The day’s too hot; the tarmac is slightly sticky beneath your feet, and that baked smell of tar and old smoke hangs just above it. Nothing’s moving; there’s no breeze to break the oppressive heat, and the birds aren’t singing. The traffic noise is there, of course, but then it always is. You’re walking along the footpath by the motorway, hidden away from the uncaring metal boxes above, tucked down in the trees and wilting grass and footsteps on the pavement.
You turn right and step into the underpass, and sigh in relief as the coolness envelops you. The tarmac smell is slowly replaced by a hint of damp and piss as you walk through the long tunnel, heading for the square of light at the other end, threatening the fury of the sun again.
A movement dances in the corner of your eye. You turn your head – probably a fly, or something drifting down from the vibrating roof above, rumbling with the traffic. But there’s nothing moving now.
You amble onwards, your steps growing slower and slower to prolong your stay in the cool –
– another movement.
There’s new graffitti on the walls – it changes by the week, and you don’t pay it much attention. It’s usually just a name splashed on the bare concrete with uncaring vigour. But this is in bright blue, a splash of colour on the grey dappled canvas, and it’s a person.
She slowly fades in as you come level with her. A smiling girl, the hasty lines somehow perfectly capturing the vibracy of her smile. She’s got headphones on over her long hair, eyes shut and a faint smile on her lips, caught with the few brief lines –
You can’t quite catch it happening, but now her hands are over her head, she’s looking down, lost in the music. Head thrown back, hips swinging, hands beating out a rhythm in the air, feet shifting, oblivious to everything except the beat-
A movement to the other side catches your attention. There’s more graffitti there – another dancer? This one’s male, tall, skinny and lean in his creased jeans. Side-on to you, he’s got both hands on his headphones to wrap himself in music, swaying his head to something only he can hear, feet shuffling gently, and you can almost catch the beat through the noise of the traffic-
You glance back. The girl’s gone…or at least, she’s still there, but the hasty lines are faded and static, the faintest outline of a figure etched onto the grey, an old drawing that’s faded with time. And when you look back the man’s gone, too, and you walk across to the panel. He’s just a scrawl of black, a tangle of lines that could make a person if you squinted just right…
You put a hand up to your eyes, rubbing across them, wondering if you ever did see them dance.
Too much sun. It’s too damn hot. Got to get going again.
You shake your head and stride out, not looking back.
But every time you walk through, you keep an eye on the walls, waiting to catch that hint of movement from the corner of your eye, waiting to hear the faintest of beats in the traffic’s hum and see the dancers lost in their music, just one more time.