I. Wish you were here.
“You are standing in the last moment in the sunset. It feels as if it is the moment you could confuse the horizon for an atomic explosion. You look deep at the colours of everyone’s eyes around you. You try to feel what they’re thinking underneath the speckles of gold that flicker in their corneas. Little electrons dance in the air. Static crackles. And all the movement slows imperceptibly to a halt. You’re not able to contract a single muscle. You have become your own world and there is no way out. Everything is so silently still.”
II. Strangers, Lovers, Friends.
“I searched for people I knew in the streets, and peered into the eyes of those in the same subway carriages as me, looking for clues that we’d once shared the same moments in our different lives. It was the beginning of a new decade, and the new century was just finding its feet, but there was another side to the city now. You could glimpse it if you looked at the wrinkled skin around their mouths, and the mottled spots on the backs of bony, tendoned hands. I never stopped to ask anyone what they were feeling, and what they’d been eating, and, though I hadn’t aged at all, I knew the sidewalks and the dusty streets had seen more than their fair share of a dog-eat-dog life. I felt like a doctor euthanising a patient as I took the Lincoln Tunnel out of the island. It was a thought which struck me as silly even at the time, as I passed under line after line of worn-out lighting. I thought of the past and California and Enron. The city had become so old.”
“There’s a curious way he observes of hanging words in space, and he tries to emulate it. It takes him longer than he thinks to come up with ideas worth suspending, and then the method of suspension turns out to be trickier than he first anticipates. It takes him his whole life, and he still hasn’t perfected it. He leaves the fruits of his work for his daughter. She picks it up. Her life’s work has begun.”
IV. We were going in circles.
“I moved when the snow hit. I came across a field where the furrows were all perfectly arranged in parallel lines. The thought never once entered my head that it could have been ploughed – I hadn’t seen another soul for days. Dark clouds were gathering just behind me and the wind started to heave the tree branches this way and that; I moved onwards. Further behind were the streets of the city buried by hundreds of tonnes of cold. There was a fine powder in the air, just beginning to settle, as I left.”
VIII. Secrets better left unspoken.
“My skin was grey from the cold. I saw her sitting there on the bench at the entrance to the park. As if waiting for someone to come and light up her also ashen skin.
I didn’t know what to do. I waited for a century and then she got up; she brushed past me, noticed nothing.
I had a dream throughout the whole night that we held hands, with the touch of fingertips spreading warmth up my left arm, up from her wrist, into our cold skin. I might have died when I touched her cold, but I dreamt it every night.
I woke up at evening with a funny taste in my mouth. I smelt dandelions when I stepped outside. I almost couldn’t quite remember why the calendar at the bedside didn’t match the day I’d awoken to.”
IX. There’s an urban dirt to love.
“A man imitating his heroes. An urban beauty. He buzzes like dirt on the back of a bluebottle, he is moving, but in that way that nothing really moves in a summer’s day except for the dust particles in the evening sunlight. He thinks hard before he goes to sleep for clear skies and sun tomorrow. He thinks of his legs, bruised by pedals. He thinks of a friend of a friend he met by a graffitied wall –
He showed him how to fly. A friend imitating a friend.
And, elsewhere, a boy imitated a father late into the Almancil dusk.”
XI. I saw her again on a horror film I thought was the news.
“New York, Nineteen-Fifty. I was seeing a girl called Iris. Things had felt so exciting after the war, and there was an electric feeling in the air that we were living in the foremost city in the capital of the world. Memories of the Great Depression were well more than a decade away, and we welcomed the future with open arms. We attended jazz clubs or Broadway every night, and we spent the days making love in our apartment. It’s funny looking back – we must have only been embracing the present. The day we parted ways, we were standing in Central Park at the top of the great rock by the pond. Neither of us were scared of heights. We heard a crack of thunder, and she saw the lightning crackle across the sky, and we were caught in the midst of a torrent of rain. I waited fifty-one years. For a while after that, every time it rained, I thought of her.”
VII. Some day I’d like to turn into a star.
“ ‘You’re tired because you haven’t been doing any exercise to make you feel invigorated. When did you last sleep?’
‘I don’t like to dream.’
‘Whenever I think of the word ‘dream’ I think of what you want your life to become, not what your head thinks you are when you’re asleep.’
‘What do you dream?’
‘I dream that some day I’d like to turn into a star.’ ”
V. Escape from this afterlife.
“She hadn’t been one for it to really bother before. Just left her doorway between the nights and found beautiful places she’d share with her friends, once she’d found enough people to decide she had friends. They were all pictures in her head, placed perfectly on top of each other just as you would a scrapbook. Speaking of scrap, she’d once found a boy her age playing in a scrapyard. They scrambled around on piles of twisted metal while their hands and feet and bodies had been cut and twisted by the rough edges of what the city didn’t need. That was the second-last time she saw him. He meant no less to her than everyone else in the city, in the world.”
X. I saw the crowd coming in.
“ – and you kissed me on the lips, and left a crust of sand and salt I could feel on them.
I blame the tequila colour of the sunrise.”
“Hate our dreams, love must live
Illusion won’t be stopped.
I always imagine life now I have left…”
The first ever photographs of lightning shot by amateur photographer William N. Jennings between 1885 and 1890