Tuesday, July 12

A Perfect Place

They have replaced all the lights around the walkways of the building opposite. The road is illuminated in fresh white and it sprays off the glazing and windowsills, off the net curtains that seldom flutter; not even during boredom do they look back at me. Nowadays the drain where the prostitutes pissed is lit, exposing their thighs. Their thighs are white and their urination is swift. I do not mind the prostitutes and the junkies, except when they go through my rubbish, then I am terrified that I will get found out. I watch them and wonder—Is that my rubbish? All rubbish looks the same at two in the morning. Before, all of the lights around the walkways of the building opposite were on the blink. The building was my own personal Vegas. I stand there at the window, pondering the state of my country, and feeling terribly sad. It is the fall of something, the final squeaking wheeze of a windpipe, the broken crashing to the floor, and I am robbed, like so many other young people. It is harder to breathe these days, to look forward, I am feeling stifled.
Eid al-Fitr came and went. Once again I stood from the window and watched the people celebrating in such fine clothing. My head was against the window. The people celebrated happily and I took from them what I could: the pleasant joy that is scattered by playing children and women looking so magnificent. How hollow my mind felt! The next night I went out drinking. It was something to do and all of the drink was free. The next day I said I would not drink, but I did. It was something to do. On Saturday I went south of the river to drink. I drank all day in various pubs, asking the barmaids—‘Why is it so dead?’ and they would reply—‘I don’t know!’ My friend and I sat at the bar until we were just about sober enough to walk home.
On my walk back I had some fried chicken when a man stopped me. He asked me why I had barged into his shoulder and then shouted—‘Cunt!’ at him. He was in front of me, of my face, only a few inches from me. He was dressed up for a night out. My fried chicken was cooling. There was still some sun in the sky. ‘You weren’t looking where you going,’ I told him—‘You should pull your fucking head out your arse when you’re walking!’ Such a city and so many people walking around not paying attention, their heads stuffed into a phone. I was shaking with rage and nerve. Would he start a fight with me? I was not sure. As long as I did not drop my large drink – I had bought two meals, such was my hunger – then I would be okay. He told me—‘I can look at my phone if I want!’ So I explained to him that I could barge him if I wished. I stared at him and he at me. At any moment he was sure to punch me and all of my delicious food would go everywhere. I looked into his eyes and recognised nothing. They were not bulbs of the brain or windows of the soul; they were shining flints buried in his skull, lifeless and grim. At once I was caught between wanting to kill him and to roll over and die. It did not make much sense to me. I did not know where I was and wobbled from the drink. Not once did my eyes leave his. I thought he would hit me at any moment; I prepared for it. It might be nice to lie on the pavement for a moment. Perhaps it would be a good place to eat my fried chicken. He turned and walked away. As I turned I said—‘That’s right, bitch, fucking walk off.’ I laughed aloud. I did not feel good. I went into the cornershop and bought some tobacco and wine then went home.
In the morning the wind tussled the trees. I still felt bad, about everything and about the encounter. It was not up to me to increase negativity in the world and I wished to see the man again so that I might apologise. It made no difference; this is a city of millions. Coffee brewed its smell throughout the flat. How miserable everything seemed. I did not know what would make it seem better. It takes a genius to know what to do at such a time. I prepared myself with clean clothes and dressed hair then went outside. It was blustery out. I walked. Two men stopped me. Not another confrontation, I thought. ‘Can’t go down there, mate.’ ‘What about T—e St,’ I asked. That was fine. They were shooting a film. I paused to observe: there were large cameras mounted on the back of trucks, several wind generators (o, the noise!) and many actors and extras playing in the street, otherwise the crew stood around checking on things. It was mildly amusing. I went to a quiet cafĂ© and sat down with a sandwich and a cup of coffee. The ground shook when a train passed underneath. No matter my stay in this city, the tremors of a passing subterranean train still fills me with a childish sense of wonder. I sat there for some time, looking around and daydreaming, then I continued my walk. I returned home, before cleaning my flat for something to do. Time was disappearing and disappearing, and, with it, life.

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