Often the weather can mirror my internal workings. A sunny day gives me a sunny disposition. Barefoot in the wind can be invigorating. But coatless in the rain can allow the gloom to set in.
There have been storms brewing in the house, swirling and rising in eddies up to the plaster ceiling roses, tugging at light fittings, disturbing cobwebs snug in corners.
The economy is like a bear trap left wide open, waiting, just waiting with its brazen shininess to snap shut and sever a limb.
My friend, Adrienne, closed her shop a couple of weeks ago. My husband might be next on the list. Sydney is a ghost town. The thriving, bustling main drag of George Street wouldn’t be out of place in a Western where tumbleweeds spin up the street.
Where have all the people gone? I was speaking to a bus driver the other day who said his fares were down by 50%. A hairdresser I know did one haircut last week. One haircut! She has had to let three of her staff go, all of whom have mortgages, kids, and no savings to fall back on. The sandwich bar round the corner, usually booming at lunchtime, is dead quiet.
There is a sense of unreality in the city right now. As if things are happening at a distance. The government has offered a stimulus package, reassurances, but all of us fear it won’t be enough. That the fat cats will get to any offer of aid before we do, because after all, small business is completely insignificant in the eyes of the mighty corporation. We have no influence upon government policy except for the fact that we pay tax, employ people, abide by the law and yes, we vote. However, the ability to vote seems to count for nothing when the only voice that seems to be heard is the grating, whinging voice of the corporate CEO who’s going to miss out on his bonus.
I did a quick straw poll of business owners I know in the Sydney CBD the other day, asking them what it would take to keep them going for another year or two without any worries. How much?
Some said as little as five thousand dollars. Some said twenty. The highest amount was one hundred thousand. One hundred thousand dollars to keep a business and all its employees afloat for up to two years. Chump change to a CEO. Probably not even an eighth of his bonus.
Such small amounts of money could make such a difference. But we, the people, the backbone of the country, are ignored, left to flounder for answers in the dirt.
My husband became ill towards the end of the week. His face was ashen. He was having trouble enunciating. Stress, the doctor said.
I feared a stroke or another heart attack. The body can only take so much, but sometimes the mind can take even less. A fear like a hand round my throat has gripped me for days. I cannot bear to lose him because of the greed of others.
I have dreams that make me smile in my sleep. Of vigilante groups, headed by Uma Thurman in her Kill Bill attire, waiting outside offices in Wall Street and taking the CEOs out one by one. Their blood when it spills is black and viscous. When their chests are cut open it is revealed they have no hearts. It becomes apparent that they were never really human at all, just money-making machines.
I dream of days full of light, of all men being equal, of real people being emblems of hope. I dream of revolution.
Then I wake to a morning like wet stone, feeble, worn thin. There is a silence that aches like the end of the world. Once more I ask: Where have all the people gone? No one seems to know. Perhaps this is the closest I will come to witnessing an apocalypse.