A story of utter panic…
I was too late. The persuasive lady’s back had turned. I hadn’t meant to order what I did. It was a panicked reflex, an accident. My neck was red. My shoulders, knees and ankles felt weak. The same feeling experienced when you laugh too hard, however, this time it was dread that coated thick over my frame. I was about to snip the piece of thread that holds my generation together. I was about to end our shared belief that has become the basis of most conversations. I was about to kill nature.
It was the decided tap of the steamy cup on the plastic bench that finally coaxed a gasp out from the back of my throat. A true, yet embarrassing, representation of the horror that was about to unfold. I handled the cup with an insecure grip. The doors seemed empathetic of my situation, but even they cautiously parted to let me through. Just like the young couple that urged their stroller past me, their eyes were full of accusations of hypocrisy. I forced my steps into a lazy gait. Maybe pedestrians would see me as an assistant in those trashy movies, simply delivering coffee to my overachieving boss. Maybe they would see someone working hard to climb up the working ladder, simply needing an early morning fix. However, it wasn’t the people on the path that I should have been concerned about. It was the road that lay down society’s final judgement of my murderous behaviour. It was the road, where I saw who I was.
I had made it to the crossing, painted thick with a bleached white. The first two cars passed right through, maybe they had seen what was in my hand and took their chances to rush past. Or maybe they were just late. A purr to my right signalled that a large SUV had paused for me to cross. My eyes locked with the peroxide-blonde mother perched high in her onyx, diesel guzzling bulldog of a car. She peered at my hand. My anxious claw that my hand had become, clutching the commercially made disaster of a cup. I walked on the lines, missing the gaps between the lines. The next car on the other lane was a small, dusty Toyota. A classic grandma eased back in her seat, her hands clamped on the wheel. Even she, through her wide-brimmed glasses, leered at me. At my cup.
I leapt onto the curb. The grandma was surprisingly fast on the pedal. Maybe she wanted to end the suffering I had forced the environment to endure. The other side of the street proved to have no less judgement. By this time, I was sticky with sweat. My shoes felt tied together. My face felt chubby beneath a mask of red. Nothing could get any worse.
I was wrong.
Along the path, an elegant man, lithe on his feet, swaggered toward me. Words that would cause my mother to faint flashed and bounced through my head. The man knew me. Recognition beamed between his ears. It was instantaneously replaced by a cool, loathing flavour of disgust. At me. At the cup. He scurried past like a rat. But maybe I was the rat. Poisoning the very land that had kept me alive all this time.
I kept walking. There was only a small distance left to my sanctuary, which turned out to be my small, economical, second-hand-piece-a’-… I needed to get there. To shut the door and be gone with judgement day. I quickened my pace and strained my legs to take longer strides. Shop-keepers doubted my very existence behind the safety of five-millimetre glass doors. Thick, rubber tires kept sliding past me. As if I were the one that ruined our natural world? I turned the corner. The distance closed between me and my aggressively parallel parked car. Her nose sniffing over my allocated space. A young boy ambled past. A head of straw sitting atop denim overalls. His understanding of this world was naive, yet even he stared after me. He was the worst. I was polluting his world that he will live in for far longer than me. I was harming his future, and I was killing nature.
My door clipped open and then shut. My shoes leaned on the pedals, and in a response to my new relaxed state, I slumped my shoulders. I wondered if my car knew that if it turned on, we would advance forward and probably kill both of us. I turned the cup in my hand. Still hot from the lady that served me.
Realisation smacked me in the gut. A small, green leaf laying next to a diagram with three arrows pointing in a clockwise direction, head-to-tail, forming a triangle. My obligation to the youth of today was intact. Our planet was not going to die because of me, because of my choice. I can relax, and let the generations above mine do that for me.
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