Choking from the tree pollen and the blanket of smog that had blown in from across the sea and the dust that had risen from the roads after the fires of the previous week. The atmosphere was unbreathable. Slowly jogging through the drag of streets from west to east was a chore for the chest. The sky was cloudless, but all the towers and cranes in the distance took on a muddy, sepia colour. It was a sense of desaturation, a fading, that was at odds with the coarse, thick reality of the air. The town was suffocating under itself.
After the merchants were pardoned and the townsfolk were sent to the fields, Tom the goose laid three golden eggs. The first hatched to reveal a hundred bronze brooches. In the second were a hundred silver goblets; in the third a hundred golden swords. The merchants pinned the brooches to their hearts, filled the goblets with ale and drank till they were mortal drunk. Then they cursed each other, took up the swords and fought till they were dead. Tom shook his wings and flew above the city, which had grown in its own egg, and waited to be born.
The little man at the side of the road where the hearses do their U-turns is pointing at passing pedestrians and shouting ‘You’ll never get out! And you’ll never get out! But you’ll get out! But you’ll never get out!’
I fall into the ‘Never get out’ category.
My coffee has gone cold and I am hungry, having skipped eating again. A caffeine/calorie trade-off. I should know.
Later, as I leave for home, water gushes from a pipe, soaking the reinforced concrete embankments by the train station where I spot a new piece of graffiti. It says, ‘City of sludge’.
The grey months are back. The river is a monochrome line through a commuter town. Shrieking magpies hop across the railway sleepers; five for silver. Wheel rims slash the gutter puddles of a wet street. City towers wear loose shrouds and leak osmotically into the concrete sky. Coats are zipped, umbrellas black dots streaming past the tarmac and taxis. Fallen leaves darken and roadside sludge deepens. A thin Biro line traces the schedules towards the end of a year. Daylight fades earlier and the dawn unfixes itself from waking hours. I see my eyelids’ insides. The cloud billows over Kobani.
They say we have no solutions; that we are in disarray, confused, guileless; we have no plan; we are so loose a collective as to be redundant.
But what a cockeyed view that is: of course, we are all those things. We have been pulled this way and that, confused past our wits, futures beaten away, our aspirations mocked, torn apart and isolated.
Of course we have no solutions. We are not paid to find them. Our wages pay for others to do that. It is they that turn from responsibility, not us. We can only protest, remain, shout, hope.
I do not wish to speak ill of life while I see her drying her hair and the coffee tastes so good. Outside the sky is winter-cold but clear and the buildings go up and up, all across the city. Last night, when we left the cinema and crossed the river, watching the tourist barges and all the lights along the banks, we knew we were lucky. I do not wish to speak ill. But then the radio scared us – and the heavens shuddered and the earth cracked and fell away. I do not wish, I do not wish.