Walking the night-time city

Night-time is the time when I love the city the most. The best time is when the workers have all gone home and the merry makers have all retired to bed. There is peace and quiet, apart from the occasional delivery truck, and few people around. The darkness is a time for fools and policemen. Only fools wander the night time city when they don’t have too. But some fools are compelled by their inner needs to walk, to spend the night walking, to try to find a solution to life’s needs in the night time city.

The few people around are mostly fellow walkers: We swap quiet “Good morning”s. I wonder why they are walking the lonely night time city. Do they walk out of loneliness like me, or are they escaping the pressures of sharing a home? Is it to share the city with other walkers or to escape people with whom they are in conflict? I don’t know: We don’t stop to talk. We are each wrapped in our own reasons for walking the night-time city and have little wish to share them with others. Rather we don’t want to listen to the reasons of those others. We don’t want to know each other as people, only as figures that pass in the dark. 

Most nights I go the same ways, following the same familiar streets. I rarely need new views. I’m not in it for seeing new places, the walking is the important thing. Where the walking takes place doesn’t matter. Going the old familiar ways I can ignore what is around me, thinking only of my loneliness. There’s no need to think about where I am nor where I’m going. I see the same familiar buildings in the dark. They barely register as I pass on my lonely way.

Some nights I give in to the urge to go a different way. I don’t know what I’m looking for. Maybe new faces or new views of the city. It makes no difference. It is the walking that is important. The different buildings and people don’t really register in my closed mind. They are soon forgotten. They fade back into the dark loneliness of the night time city, becoming nothing. They are forgotten as soon a soon as I have passed them by. They disappear into the dark.

The nights that I love the most are those cold, rainy ones. Wearing a big coat, scarf and hat, I head out into the misty dark. There are less walkers these cold, wet nights. I mostly have the streets to myself. Everyone with any sense is curled up in a warm bed, either their own or a shared one. Almost, I feel that I am the only person alone in the world. There are a few walkers, hardy souls like myself, perhaps also like me, driven by loneliness to bear all kinds of weather.
But I prefer the cold and rainy nights to the warm ones. The cold outside unites with the cold within me, adding to my loneliness, but also helping to ease it a little.

I sometimes feel like the last person on Earth, walking the remains of some post-apocalyptic world, unsure of what I’m looking for, or what I want, and not knowing what it would be if I found it. Would I be more lonely if I knew that I was the only person left on Earth, or would it not make much difference to the way I feel? I don’t know. I walk the streets of the night-time city to ease my loneliness not to explain it. Thinking about the loneliness doesn’t help. I just live with it.

As dawn approaches lights start to come on in the buildings and houses. I wonder what is going on in them as people get ready to start their days and head off to work. I sometimes wish that I could be part of one of those awakening households, but then I remember how hard it can be organising one’s life around the needs of another person, the pain of conflict. Perhaps being alone is better: At least it avoids the bitter arguments and recriminations.

As the city starts to wake up I make my way back to my lonely home. All I want to do now is sleep through the day and then to wake up to again walk the darkness of the night time city trying to escape the other darkness in my soul.

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