I turn the key in the lock for the last time. Birthed from the womb of inside to the harsh reality of outdoors once more, I decide to make one last effort to connect with this place. Maybe it will finally feel real if I know for sure that it won’t last. The insistent drizzle splatters my face, but I don’t feel cold. I feel the hardness of the paving slabs pushing at my feet, daring me to go on.
I turn a corner and try to blend into the crowd. Just another in a haphazard collage of hot, pressing bodies. I kick through yellow leaves, but they cling fast. Dead, brittle fingers massage my ankles: the teasing touch of a whore for necrophiliacs. I know I’m being watched. The empty eyes are everywhere, looking down from on high. It briefly strikes me that I should put on a show (dance!) for them. The ultimate in reality TV for some faceless man in front of his bank of screens.
Crossing the bridge, I dart down the steps to the river. The crowd carries on above me, marching its way to nowhere in particular. They’ve sent their scouts to keep an eye on me though. Cyclists buzz around me, herding and harrying. You can walk, but you can’t meander. Railing turns to no railing and the murky green seems to beckon me into its depths. I shun a lone swan and hurry along the bank.
Up steps again and I walk completely out of reality. As the soundtrack of blaring sirens and squealing tyres fades, I walk straight into a nightmare. Silence. Is it my nightmare? Razor wire gives way to rubble. Chunks of debris strewn (spewed?) across a bleak wasteland. The city is just behind me, but already it has gone. Is this where cities come to die? I walk on. The peace of this place is at odds with its stark ugliness. Perhaps that’s what death is.
Round another corner and dust catches in my throat. Construction. Rebirth? This isn’t a graveyard, it’s a reproductive cycle. An organic thing. Cities come here to be rejuvenated. Will I be reborn too? Right. Everybody’s spiritual nowadays. Past cars that will remain parked forever and graffiti nobody will ever read, I sense that my journey is coming to an end. I’m not tired. I’ve reached no destination. I feel satisfied though. I’m part of the city, part of its ebb and flow.
An old sofa sits in a railway arch: a park bench for the Ikea generation. I sit down and wait for the cycle to begin again.
Nick Jones (DMU)