Way Up Here

Way up here, in the vapour haze, everything is clearer. Air wrinkles and whips the fabric flags, vibrating the steel poles in ricochets across the valley, fragments of washing flying on sticks below. Pastel sheets wave happily to one another. A hat blows off and tumbles like a wildflower across the mud, shedding straws like petals in a game of track and follow. Chase. The blue ignited tree that struck you down last night sprawls its arms in an apologetic hug. I never meant to scare you. Believe. A nobody you shared your story with is finding the way now, seeking out the safety net of nylon to bury themselves inside for the next few hours. A naked hippy washes her chicken-white crinkly ass under a tap. Three friends, arms plaited and sweat exchanged, roll home after a heavy one, still singing anthems.

Way up here, you can see the Totoro. He wanders, scoring lines with his black claws in the dust, making tracks that aren’t too straight. He’s gripping the bottle of water you gave him. He’s talking to himself, leaving his poem in the sky. You feel it. Just like you feel a piece of everybody from way up here. Scratching and rubbing his way through the fabric points, the burning fires and along other people’s paths. A few people ask him if he’s okay, he nods and keeps on moving. A luminous jacket, a girl, hands him a festival paper, with an organic yoghurt and a smile. Shy, she moves on quickly when he gets yoghurt on his nose.

Way up here, it is easier to see. You have the vantage point of a bird. Bands tune up and flex their muscles in the wind, sent your way as samples, tasters on the tongue. Clouds threaten rain but the day ahead is long and holds its own timeline. The Totoro keeps moving, now just a faint grey dot. He passes a woman with bells on her headscarf, heating water on gas for herbal tea. She is talking to him, offering him a cup and to read the leaves when he is done. The Totoro pushes on, past a whining mouth in rubbery boots and a PVC mac, catching drizzle in her teeth. Clutching a steaming bacon roll, red sauce dripping down her front.

From way up here, you can see the girl. That one. You watch her. She is slurping on a beer, first cold one of the day, wet from the night time air, baby-wipe fresh and ready. She draws heavily on her first cig and you wonder how much sleep she’s had and if anyone else is in her tent. You see her technicoloured mate lounging on the grass, burning toast on flaming twigs and you wonder if they have ever been together.

From way up here you watch the multiplying fluorescent coats to her right. More and more appear, bright spots, five on one, as they approach the loos, hunters armed with elephant trunks. More stalls spring open as the streams on the walkways thicken. The humming noise of life is steadily rising with the smell of the vegan kitchen, rushing warmth and the taste of no-bones jones. You should sleep but no longer want to. You watch her until it makes your eyes sting. You plot the route down into the fields. Most people are getting their breakfast, mixing up their first White Russian, or a cider to start, beans on toast, a broken cereal bar, paracetamol and Berocca.

From way up here the Totoro is small. He is hunched somehow with age and keeps on shrinking. Eventually he sinks inside the horizon, where the valley dips, and goes out of sight. Souls on the move. There’s a twinge in your leg and you stretch it, getting ready to go down.