Wednesday, February 27

The Sign-In Book Shows All The People Who Arrived Before You

REMEMBERING A DOCUMENTARY I had seen on the station, I stepped from the artificial subterranean light into the dull air. They interviewed this homeless woman. She had no teeth and she said – ‘I came here on a coach in eighty-seven and this guy offered to look after me. He got me into drugs and prostitution and I’ve been here ever since.’ I wondered if I might see her.
A lot of buildings had been removed from the streets, too, as well as many of the crooks. There was decorative and advertisement-stained hoarding up all over the place. Many students. Labourers stood out in their high-vis jackets, mellowed around on street corners, guarding equipment or driveways.
I was certain of a shortcut but went alongside the station. Someone stunned me out of my thoughts by throwing himself in front of me with a big grin. It was the managing director of a company I worked with. I took my headphones out, and pulled the fag out of my mouth, to shake his hand. He asked me how I was and where I was going, then he asked me about a particular job and whether I had mentioned it to the chairman. I assured him I had. We parted.
Everything seemed damp. London damp gives nothing away, even if it hasn’t rained for days it is still damp and there are still puddles, yet there are bright patches of dry in odd little places, too. Damp, endless damp damp damp. At this time of year you have forgotten what sunlight looks like, what a dry pavement looks like, what throes your senses are subject to when everything is so lifeless!
I am a miserable person. I am a miserable, angry and a bad person. Above all, I am a bad person. Saturday night I was miserable and ill so I thought that I might destroy myself with drink. I drank long into the night and when I was drunk I kept on drinking. Then I was nasty – very nasty – to an old friend. She said that she would not talk to me anymore. That was the first thing I remembered when I woke up in the morning with my head hurting and still this misery all over me like I wanted nothing else. I realised I was certainly a bad person when it occurred to me that I didn’t care she would not speak to me again. Nothing matters, I thought, not that or anything.
I found the shortcut, over a canal, and past the art building of the university. Students milled about. They smoked, spoke English in foreign accents, and passed the time in quiet circles. I strode past in my suit and my cheap coat that I got six years ago for sixty-quid and it still suits me fine but the pockets are falling off. I felt no part of the business world, nor any part of the younger world. I was caught in the middle, waiting for a train. The art building was very interesting and untidy. I saw a large sculpture teacher talking to three students in front of a half-finished piece, all in white.
I felt particularly abstract when I walked past those tall windows looking in, the wind blowing around me. Perhaps one of the students – one not quite so amused – would look up and see me but none did. I thought of the art building at the university I attended, the walks I made past it, looking in longingly.
Then the buildings fell away once more and I was before a large vacant construction site. Working my way to the entrance the guard was asleep. When I banged on the window he woke up and asked me to sign my name.
He was listening to a radio talk show about how events before the age of four disproportionately affected you for the rest of your life.
There were wire fences up to keep you on the right path, and some deathly quiet demountables stacked on top of each other; all in the middle of a large expanse of vacant building site. There was no one else around. I said aloud to myself – ‘How fucking bleak.’
I thought that there was no hope for a young man who, rather than go out, would stay in his room, drinking himself into a stupor. I thought that there was no hope for a young man who, unconcerned with finding love, would rather draw naked young women for no reason at all. I thought that there was no hope for someone who, without any friends of his own, would rather write stories about people he could make up, reflections of himself, non-existent and unreachable.
She was probably the first girl I fell in love with and I didn’t care that she wasn’t going to speak to me again. I knew that I was a bad person.
I stood on the gravel, aimlessly. I looked around me. In the distance I could see many skyline landmarks of the city, each cloaked in its own shade of pale. Mist clung to the air. Damp. Damp in the air, damp without a home but moving carelessly in the grey.

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