Project

Perfunctory

As perfunctory as a flower,

I linger at the steps of an old church, letting the rough marble

Force friction with my feet, letting time enter my body through osmosis,

Letting the ancient be modern

A glance to the left reveals my bus, leaping from stop to stop, lurching forward and forward, racing to go nowhere but in loops and circles of the city

A glance to the right frames my apartment building, row upon row of indistinction.

Functional, utilitarian, forgettable.

I fondle the change in my pocket, nine coins for fare, counting them between my fingers in groups of three, three groups of three, three.

My bag, barren aside from forgotten letters needing postage, is strapped patiently by my side. There is no need to carry it with me; it offers security, as if an assault would be thwarted by its thin leather.

I stare down the wide avenue at 5:00 in the morning in this deserted, restless city and imagine in six months my presence won’t even register a footprint, a pause in conversation, an afterthought. Six months from now, I am the circular blowing in pointless circles down the windy sidewalk.

Six years from now, this road will be different, the pavement will be different, the rough marble I communed with will be replaced by something more efficient, more edifying, more transient.

Sixty years from now will be a thousand years from now.

Perhaps this coin should be thrown in the sewers, perhaps it would survive the test of time, perhaps it would be retrieved and speculated, discussed and conjured. Perhaps someone might say that this man wanted to be remembered, wanted to embrace the fleetingness of possession, of this life.

Perhaps he was a bum, they might say.

Perhaps they won’t be able to come to terms with time either, fingering my 100 won piece in their hand, the image fading.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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