My skirt is tightly clutched as I walk down Apathy Boulevard, held high enough to avoid the dust of reality, yet sufficiently low so as to veil my humanity. It’s a pretty boulevard that I am rushing through. Above, the seductive rays of a shimmering sun wave out promises of luxury and power, as they erotically embrace pearly rotund clouds lined in gold. All around, hypnotic breeze meanders through trees, it’s intoxicating fragrance numbing my mind, while the trees band together almost concealing the sidewalks. Below me, the earth is soft and dry. As if I were once again a child looking through a kaleidoscope.
These are special trees that line Apathy Boulevard, each of them a banner as it were, a life monitor keeping me on the path of conformance, each of them playing its own siren’s song…”come to me…come to me…” Yonder is the tree of affluence, with its lush green leaves, beside it standing tall and proud, the tree of success, and reaching towards them with gusto, I see the tree of social standing, it’s arms raised high and spread wide. They bear their many succulent fruits with an arrogance born of having their heads resting amongst the clouds. I yearn for a taste of the fruits. I step up, I know not what upon, my arm extended towards that decadent manna.

But even as I reach up, from between the trunks of the fearsome trees, the tiny sidewalk people beckon me. Read my story too, they whisper. It’s in the papers, in the corner, written in little font, to fill up the space between stories of importance. Read my story too, they implore.

I read, of the tribal who made a funeral pyre of garbage and paper to cremate his wife of 32 years, because he did not have 2500 rupees to pay the crematorium. 2500 – half the cost of my jeans!
I read the story of the asthmatic woman who fell off the hospital bed she was sharing with two other patients and died because no one came to reconnect her oxygen.
I read, of the 19 year old lying in a pool of blood, stabbed after a petty street quarrel.
I read the judicial ruling on the building that collapsed due to substandard construction materials killing more than 60 workers.
I read the National Crime Record Bureau statistics – 10 unidentified bodies recovered every day in the state, mostly of women and senior citizens.
I read the CoreEarth Trust’s study that found that the city’s wetlands had reduced from 80% to only 15% due to human encroachment, contributing to the devastating floods in the city.
Jarred out of my tranquility, I look up startled, as I remember the 6 days my family had spent without power, food or water, cut off from the rest of the world, followed by weeks of cleaning and rebuilding. Tiny tendrils of fear and insecurity start crawling up my legs, their sharp thorns biting into my heart, attempting to rob me of my hope. The puddles of blood and sweat spill over the sidewalk bleaching the vibrant colours of my lane.

I look up again. The trees have receded, their fruits are no longer within my reach. The breeze that cuts me now is cold and dry and the siren’s song has turned into a wail. Now I see it, I am powerless, I am alone, I am no one of significance. Long forgotten feelings emerge – anger, frustration, disappointment. The tendrils of fear crawl further up my legs, threatening to alienate me from this boulevard of dreams that I cling to, threatening to ostracise me from all that I yearn for.

But I know what I must do.
I seek out the shimmering rays to box up my emotions. I allow the cold breeze to lull my conscience. I dust aside all sensation. I put on my game face and wear my blinkers. Once again I am a citizen of Apathia. Now the fruits are back within my reach.

The earth is soft, but I tread quickly. The sidewalk people still beckon me.

Note: All incidents reported in the local newspaper dated September 5, 2016.

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