Thursday, May 17

Thirty-two

No better morning for being thirty-two floors up; the highest I’ve been in that city; no, higher; always scampering around on the ground, keeping my eyes peeled for soil. It was a site visit, placed above the Thames and in a triangular construction still being built. Dust filled the air and sparkled in it. I was tired. In a cab round the one-way system I made eyes with a Mediterranean tourist: pulling along her bag, windy hair, stunning jaw, good eyes, and it hurt to make eyes with her, but eyes were made and she overtook me then I overtook her and I saw her smiling down the street, her tenth holiday romance; she was a heartbreaker. It was not half-nine. Down below – once the long journey up had been made in lifts that smelled of Chinese food, or something fried and sweet – the capital glossed in sunlight. Seasonally accurate, this was May sunshine, the trademark (responsible for immeasurable tourism bookings and countless conceptions) of fresh lulling light, nursing earth through an umbilical cord made of well-timed weekend breaks and uncomfortable jumper choices. If you walked fast enough to avoid being trodden upon you could feel sweat dribble down from your underarms. Labourers spoke English in Polish and rummaged in metal treasure chests filled with tools. You are never facing the direction you want to when you look out from such heights. You think of moving around, but you settle for it, preparing yourself for the challenge of naming as many landmarks as you can: Battersea Power Station, the Eye (hungover, spidery), Waterloo station, I give up. The clouds ripple shadows over everything, heading north-east. This is eight million lives, I supposed. I leaned against the glass; it was an inch thick; how lucky I am. Forty-two floors more above me. Dust still glittered in the air, warm, stuffy, moist, my ears had popped a few floors down. I wiped my brow – it was time to get on with things.

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