Every Saturday, for almost two years, I met someone at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. He was my boyfriend, and we lived on opposing train lines, so met in the city so that we could see each other. The city was, and still is, a vast expanse of humanity; people bustling to and fro, eager to get to their destinations. His train always arrived after mine did, and so I would spend the time people watching.
I like this analogy, one of meeting someone under the clocks and while waiting, watching the people and the world pass you by.
There is always a promise to meet under the clocks, a place where the order and direction reminds us of our eternal obligation to the world. The hands pointing out routes not yet taken - an invitation to face the world, a reminder of the place we have with those who are the same.
I start with the physical, and use it to represent the figurative. Time is also a great symbol, one of hope, dreams and possible change – or none at all.
I'm supposed to find you under the clocks. Instead I meet myself, and greet this ghost with a smile.
I see that the ordered measure of time has lost all meaning. Many sit with me under these clocks, but we are not together. We are not one in humanity, we are alone amongst ourselves. The ticking clocks above us taunt the city with a promise of constancy. The only constant force is the innate disappointment each of us feels with the world.
Is it my job to fix this?
What do you think?
I think it's your job, not mine.
With time to think, it's easy to start to wonder about where I fit in the world, where others fit and why it is that we are so 'hell-bent' on making sure we don't have to 'engage' with anyone else. The irony being, that this too makes us all so sad.
The ghost turns and shows me a country that is not a land of isolation, but a people who stand in a crowded place and find themselves drowning from the inside. The sandbags have been stacked and the flood will not be allowed out.
Australia is a large expanse. There is so much land, that we often see it as a land of isolation. The cities are different – physically, but emotionally they can be just as silent. The things we talk about, the things we fear are not emotional, but physical. Drought, floods, fire. But these too, can be used to describe how we really feel about our lives, how we really feel about each other.
There, under the clocks, more water creeps up the steps and takes the people prisoner. Some have water up to their necks, and patiently wait to drown. Others are wading towards me, reaching out, asking for help.
I do what I think is right. I turn my head away from them and close my eyes.
And so we ask, what is our role in life? And I use the flood as an emotional onslaught on loneliness.
The ghost points to me. I persecute myself. I wait at the clocks and stare at my feet, imprisoned by my freedom to ignore the plight of others.
What does sadness, fear, exile look like – would you reach out to someone in need?
I am free from the expectations of society, but imprisoned by my own.
The ghost pushes me into the deep.
I try to ignore the world, mostly because the world says that I can. But I have a conscience, one that asks me what impacts I intend to make on the world, and because it asks me this, I find myself imprisoned by the rules I have made for myself.
We listen, the ghost and I. Some talk of a great love for this sunburnt country and speak of the land and the rain that teases those who need it.
The ghost talks of the drought that has hardened its people - when we turn to others for help we find a dry and barren kinship that has become scratched and gravelled over time.
Amongst the people there is a flood. But nothing can break the drought. The soil is too battle weary to allow amends. Their fears are unabating; discontented abuse reigns over the people.
The drought is a drought of emotional connection, and so the people of Australia become emotionally hardened. The flood, is a cursed onslaught of sadness, and this emotion cannot give the people a connection.
The ghost points to those whose blinkered eyes cannot focus on the shelter they had from the storm, and to those who continue to question whose responsibility it will be to stop the drought.
There is plenty of water, there should be no drought.
It's like saying that there are plenty of people, you should have some friends. And our subconscious reminds us that it's not good enough to have everything that you need; sometime it is important to make sure that others are not hurt by your inability to empathise.
These people sit, justifying their choices with lists of rules and regulations. It is an interesting freedom; one that allows people to wallow in sadness and forgets to remind others that they can see the peril others face.
I realise that my parched throat is choking on the isolation that has gathered in the air.
Under the clocks - I stood, waiting for you.
Instead, I find myself, and didn't know what I was doing there.
Empathy comes at a price.