Thursday morning is approaching quickly and I’m dreading it. I know the fate that awaits me: five hours in a room at boiling temperature, sitting alongside 24 colleagues, and being force-fed a high dose of equality and diversity. I cannot find it in me to dig for any positives in this situation, but I know I have to make it through it. I do not have a choice.
How I start my day before that fatal 9 o’clock rings, is entirely up to me though. So I have decided to take a walk, hike the neighbourhood and witness it rise. I know this way I will not step into work defeated. I will be free to spend four hours daydreaming about the birds I would have heard, the wonders I would have seen and the photos I would have taken.
My alarm clock rings and I jump out of bed, eager to start the day. I have a park to find before going off to work and submitting to the obligatory training.
By 6.45am I am out of my flat, happily walking along known streets that will lead me into the unknown. The sky is still pitch dark and the only lights are provided by the street lamps and the little bike light I’ve attached to my coat. It doesn’t help at all but I am hoping that through the muddy marshes it will reveal a path that won’t sink my feet into deep puddles.
At the first cross-road, I slide my hand in my pocket, digging for the piece of paper that is going to lead me on this expedition. There is nothing but the remains of a sweet eaten long ago. I laugh. I should have known better than to carefully map out my itinerary. It seems silly of me to do so when each time I plan a route, I diverge from it as soon as an opportunity arises. I keep on walking. I will have to go from memory if I am to reach the park. This adventure is suddenly more exciting as I will have no clue where I will be heading after the muddy marshes.
I step into what must have been some woods long before it transformed into a huge living area, but a path remains, shadowed by trees and paved with fallen leaves. I smile as I feel the familiar tinge of fear rise in me. I have become such a city girl since the end of my childhood. I cannot see the sky and my bike lamp is not of much help. I shiver and grin at the same time as I hear a bird fly from one tree to another. I know I am safe and yet my body fears for me. I will have to go into real forests to shake this nonsense out of my skin.
In a minute I am out of the path, stepping into the muddy marshes with a familiar splash. It has rained more than I thought since last Sunday. My grin only grows as I walk further into the land, my lamp highlighting the puddles that now look like miniature lakes.
Slowly, I go round the workers site. Soon this place will be safe against flooding. I am almost sad at the idea of loosing this playground. It makes my walks more interesting, trying to avoid sinking my shoes into a deep puddle.
Out of the marshes I come, my feet still dry, my shoes impossibly wet and dirty. I head straight up the first road. I can remember its name from my forgotten map. I walk and walk and forget about the side street I’m supposed to take. The signs disappear and only once do they reappear to point me from where I came from. I’ve lost my park but I don’t care. The scenery unfolding around me has become much more interesting.
The sky is slowly lighting up, hues of blues trying to fight their way against the darkness of the night. I am not used to this. Most of my walks happen on the other side of the day. There is an unknown feeling of expectancy and yet nothing seem to be happening. There are barely any lights in the houses. The usually dimly lit living rooms hosting the gentle lull of the unwinding evening are pitch dark. I can only glimpse a few tinge of yellow on what I assume are bedroom windows, corridors and bathrooms.
Slowly the streets fill with people but the houses remain closed. I hear cars speeding by in the distance and yet no one has yet emerged from their front door. I feel almost excluded, as if the act of going out, of shedding your home self for your work self by walking through your front door is an act too personal to be witnessed.
I look at my watch for an instant. It is getting dangerously close to eight o’clock. I need to start thinking about heading to work. I pause for an instant and look around. I can distinguish a busy road in the distance going in what I assume is the direction I need to take. I don’t want to walk along it. There are too many cars whizzing by, disrupting the emptiness and quietness of a neighbourhood I’ve come to love so much. I walk slowly towards it. I don’t think I have an other option this time until, to my right, I see a smaller road pointing in the same general direction.
My feet turn right and I climb up that street. As it reaches its peak, it turns left and there I am, on that main road. I can see the golf course across it and know I am very close to work now. I won’t have to suffer the roar of the engines for long.
I look at my watch once more. It is 8.12am. I smile. I’m just in time to make it to work. I might even have some time for a nice cup of tea before I have to climb the stairs, enter the boiling room, and patiently, happily count the minutes until the end of the training.