Monday, May 14, 2018

A dream of the road

[I almost slipped text this into Ghost South Road at the last moment. Perhaps I'll print it out on loose sheets of paper, and tuck it into copies of the book at this Thursday's launch.] 
Afterword: a Dream 
One night towards the end of 2017, after a few hours spent editing this book, I dreamed about the Great South Road. I dreamed about all the vehicles that had ever travelled the road. I dreamed them free from time, but I could not liberate them from the road. 
I dreamed the traffic lights in the middle of Papakura, where the Great South Road intersects with O'Shanessey Street. Cars, horses, wagons, bikes, ambulances, trucks, vans, rickshaws: all them spread, north and south, along both routes. 
At the bottom of the traffic lights a man in tweeds leaned out the glassless window of a Model T Ford and shouted into the jammed intersection. He shouted at a wagonload of blue-coated soldiers, 65th Regiment men, as they passed a brown bottle around. The horse that had carried them all the way from Rangiriri - suddenly I knew that they had fired drunkenly at Tawhiao's pa at Rangiriri, that they had crawled through the mud to its ramparts, swearing and praying - shivered, and stomped its hooves hopelessly. 
In the dream I was bodiless, weightless: I could float alongside, above, the trapped vehicles. A Cityline bus with the red and white paint job I remembered from the eighties waited with flat tyres in the queue, followed by a taxi where a young Sikh man with a frail beard sat alone. The young man frowned weakly, as though he were too tired to do more than feign agitation, and gave his horn an occasional passionless blast. 
One of the imperial soldiers staggered to the wagon's edge, over a sack that might be filled with potatoes, or with a Kingite corpse. He unbuttoned his pants with one hand, saluted with the other, and pissed into the road's mixture of mud and gravel and melting tar. 
The cottages and stores beside the road were wobbling stage sets, painted in imperial pink, with dark holes for windows. I heard a musket clear its throat, saw a rip appear in a cardboard door. 
I floated higher above the jammed vehicles, and looked again at Papakura's traffic light. It was a brownish red, the colour of a rotten apple. 
I felt, during the dream, like a failure. My brain had tried to liberate the Great South Road's vehicles from history, but it had only created a terminal traffic jam. The road's users were imprisoned, not in their own years and eras, but in a morose eternal motionlessness. 
I was glad to wake. I lay on my sofa and listened to crickets working in the backyard dark. I heard the low mobile hum of a lone motorbike in the distance. The road was open. The traffic of history continued.  


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