Straight Lines

This is a very, very early attempt at a writing style that I want to continue with in the future. It’s extremely rough and all over the place right now, and it isn’t really about anything in particular. But I’m working on it.

*

Last night I jumped on my bike and left the house. I needed to get out. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes you just need to get out. For no other reason, just that. But sometimes, you just need things to move around you, passing you by, quickly, out of the corners of your eyes, and into the darkness you leave behind.

*

I started riding on the road. The little road outside my house was quiet. I listened to the clicks from my wheels as I moved. The road was mostly quiet but for my clicks and the odd car that passed. I rode along the little road. I rode through the dark and the light that the streetlamps I moved. But knew that the little road would soon come to an end. I could see it getting closer. I could see and hear the big road at the end. I watched the lights stream past in front of me. I knew I had to let the little road disappear behind me. I had to join the lights on the big road.

But the city roads scare me. I’m from the country. I feel threatened by the big vehicles. On the sidewalks I’m almost the same as everyone else. But I have wheels. I’m bigger and faster. The sidewalks and the lines next to them are like my boundaries. On there I can move around things. But on the road things move around me. But last night, I needed to ride on the road.

I started out riding on the lines. I tried not to touch the road. But sometimes they would disappear, and I’d be there, at the edge of the road, being pushed away from my boundaries. I was riding with the cars and the buses and the taxis. I let them all move around me. I let myself sink into their fumes and hide for a second. Every now and again I would try to look to those lines and boundaries. I could see people skim past me. I’d look back to the road. I needed to keep my eyes on the road. I needed to keep my eyes on the big wheels and my ears on the big engines that pushed past and moved around me. I’d see their big wheels come close to my little ones that once clicked. I heard the engines behind me, pushing me along. They pushed me to go faster. They pushed me to push the people beside me away, faster and faster.

I stopped at the red light. I looked to my side. There was a big green bus rumbling next to me. There were a few people inside it, here and there. I looked on the other side. There was a black car sitting. Two people were in the front, looking forward at the lights. I looked behind. There was a silver taxi waiting. The driver stared at me, and then looked on ahead. I looked in front. I could see the red lights of a car. It sat there quietly, breathing out its fumes. Beyond that there were cars and buses and taxis bending around the corner. I couldn’t see any of the people on the other side of the lines. But I couldn’t see the lines. We all watched their gold lights turn to red as they moved across and away. We all sat there, next to each other, waiting for the light to turn green, for our gold to turn red.

We started to move as the light turned green. The heat from all around me pushed me on. I felt the buses and the cars and the taxis stream past me and nudge me along. I kept going. I kept peddling in rhythm, peddling harder, looking forward, glancing between the traffic at the people that we passed. As more and more engines joined us from behind I looked over my shoulder. I could see the gold lights coming towards me quickly, louder and louder. I watched the big green bus beside me. It was getting ready to pull into the line at the side. I looked at the people waiting. I looked back at the road. I didn’t need to look behind to feel how close the lights were now. I slowed and waited for the bus to pass. I held my arm out and started to move closer to the line. I closed my eyes as I moved across, hoping that they’d slow and stop pushing me on, and just let me be, leave me to go back into my boundaries.

*

I joined the people on the sidewalk. I snaked through them. I would break and peddle and break and peddle. I watched the faces watch mine and then someone else’s and then someone else’s. I wanted to part these people, like a big quiet road. I wanted to peddle as fast as I could and see every face become a blur and every light become a stream. I wanted to leave them behind. I wanted to move faster than everyone else, within the lines and boundaries.

As I got deeper into the city streets I could only hear the cars and the buses and the taxis. They got further and further away from me. I continued to snake, in and out, breaking and peddling, breaking and peddling. Everything moved slower. I could look around. I looked up at the big buildings above me. Straight lines shooting high above me, piercing the black night, and out in front of me, cutting through the faces. I snaked in and out of the people, looking at the lines, looking at the faces.

But I got tired of snaking in and out. I needed to move faster. But I didn’t want to go back to the big loud road again tonight. I knew where I was, and I knew how to get home. I knew I could get home without crossing that line again, back to the big road. So I moved out of the crowd, peddling and breaking my way into the little streets and alleys that would quietly take me home. I sank back into the dark and light streets again, listening to the clicks of my wheels as I moved. Through these streets and alleys I moved quietly, quickly, twisting around corners and staring at the faces I saw now and again. They’d come straight towards me, almost in a blur. I’d twist and snake around them and watch. They’d watch me back. And then they’d be gone. And so would I.

I started climbing the hill that would take me home. I shifted the gears down and started peddling harder. My knuckles cracked as I took my fingers from the brakes. The clicks got faster. I kept peddling away from the light and into the dark. I climbed higher and higher, away from the roads and those cars and buses and taxis and faces and lights, leaving them all where they were, further and further from me with every click. As I got closer to the top of the hill I wanted to look around at what I’d left behind. I wanted to see everything that pushed me, and try to pick a sound out of the noise, or pick a light out of the growing gold and the shrinking red. But I could feel it behind me. And at that point, that was enough. I just kept going, higher and higher, darker and darker.

*

I peddled quickly along the line next to the sidewalk on the mountain road above the city that would take me home. I could feel it below me. The light seeped in in flashes and blinks from the gaps in the trees that hid it all from view. It was only light and dark and the odd car or bus or taxi. And me. Everything was so still. But I moved quietly in straight lines, listening to my clicks. The cars, buses, taxis that moved along beside me nudged me along gently. I would steal glances at the city below me, checking it was all still there, moving quickly, waiting patiently to slow to a stop and take it all in at once. But I kept waiting. I could feel the light, the heat, the lines, everything that was moving around me before. I felt it all next to me as I glanced from the dark. I kept going, kept moving and peddling and clicking, waiting for that big gap in the trees, a break in the heat, and the silence I needed, to see things clearly.

