Crowd

He looks down. So many feet around him, there is no room even for shadows. Feet only a few inches distant from his feet. Some more or less stationary next to his, some others moving, passing. He can see the shoes shape, the colors, the steps changing. Some advance gently, others make their way decisively, twisting and slipping into empty spaces to push forward.

Staring at that flow, his view is doubled and the perspective takes on a mobile three-dimensionality that seems to suck him down. He feels dizzy.

He looks up again. In front of his face only about twenty centimetres for breathing. All around heads, different hair shades, smiles and looks sometimes laid on his, though without interest. He turns around, no way out unless he twists and pushes forward like those brave feet he saw so decisive. He tries to shrug your shoulders, as if getting smaller could get him more living space. The result is opposite: the freed area generates a small gap, which is immediately filled.

Someone puts a hand on his arm to pass through. He gets scared and suddenly turns around. The guy doesn’t even look at him, he is turned on the other side and he’s talking to a friend. Pulling back his chest, he loses his balance and clashes with a girl to his right. Then he gets straight again. Fearing to move, he just rotates his head to look at her, extending the neck a little. He mumbles some apologies. She doesn’t hear and doesn’t seem to care. Out of the corner of his eyes he sees her chatting and laughing. Farther on he can see raised arms that frame a jarring chorus of female voices.

He straightens his head. In front of him now there are child knees perched on the shoulders of a young and handsome man. Together they look like a huge presence. Now even the topmost space of him is occupied. The young man looks at him and smiles with conspiratorial understanding, as if he were part of his own thought. He tries to return the courtesy, but his lips ripple in a grimace.

He begins to feel breathless, all his reserves are running out. Dizziness is too strong. The view splits again. The crowd surrounding him becomes an undulating stream, which pushes a load of confused voices and mutterings.

Now the neighboring hands don’t just touch him. They look for him, they want to attract his attention, they call him. Annoyance adds up to choking, he tries to break free, but he finds it hard to stand up. He stumbles, then leans on someone, but immediately repents. He doesn’t want help, not that help. Suddenly it seems easier to move forward. He doesn’t wonder why. He just looks for the way out and accelerates the pace.

Someone wants to hold him back, he hears his name being pronounced. If he only could plug his ears… He keeps going, he does not stop even when he no longer hears voices, not even when there are only walls and gates around. He staggers from time to time, then helps himself with his hands on the grips offered by the road. The climb begins, he could slow down and breathe better now, but he knows it wouldn’t be enough. Panting, he reaches the gardens on the ridge of the hill. He leans on the green railing of a natural terrace overlooking the valley view.

He takes a breath and finally start to relax. The fresh air dissipates the fog of the mind, sight returns lucid.

He feels so tired. He turns, his back to the view,  still leaning on the railing. There’s a tree in front of him. Exhausted, he takes a few steps and goes to sit under the tree, with his back resting on the trunk and his legs extended forward. He closes his eyes and breathe. He enjoys the air and the silence and start to calm down. The feeling of a presence makes him raise his eyelids. A man is standing before him. That face is known, but for a moment the mind is confused again.

– Where does that panic come from?

– I don’t know – he seems to him as he hasn’t spoken a word for a long time. The sound of his own voice amazes him.

– Did you feel breathless?

– Yes, there were too many people.

– Where?

– Down there… 

– Down in your hands?

– In my hands? No, it’s not …

– Have a look in your pockets.

He, submissive, rummages in the pockets of his jacket. In the left there’s a notepad with a light blue cover.

– Come on – the man has a patient voice, with a gesture invites him to leaf through the block.

He obeys. He sees the drawings: multi-shaped shoes, heads, different hair shades, eyes and smiles, two friends talking, a girl laughing, other girls with raised arms, a child perched on a young man.