Sunday, September 15

Hard-Hat Hair

‘THE THING ABOUT London is – well, it looks great in the sunshine … as everywhere does – but it looks great when it’s grey, too. I mean, right now it’s grey and miserable as hell but it still looks great, yknow?’ We were on the ninth floor of the building looking down through gaps in the neighbours to where the Thames flowed in chocolate brown a quick speed gurgling towards the Channel.
The man at my side agreed.
It was drizzling and the drizzle, which had not seemed to let up for a few days now, was paling everything in the distance until it became faraway invisible. I was spending much of the week on a building site, making sure that everything I had designed was working as it was supposed to. The atmosphere was unpleasant; tense, shouting, swearing, cursing men leaning over each other trying to get what they want. As it was, my partner and I were alone on the floor—except for two Polish ladies behind us cleaning the painted walls; paying us no mind and talking to each other in hurried foreign tongue.
I had only met him a few hours ago. He introduced himself, stared his blue eyes right into mine and shook my hand as firmly as I his. All about his face was perspiration and dust and three-day stubble. I liked him immediately. We went here & there. We carried out tests. We talked. I thought to myself—‘I like these sorts of people because they make me realise things about life that I want to realise.’ On his arms were tattoos all the way up. I paid attention to two: one was RIP DREW across his right wrist; the other was a samurai on his left bicep. Samurai interest me deeply, so I studied the boots the samurai was wearing on his arm. He smiled, faintly introducing the soft lines of age around his eyes, told me about his sons’ football teams—both of which were managed by him—and we laughed, discussing our favourite t.v. programmes. There was a gap in his teeth; a tooth removed or a tooth that never was; it threw his whole skull into appealing imbalance. When he took off his hard-hat I saw that he was bald. I wished him a good weekend. He wished me a good weekend.
Being on site all week had tired me out. Every day I returned home wishing only to shower and fall down on the mat. My clothes stuck to me and exhaustion triumphed. In the evening, when all were asleep, I could not muster words and sought only to sleep. Still, a happiness prevailed at my impending move.
Walking back to my office, I stared up to face the rain. I wore only a shirt. ‘Rain is wonderful,’ I thought to myself—‘when there is no wind to drive it anywhere and it can just fall as it wants to.’ The head and shoulders of the buildings around me drove upwards into the opaque cloud and rain. It woke me up.
It woke me up.
It woke me up and I was on the train. The fields had been turned. There was a bond of two muddy shades where the farmer had paused, taken his cart into the road and rumbled off. The sun could not be seen. Stopping in the station and their puddles in the asphalt twitched at me. The gulls had gone. The angular plight of birds have once again fashioned themselves into the sky.
I stood in the sight of my boss, receiving a Tuesday morning bollocking—‘What the fuck’s going on? No-one knows what you’re doing anymore! You’ve gone rogue!’
The thought of me going rogue! I remembered myself walking down the streets with the rain on my face. O, there may as well have not been anyone else around, for I did not see them, just the mottled sills & eaves & lintels, decorated in the weathering of century-old unbombed London.
Like milk turning for the better, I feel my life gradually changing. Every moment is wonderfully tainted in the movement of things, of colours, of an excitement I cannot measure but is only spooned to me gradually lest I collapse halfway through the ticket-gates of my train station. It is all good. Since I swore to Helen to be more positive, things have changed; maybe she is some sort of faery whose guidance I cannot comprehend.
Yonder the towering fingers of London’s extended hand mesmerise me so that I am completely in love with the city and all of its goings-on. As it and I am smothered in fog & drizzle, I wipe my nose to disturb the itch that is gathering there and stride onwards to wherever it is I am going.

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