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Sunday October 05, 2002, 23:30

I am embarrassed for the man who staggers home at 11:30 on a Saturday evening, so drunk he can hardly put one foot in front of another. I hear a bang and imagine that he might have just fallen against the dumpster that has been sitting up the road for the past couple of months. Maybe he will vomit and feel better.

The sounds of a harmonica drift up through my closed window and I am forced to go open it, to see where the sounds are coming from. Or, more specifically, to look to see where the sounds I hear originate. As it happens, as it often does, the music stops by the time I am at my window. By the time I am able to open it, all I see is the aforementioned drunk man, and I suspect that he is not the originator of the sounds. Though on this night, it seems like anything is possible.

It strikes me, all of a sudden, that it is not even midnight on a Saturday night and people are already staggering home. The bell has rung a half hour since, and I look out at a deserted street. The pub across the road, filled to bursting before the bell, has shut for the night. Even the staff has gone home.

With the window open, the world seems a bit more alive. Cars tear up the road, probably headed home, probably from the pub (a situation that I refuse to believe, however likely). As the minutes tick by, more and more clusters of people, fresh from what I am loathe to call a "night" of drinking, pass under the window, as pace between home and home away from home dictates. And then I realize that for all my posturing, I've been sitting here on the couch for the past several hours, reading about grammar and contemplating further work on a project that constitutes a livelihood for me right now. I leave the flat for a couple of hours every day and I have the gall to consider the habits of a country in which a night of drunken revelry ends before one day ticks over to the next? The nerve I say.

As my time here draws nearer to an end, I try not to wonder if I've done my time here properly. Whether, upon looking back, I will say that I really did what I was supposed to do in my half-year abroad and that I came away a better person. I try to instead look to the future, but it's particularly difficult, given the uncertainty in the world all around. A quick pass through job boards online reveals a populace crying out for more jobs, more work, more opportunity. It would appear that my re-entry into the city of Gotham will be greeted with bread lines and people selling pencils for a nickel1.

Really though, I'm scared. Frightened that once I return, the excuse upon which I've been living will cease to have any meaning. For me to have left to plunge myself into an entirely new life, however temporary, carries a lot of weight in the sensation of aloofness that I often find when examining my current state of being. And while there might be temporary "re-settling" to account for my behavior upon my return, I will still need a "plan of action" in order to feel at all as though I am moving somewhere in my life.

In the end, things really aren't that bad. As the night turns into day (and a Sunday, no less), the streets are quiet save for the odd car that, once again, tears up the street, mufflers be damned, and it occurs to me that things keep going, forward, in their own way, in their own time.



1. Truth be told, I can't imagine that it's that bad, and while it might be, there is something of an ego built up inside of me that can not for one minute believe that I will be left with no options and no opportunity. I chant a mantra in my head, self-serving and confidence-boosting that announces to the world (and at least to myself) that I am better than the riff raff and that I will find employment in this, our darkest time in memory. Seriously.

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