Dreaming of Cairo, so I thought, and I was on some concrete balcony at the edge of the desert, with the city in the distance, illuminated by explosions – and the death-rattle of guns and screaming missiles echoed across the void between me and… them.
I peered harder and saw that the explosions were fireworks, lighting up the sky with their crackle and kaleidoscope wonder. And the city was maybe Romford, somewhere not quite London.
I woke up. It was still night. Deeply so. A blackbird was singing. It sounded so frail and confused, so beautiful, and so full of dread.
We are waiting for something to happen. It has been weeks. What will be the endpoint of this struggle? There is no point in asking. Not now.
Everywhere becomes a museum, eventually. We should know, we live in one. Grown out of the craters of the past.
There is a natural cycle. The museums are unhoused too, in turn, by new ideologies, new ideas. We watch and wait.
How long is the cycle?
Our theory is that the cycle is as long as it takes for everyone to forget, for everyone to imagine they’re starting afresh.
Fourteen days? Thirty years?
I’m not a racist,
Said the waiter.
It’s just I think
That you won’t pay.
I know your sort;
I’ve seen your kind before.
Your kind? Your kind?
You know what I mean.
With your clothes
And your hair
And the way that you are.
You’re not to be trusted;
That’s what I think.
I read it in the tabloids,
Saw it on TV –
There were some kids
On Eastenders –
You look like them to me.
You’re here to cause trouble,
And I’m happy to believe it.
And I’m white.
And I’m a manager.
And there’s nothing you can do.
He was looking over the treetops, across the plains. The view from the roof was incredible. It was evening and everywhere was bathed with a brownish hue. He wanted to stay up there for ever. Let it rain; he didn’t care. The kids were asleep in the corner, covered by a blanket of plastic sheeting. Somewhere down in the brown was the rest of his family. When he last saw his uncle a week ago, the old man was clinging to a post as the torrents tried to drag him under. Now the birds were singing again. God was everywhere.
Old Neily was sat by the fire in a rocking chair. His wife was gazing out of the small window into the mist.
Before there were proper tracks you couldn’t even get a tractor up the hills, Neily said. When the mist came down you were so soon lost. The trick was to follow a burn downwards, keeping it by your side. But now there are cars everywhere and nobody walks any more.
He sighed and looked at his son, who had hung his head. The fire crackled.
We’ve kept you here too long, said Neily. It’s time you went.