It’s so late. The soft glow of smartphones and tablets are conspicuously absent on the bus. The passengers are too tired to fiddle and finger their personal devices. A quick scan of those present suggests that no one is here on account of a sense of environmental consciousness. At this ungodly hour, the bus is occupied by a smattering of poor students, the physically frail and a class of people who generally can’t afford the upkeep of private car ownership. Being the son of immigrants, I blend in easily with my swarthy and yellow travelling companions, save for my sports jacket. The jacket is an item of clothing that betrays a hint of privilege, good fortune and personal advantage. The kind of advantage one might associate with having been here a bit longer.
My eyelids are heavy. It’s a real effort to stay awake. I fight my natural body rhythms. The driver, who some might characterise, under muted breath, as a stupid wog, jumps on the breaks, again, again and again. Determined to rouse those of us at risk from falling asleep, in his provincial mind he’s acting out of a sense of civic duty. Under the constant jolt of powerful hydraulics my body is flung abruptly forward. This is what a bloody Opal trip buys you! I come to, irritated and belligerent. I stifle the impulse to hurl insults at the driver, before slumping back into the seat, dejectedly. Under the dissipating forces of inertia, irritation quickly gives way to blurry eyed resignation.
I’m so tired. It’s been a 14 hour work-day. But in my circles, sympathy for the weary is in short supply. It’s been another long week, and I’m but one of many who has given generously of their personal time and energy to extended hours at the office. Little reserve is left over for personal reflection, for intimacy, for a harmless hobby. Is this how it has to be? All or nothing? Full time employment, where the 35 hour-week is an implied minimum rather than the absolute maximum? The answer of course is no.
But what if it looks like I’m not pulling my weight? Will my colleagues lose confidence in my perceived abilities? My commitment to the team: Will it be called into question? Will my apparent lack of engagement, my seeming indifference under the whelm of stress and pressure, cultivate an insidious resentment? A resentment that unfurls itself like a noxious weed crawling up the side of a building until the hapless structure is choked by an unshakeable firmament of green envy? No! Of course not! But try reasoning with a tired man. Between the space of exhaustion and ambition lies a myriad strands of irrational thought, the gateway to paranoia, or worse still, madness!
Calm down! Stop! Pause.
After what seems like an interminably long time, the bus driver mercifully releases me at a coordinate on Victoria Road where the roads to Lilyfield and Balmain meet. I drift, zombie like, to the bicycle faithfully waiting for me at the corner of Darling and Merton. I find the act of unlocking my hobby horse especially tedious at this hour. As I prepare to push off I wonder if I’ll make it home without incident. Will physical exhaustion overwhelm my ability to judge the distance of obstacles, causing me to slip up and tople over a darkened pot hole? Will I fail to notice a lone car shooting out from a side street like a pin ball? I hope not! All I want to do is get home, have a hot shower and climb into bed. To disappear into a world of nocturnal dreams is the sweetest relief I can think of right now.
I push off, hesitantly at first. I take a lazy right into a deserted council car park and then a wobbly left onto a darkened cobblestone laneway, disobeying the one-way traffic sign. When? Oh when, will someone make these quiet and deserted streets bidirectional for poor old cyclists like me? This will be the last pathetic protest I register against the world, tonight.
Thankfully, the short journey home is uneventful. Upon reaching my destination a predicable sequence of actions unfold:
- Bicycle parked and locked.
- Clothes and undies flung to the floor of small rented apartment.
- Teeth brushed.
- Heavy head falls onto fluffy white pillow.
It’s only a few short hours before I’ll have to get up and do it all over again. Of course, there is coffee. And there is the company of a few dear colleagues and the familiar smiles of students and academics to look forward to, making the experience of rushing back to the office a far more palatable proposition than it otherwise would be.
I finally succumb to my tiredness. I slip away into a mysterious deep blue ocean where the serpents of time and space float casually by as I set sail across oneiric seas for a magical world unchartered by earthly travellers.