.
To call it a decision wouldn’t be accurate. Hal didn’t remember thinking about it. It just happened. Just like he told the doctors who were always asking what led up to his ‘moments’ – nothing happened to cause it that he could ever think of. Things just happened.
He knelt down in the middle of the intersection and started to unlace his boots. There were a lot of laces and by the time he had his right boot off the traffic going north and south had been through, avoiding him evidently. The left one was off and the pair tied together by the time the buzzer next sounded and the crowd was converging on the middle. He held one boot in his hand and swung the other with it at his side, always with eyes on the lines above. People walked past him through the middle with hardly a glance.
The first time he let go the boots cart-wheeled through the air, missing the lines altogether and landing some metres away on the road. Hal dashed over and retrieved them and returned to middle to try again. He did this four times, always focused on the lines and boots with no thought for the traffic or the other pedestrians and it seemed that they responded with the same indifference. Everyone going somewhere really important, to meet important people and do important things.
On the fifth attempt Hal caught his breath as the laces struck the line and the weight of the boots wrapped themselves around the line several times before they eventually hung close to the other pair in what Hal felt was a very satisfactory manner.
He wanted to stand with his arms raised to celebrate but instantly he began to get the familiar hollow feeling. No one was clapping. He gazed at the two pairs of boots for a moment as the grin fell from his mouth.
He sat down on the road in his socks and started his wait. They would be along soon – surely.

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