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Frozen

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I’m sitting in The Park, watching the people go by like I do every day, like I have done every day for the past year. It never changes, they never change – every day it’s the same people, the same routines, even the same emotions. They don’t talk to each other; they don’t even know each other despite the fact that they see each other every day. They are all separated, lost, and alone, unaware of the world around them, unable to stop what they are doing to themselves.

They don’t see me watching them, they never have, and something deep inside tells me that they probably never will. Every day, I sit, and watch, and wait for something, anything, to happen, but nothing ever does. It’s like we’re all stuck here, unable to move forward, doomed to return day after day until... until what? I don’t know, but I wish I did.

There is no sunlight in The Park today. Ominous grey storm clouds loom above me and all the insects and birds have disappeared, except for the hadedas, whose coarse cries can be heard cackling mockingly overhead as they fly toward cover from the coming storm. Involuntarily, the image of a coven of witches flying around on broomsticks is unsettlingly summoned to mind. I try to ignore the unwelcome sound and hunch forward, rubbing my hands together in an attempt to keep warm; The Park is colder than ever today.

As I sit there, shivering, it dawns on me that walking into The Park is like walking into the frozen food section of a supermarket; you don’t expect it, but all of a sudden, the temperature just drops. I smile to myself, pleased with this analogy, and spot a woman jogging along a path scattered with fallen leaves. Her long blonde hair is tied back in a high ponytail, which bounces up and down with every step she takes, and she wears a vibrant pink tracksuit top and loose black tracksuit pants. On the surface, she looks fine, but I have watched her every day and can see past the façade. The heavy bags under her eyes disguise their puffiness and red-tinged edges, and the pearly whiteness and fullness of the smile that always adorns her face distracts you from the fact that it isn’t genuine. Being young and pretty helps too –.people expect to find unhappiness in those that are seen as having a reason to be unhappy, ugly people, poor people, the rejects, the old and infirm, and the socially outcast. People see what they want to see, and nothing conceals melancholy better than youth and beauty

I watch her for a moment, and wonder what sort of food she would be if this really were the frozen food section of a supermarket. Something healthy, I decide, and fat-free, perhaps a fruit or a vegetable? Nothing organic, mind you, not with that bottle-blonde hair of hers, a carrot, maybe? – No, too sweet, too vivacious, something... drearier, something unassuming. Nothing sour, but nothing too sweet either... What about the corn you find in those frozen mixed vegetable packets? Yes, corn, I decide, it suits her – she looks like a Corn.

I gaze past Corn and see a harassed-looking woman attempting to guide two frenzied Maltese Poodles through The Park. The dogs yap furiously at anything that moves as they hyperactively sprint from one tree to another, dragging their helpless owner behind them. You would think, with the way those dogs behave every day, that she would just give up on walking them or at least start trying to discipline them, but she never does. She treats those dogs like they mean everything to her, like she doesn’t have anything else left in the world but them, and thinking about it now perhaps that’s true. She looks aimless and confused today, eyes wide and empty, uncomprehending of her surroundings. Her face is pale and her mouth gapes in what looks like a grimace of horror. I dub her Fish, because her expression is so disturbingly similar to those of the dead fish that line the freezers of the supermarket.

Next is a kindly old man whose wrinkled face is lined with markings of grief. He limps along the path with the support of a magnificently carved wooden walking stick. His clothes are expensive, well-tailored and tasteful, but his jacket and trousers do not match, as if he wasn’t paying much attention when he got dressed this morning, or as if he weren’t used to dressing himself. He looks lost, as if some part of him is missing, and I find myself wondering why he walks alone.

He is dignified in his old age, and I think that he must be frozen chocolate mousse; rich in depth of flavour and emotion, neither frivolous, nor foolish, nor bold. Regal and proud and comforting, chocolate has always been a dessert for depression.

The smell of pizza wafts towards me from the direction of the trees where a tall, skinny teenage boy lurks menacingly, hands thrust deep in his pockets and a hood pulled far over his head. Acne dots his face like the messily strewn toppings of a frozen supermarket pizza. Every day he comes here and sometimes he’s sad and he sulks, and frequently he’s frustrated, kicking the stones on the gravel as he stomps around and glares hatefully at the world. But he’s never happy, he never laughs, he doesn’t even smile.

A cry from across The Park jerks me out of my reverie. It’s Fish, her two Maltese Poodles have finally gotten the best of her and managed to trip her, escaping from their leads and both making a dash for freedom. I look up just in time to see the two white balls of fluff disappearing in opposite directions. Fish’s lips together in a distressed o and her eyes fill with horror as she realizes that her little bundles of joy, the most important things in her life, are gone. She tries to get up and run after them, although she must know she has little chance of catching them, but slips and falls in the mud.

She makes for a sorry spectacle, sitting there in the mud, and even though I know I can’t, I’m almost tempted to get up and help her, when something extraordinary happens: for the first time in The Park the residents take notice of each other. Chocolate Mousse, a deep concern in his eyes, has walked over to Fish and offered her a hand up, checking to see if she is okay. My jaw is still dangling loosely off my bottom lip, when, a moment later, Pizza and Corn walk over, each carrying a struggling, squirming Maltese in their arms.

Fish looks incredibly relieved, and almost on the verge of tears, when Corn and Pizza hand back her dogs and help her secure them on their leads. Corn says something as she hands back her Maltese, I’m too far away to hear what it is, but I see Pizza and Fish laugh in response, and the corners of Chocolate Mousse’s mouth crinkle into a small smile, briefly eliminating the lines of pain in his eyes.

Ten minutes later they’re still talking to each other. Corn’s face is animated and excited, Fish is smiling and laughing good-naturedly, Chocolate Mousse looks contented and wise as he stands there listening to them, and Pizza’s hands, for once, are out of his pockets, gesturing wildly as he tells them all a story.

I look at them, all laughing and smiling together, no longer alone, and I think one single word: Thaw.





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