This turned out a little differently than I expected, and was prompted by the strange method of demolition of a building near my work. For a long time we didn’t realise that it was being demolished – they just slowly ate away at it. Anyway, hope you enjoy! 🙂
It is early morning in the city, as I follow my usual trail to work. I have passed this way so often, it feels like I should have worn a trench – that the bluestone paved footpaths should bear the inscription of my tread.
This particular morning it is cold – a light fog haloes the skyscrapers, but shafts of that purest just post-dawn light lance down through it. The first autumn leaves rattle drily against their branches.
Walking through the park, fast, like all the other commuters, I look up and enjoy the way the autumn canopy stencils the grey blocks behind. A cyclist whizzes by, his breath a cloud streaming out behind him, his spokes clicking quietly. Near the fountain, I spot another person, all in pale grey. She sits on the edge, trailing her fingers in the water just like I loved to do on summer mornings, when the only cool thing in the world seemed to be that stone chilled water. She wears a hat just like mine, and when she looks up and smiles at me, I am comforted by the flash of recognition in her pale grey eyes.
Beyond the park, the land slopes down, everything running faster into the monstrous and abstract forest of the towers. My feet slap on the asphalt of the road, on the stone of the pavement, and I feel the ache in my joints.
There are more people now, each absorbed in their own thoughts, I assume. No-one else seems to see me. There have been times when this has made me angry, and others when this anonymity is a relief from my own relentless self-assessment.
I pass a pie shop, with the scent of warm baking snaking out like an enticing genie. A bookshop, with colourful paper displays in the window. Offices with Don’t-look-at-us reflective windows. Over the road, I am surprised to see that hoardings have been erected around an apartment block where I stayed, many years ago. Even this early in the morning they are working – I can see machinery moving like small mechanical dinosaurs within, and jackhammers shatter the air. They seem to be demolishing the building from within, from the top down, and there is a gap where the upper floors used to be. There are scars on the brickwork of the adjacent block.
In the dust rising above the demolition, I see a faint impression of a grey shape moving about. I stop, making other commuters grumble as they navigate the obstruction in their flow path. Shielding my eyes, I can see that the shape is a woman in grey, moving around as if she is getting ready for work. She seems to peer into a mirror, walks around an unseen object, and picks up her jacket from an unseen chair. Pulling the cuffs into place and smoothing back her hair, she catches a glimpse of me far below, and smiles, giving me a faint wave. I smile back, and leave her hovering oblivious above the demolition.
Finally, my goal is in sight. People bank up impatiently at the pedestrian lights, and when the signal changes, rush across the road and down into the station. The grimy steps are pounded by and concealed by hundreds of feet, all sucked into the station as unstoppably as leaves into a whirlpool. I am fascinated by the tiny distances that everyone manages to wrap around themselves to ensure that they never touch another person.
Up the ramp, with the ‘No Spitting’ signs glazed into the tiles on the walls, and out onto the platform. The sunbeams have finally broken through the fog, and a flash of sunshine temporarily blinds me. The press of bodies is much less here, and those invisible force fields around each person can become larger, and less urgent. I take a seat, feeling the cold steel bite through my skirt. Someone nearby is eating a burger for breakfast, and the scent of it is sickening.
I watch a young woman pace up and down the platform before me, dressed all in a colour like cobwebs. She seems absorbed in her own thoughts, but I can see that she is both angry and upset. She grasps the skin around one thumb and twists it without seeming to notice, the skin taking on a pink tinge. Stopping her pacing, she stares suddenly and intensely at the buildings rising above the station roof, and I can tell that she is trying to hold back tears.
She makes quite a change from the expressionless dull masses of the city, and I cannot help but feel her pain, and her confusion. I wish that I could make her mind easier, quieter.
An announcement rumbles out, and the train is on its way. I peer down the platform, and see the headlights glinting off the curving steel tracks, despite the sunshine. The power of it – the immense unstoppable weight – is evident in the way it makes the rails squeal as it round the bend.
The girl in grey seems if anything even more upset, and I almost wish that I could wrap my arms around her to give her comfort, but I know that she would not welcome it. Standing up, I step closer to her as if also waiting for this train. I am waiting for this train, have been waiting for years, but not to board.
As the train reaches the platform, I hear its brakes, and the whirr of its air conditioning, and then I am reaching out to the girl in grey, and instead of holding her, I give her a gentle push. As she falls, her face registers surprise as she loses her balance. Then, as she falls, as gently as a feather, her body turns and she looks straight into my own grey eyes and smiles. And I smile back, our faces a mirror.