Without any specific purpose, I browsed the Internet for 20 more minutes, and then decided to do a little clean-up. I picked up my jeans, t-shirts, and socks lying on the floor, and put them into the washer; each sock I gathered looked like a stranger to the other, lying in confusion—I couldn’t find a pair for them. Then I vacuumed my tacky carpet lined with prints of lions, wiped a thick layer of dust in the distant corners of my desk, threw out all the litter, and made my bed. I rarely cleaned up, and sometimes I felt like I was gradually running wild.
After my clean up, I remembered how Jane would be back from her trip in a week or so, and it immediately felt as if the room was ventilated. Her return meant many pleasant things: long talks at night, dreaming of the future, walking around hidden city streets, going to museums, reading books aloud to each other, cinema-like tempestuous quarrels and reconciliations, and so on. I stood in the middle of the room with a Hoover in my hand, and keenly realized (perhaps for the 20th time this week) how I missed her.
Hey, wait a second! I was enlightened with a thought, simple and surprising in its obviousness: I can leave the city for a couple of days as well!
The decision was taken almost immediately and almost on its own. I grabbed my camera, a change of clothes, and a toothbrush, and stuffed it into my old hiking rucksack; without counting, I put some money into the back pocket of my jeans, and it seemed like gathering my things was finished. After a momentary hesitation, I turned off my phone and put it on my work-desk; if I suddenly needed to call someone, I could always use a payphone. It would be nostalgic—I remembered my schooldays, when having a mobile phone was kind of luxurious even for adults, not to mention for a kid like me. We didn’t have even a stationary phone at home, so when I had an extra quarter, I used to call to my friends from a payphone on the other side of the street. Each second was precious back then.
These memories made me smile. Man, we could talk about everything! And when the time granted by magical quarters was over, we met together and continued our chats literally from the middle of the word.
Standing in the center of my room, I thought of what conversations seemed like today, when so many people have Internet access, messengers, and social networks.
“Hi man! What’s up?”
“I’m okay, thanks. And you?”
“Same here. What are you doing right now?”
“Oh, I see.”
And that’s all. Of course, it’s not all that bad, but I guess almost every person in the world at least once in their life had conversations of such emptiness. Perhaps, two cold planets somewhere in deep space, with orbits regularly separating them from one another for long periods of time could communicate like that. Their rendezvous are so short, they don’t know what to talk about; but since they know each other, after all, it seems indecent for them to ignore each other silently. So, they exchange with some meaningless etiquette phrases, using them to fill the time period required by nature to dilute them to different corners of the star system.
“Come on, man, you think too much!” I said to myself, bucking up and finally left the apartment.
I went to the bus station from which old rusty buses departed to small forgotten towns. Having no idea where to go, I walked along the rows of empty buses, reading signs with the names of cities, towns, and villages written on them. Eventually my eye stopped on one of them: it meant completely nothing to me, but after talking to a bus driver, I figured out it was a small town to the East, built to maintain a huge industrial enterprise. My imagination drew a picture of gigantic, ancient factories, spurts of flame in the night shift, metallic constructions, an industrious heritage of the past, enormously solid, grim, and majestic reminders of a previous epoch.
I settled comfortably in a rigid chair on the bus. I took out a bag of crisps and Hemingway’s novel True at First Light which I grabbed at home at the last minute, and got immersed in reading with such intensity that I didn’t even notice when the bus became filled with passengers and departed.