I stopped at a clearing at the top of a straight staircase that led down. The city lay at the bottom, climbing up the side of the mountain, stopping at the steps where I stood. I could feel it pulling at my feet as they dug tighter into where I stood. As I looked out across cityscape I could see it throb. The lines cut straight into the sky and grew, creeping up to eye level. I looked at them all, all the lines in rows and grids. I brought my eyes across them. I watched them move with the lights, swaying to the tune of a thousand cars, buses, taxis. I saw every light flicker in the long black night, some growing, shrinking, just staying as they were, high up, high in the sky, cut with shadows you couldn’t make out. Couldn’t make out for all the light moving around them.

There were big lines of red and gold, cutting through the city. The lights swam like blood, through these arteries and veins, giving life to the soft swaying city beneath me. They powered the glow around them, slowly, shrinking and growing, starting and stopping, moving around one another to the rhythm that gently swayed the city in the glow of the dark night.

But the faces were lost in it all. I couldn’t see a single one for the black and the light, or hear their words for the hum and buzz. But I could feel them there, moving within the lines that the city cut, cells trapped in the boundaries that the arteries and veins made around them. Never moving out, just moving through, around, past one another, into the lights, and into the shadows.

As I watched the city sway from the darkness, thanking someone somewhere with smiles for pushing me to where I stood, I saw a shadow cut through the light in one of the tall straight buildings. I watched the shadow grow as it moved from the light. I watched the shadow watch the darkness.  It stood firm in the swaying light, looking out to the darkness around me. I reached down and turned on the gold light on the front of my bike. I held up my hand and waved gently from the dark, at the shadow, at the lights, at the city as it swayed gently in the night.

“Excuse me” said someone from behind me. I turned and saw an old woman. I looked at her face. She looked at mine. I smiled and moved my bike to let her past. She smiled back and started walking down the stairs. She stopped on the first landing. I watched her look at the city and its lines and lights and faces and shadows for a second. And then she kept walking down, down into the city.

I looked back to where the shadow was. I couldn’t find the light I was looking at. I reached down and turned off my light. I got back on my bike. I cycled back home. It was time to go back inside.

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2 thoughts on “Straight Lines

  1. Shawn says:

    Very nice. The story is strongest in the beginning when it focuses on the first-person narrator heading out into the city. It gets a little weaker as he heads home (it was much less intense, and I started to feel that you needed to judiciously cut) and when he describes the city below (although it’s lovely and is an important part, I just think you need to work on it — integrate it better and connect it to him, clean it up/cut and match the earlier style.). Sometimes less is more.

    Break or brake? “I would break and peddle and break and peddle.” I assumed you meant “brake;” however, the narrator was fleeing the chaos, and you said, (the narrator wanted to) “part these people,” and “Straight lines shooting high above me, piercing the black night, and out in front of me, cutting through the faces.” So, I kind of thought that “breaking” could also work in a weird kind of way if the narrator were in distress, but it’s a stretch and then you’d have to work on making it super clear. But I do think you probably meant braking, so please fix this.

    I’m missing something with the gold lights, and I think they’re important. The red lights I get, but I’m too stupid to get the gold ones. Sorry.

    Finally, I want to applaud the first part, not only for the great rhythm and style but because I saw it as a metaphor for growing up — whether you meant it that way or not! Nice example: “I knew I had to let the little road disappear behind me. I had to join the lights on the big road.” And I liked how when he was in heavy traffic, he couldn’t hear the clicking anymore. It seemed that, although he was scared, he gained a bit of confidence along the way. “They pushed me to push the people beside me away, faster and faster.” He accepted that he had to move quickly to make it through and get out of his comfort zone — if only for awhile.

    I like that you are trying new styles, and I loooove short sentences. I tend to do this in my writing as well because it’s crisp and usually unsentimental, which drives some people nuts (my most faithful reviewer). It’s OK to mix it up (styles) here and there inside a piece if you think it’s called for.

    Take care, sweet. S.

    • Thanks Shawn

      Like I said with this, I was trying something new and I think that it was very obvious in points where I was comfortable and where I was uncomfortable (I mean this from a writing point of view, not from the narrator’s).

      After I finished it I realized that I got to all back to front and arse about face and I hadn’t quite got it right. But you know how I often feel under pressure to put stuff up here, even when it isn’t exactly what I was going for.

      I will sort out the break brake part. I completely missed that in the redraft! There’s the untrustworthy old copyeditor in me!

      But it is a bit of a mess, but it’s a style that I want to keep working on. I don’t think it works too well with short pieces because the lines are far too visible and you don’t have much time to move seamlessly between the points, but for something longer, I think it would work. But not without a lot of failed attempts along the way!

      This story was just something that I did when I didn’t have anything else to do. It wasn’t planned at all and I think that that is why it lacked direction at points, but I think that in actually trying to get this style that I’ve had in my head for so long actually down on paper, I have removed some of that fear of confronting it. The next piece will be a lot more under control I think!

      Conclusion: Some nice parts here and there. It was obvious where I felt in control and where I felt I’d lost it. But there are some nice ideas and lines in there in places, many of which might find their was into other things in the future. I write directionless work to the melody of a butcher’s knife sharpening in the background.

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