Night walk by the River Don

Saturday. The city's out there dancing and I'm suffused in alcoholic fug sleeping in my clothes and dreaming some night walk by the River Don where Neepsend Lane plays tributary to Penistone Road, where hostelry ghosts of the Farfield Inn drink on, nine years since the Don called an imperious last orders, its waters rising as high as the bar and here my feet make off northwest: a lane flanked dense with thickets, the freakish Don below, a carriageway of bustling currents. I commute upriver, the work of the dream awaiting and white points of light, white lines of engine noise reaching from the road beyond. A moment comes when rumination's apt, when to offer down my soles to stroke the surface seems the fittest course. I mull, send texts (the Don could take me if it wanted to), and I can't vouch for unseen trees falling in the forest, but my dreamstate absence here attests the Don still flows when nobody is there. Its spate persists, relentless, unabashed. Taking a cue, I rise again and shun the lane to hold fast to the bank, backtracking, softstepping, taking two small falls to founder in soft ground, still clambering implausible ledges that narrow near to nought, aware that if this mud dispels all friction, balance elude us and my footing fail, I'll dream a fatal dash against a concrete edge, wake bewildered, wondering and unscathed. Further up our way broadens and emerges onto some industrial estate: undisturbed, I dodge a barrier watched by rows of empty windows, which disclose only blankness, and an assumed panopticon of CCTV lenses up in the gods. A shopfitter, a tool parts supplier. I can't tell whether they're going concerns or gone; we take dereliction as read, scoping the city that never wakes up. In the end I'm circling one small section of some dirt track shot with potholes, Hillsborough's lights glaring over from across the way, playing on the tarry, sluggish surface of the Don to set a monochrome mosaic. The city too, it seems, continues to exist alone when I dream I'm somewhere else. The only thing to do's retrace my steps. Somewhere a security guard chuckles as I cross his screen again. Back at the start, just before the dream fades, there I am baffled by a dumped bathtub I'd not registered before, matteroffact as elephants in rooms. I wake to find my coat and boots bedaubed in river mud; on my phone, each step recorded by an app that tracks your way by GPS, and the bathtub photographed, stark as a full stop.

Pete Green