July 21, 2008

help yourself

His air felt heavy in his lungs and his hair was plastered to his forehead with dust and earth and he crossed the road swaying slightly, like an old bent spring. There was the Chippy where it had always been, and although it had shut hours ago and it was well past midnight the television behind the counter was still on, but the sound was off. A young chinese boy sat behind the counter, in the dark, illuminated only by the silent screen. He thought about that boy, whose family owned the shop and lived above it, and he remembered that the boy was attending the primary school that he himself had been to, so long ago, and he thought how much the boy must hate chips, how all the boy’s clothes must stink of chip-fat, how the boy’s bedroom and curtains and sweat must reek of it, how if the boy was to chew his pillow in his sleep, it will probably taste like chips. He crossed a second road.

   Keeping his eyes to the ground, because he was developing some kind of agoraphobic vertigo which made him deathly afraid of gravity reversing and him falling up into the convulsing clouds, he saw he sign, just around the corner from his own house. It was a rectangular piece of tile, outside a house that, when he had walked past it as a child, had always been dilapidated, but was now gleaming and charming, and neat, and this sign sat in its driveway and proclaimed

HELP

YOURSELF


but to what? Whatever had been on offer had been snatched up by passersby. It must have been some good stuff. He continued to stare blankly at the sign, as if trying to unlock its mystery.

To his surprise, he unlocked its mystery. He took the words literally. The events of the past year hit him like a tidal wave. His breath shortened but it did not increase in pace. His knees went weak. He wanted to fall to his knees, but he didn’t. He felt like a child, forcibly removed from childhood and placed in the body of a man. He wanted so badly to help himself.


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