When I walk downhill carrying my computer and the old man sitting underneath the tree nods when I say, marvelling, There’s a lovely butterfly clinging to the underside of that hedge, brown one, just hanging there, and he says, Yeah, they coming round, this time of year, I feel like there is sanity in the world, humanity, generosity, kindliness, sense. When I offer my handful of deep pink lillypillies to the girl with the blond mop who makes my coffee and she has lived in Brisbane all her life and had never heard of nor even seen them, and makes me eat one before she will try, I feel like we are building ourselves a hell in which no one can be happy and everyone addicted to their gaming, shows, anti-depressants, painkillers, grog, psychotic energy drinks, caffeine and sugar and fat, and that we have dragged everything living under this falling cliff face with us – all is lost – there can never be any kind of kind world again except what some few shivering survivors might build, round a fire lit in an old fat 1990s television case, as the waters around them surge with bodies and trash.
The loss is most likely not so cleanly apocalyptic as that, it is rather a creeping, board-meeting, bargain-hunting thing. Since my childhood so much beautiful is gone. We live as though we have forgotten. I remember when you set out for a walk and did not take your phone along: you were untraceable, in the elements; you had stepped into the wild and imagination lit from tree to tree and trundled like an old monkey behind you. But the blond girl in the coffee shop obligingly replays the song that was finishing splendidly when I came in, she is excited, “It’s my favourite song at the moment,” and I read down the sides of their stacked takeaway cups a series of excerpts of someone’s writing, and the clattering jackhammers chatter in the treetops as another giant building is assembled down the street, I can draw no conclusions about anything and I too know by font three thousand different brand names and recognise only a few hundred kinds of plants. The same scarlet beetle drops on my keyboard as greeted me last time, its yellow feelers waving like stalks of pollen in the air, sensing things I cannot know and having no urge I guess to check its emails, write back to anyone, wonder what it is really doing with its life or order more coffee. I feel so hollow inside and so strangely, ridiculously thankful this creature is warming its thin case of body on the quiet warmth of my machine.