From my office window, I can see the murky, rancid waters of the Grand Union Canal. It’s awful. It’s just filthy brown water, full of plastic bags and coconuts, topped off with a grimy meniscus of duck feathers stuck in a greasy rainbow of oil that’s trickled down from the car repair place next door.
On the other side of the canal, on a stretch of pavement stained with calcified duck shit and discarded bottles of cheap Polish beer, there is a solitary piece of messily scrawled graffito. It reads “The Truth Is Out There.”
It’s been there for a while now and, due to the combined abuse of the sun, the rain, and the relentless scuffing of feet, it’s starting to fade. But, for now, it’s still there.
This morning, though, there was something different. At about 8.30, there was a human head poking out of the canal, thinning white hair slapping against the brown ripples of the canal.
By 9, the corpse was laid out flat on the pavement, surrounded by a small contingent of TV cameras and policemen. The cops said that it looked like he’d been in the canal between 8 and 10 hours. At a guess, I’d say that he was walking home from the pub last night and fell into the canal, too drunk to get himself out.
I’ve scoured the news sites all day and I can’t find anything. I suppose a drunk drowning doesn’t merit any coverage.
By lunchtime, the body was gone, whisked away to who-knows-where. I walked down there. There wasn’t a trace of the body that had been there mere hours earlier. Just a wet, body-shaped stain slowly drying.
Why am I writing all this down? What does it mean? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe it means “life is short”. Maybe it means “don’t walk by the canal when you’ve been drinking all night”. You can take whatever you want from it.
To me, it means “Make it count. All of it. Make the journey just as important as the destination.”
But what the hell do I know?