The fire station is on my route to work, but it’s six months before I see it in action. Most days the large glass doors are down and though I peer in, I mainly see myself staring back. Then one day as I approach I see the door slowly rising. As I get closer the fire engine screams out, traffic stops and the sirens wail into the distance.
I look in at the chasm left behind and see that dotted about on the floor are six pairs of shoes. Leather boots, newly discarded for protective suits yet all still with soles firmly to the ground. And though I know what’s happened, it’s an eerie image: these shoes stopped mid-flight, their owners vanished. Not thrown to the side like at the end of a day but upright, waiting.
After that, I see these shoes all the time. Suddenly I can see past my reflection to the interior and always there are shoes. Sometimes crouching in the protective shade of an engine, sometimes waiting patiently for their owners to return in wide concrete space. Always standing straight, always stopped in the middle. Like guard dogs or soldiers, ready to fight.
Eventually, they take on a ghostly familiarity and I find their presence comforting as I pass by each day. They are patient, they are waiting, they are ready, they are here when you need them.
Then on Friday I notice something new: a large canvas has been taped up on one wall and the beginnings of a mural spread across it. It’s too early to tell what it might become – just a mass of swirling colours, but the paint is fresh and on the floor an array of paint pots with balancing brushes. Some downtime between work, between fighting. And just at the edge of the paint pots stand two pairs of leather boots: the artists in mid-flight, then vanished like the others.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 22nd April 2018 as part of Internet Care Package.
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