Sunday, 30 March 2008

The Cottage


I lived in a cottage on a hill. Flanked by a view of Canary Wharf on one side and cocooned by Muswell Hill on the other side, we lived in isolation somewhere in between. Around the side of the cottage, children would burn papers in a narrow lane and the smoke would fall into our garden, disturbing the bees in the process. Late at night, we thought we could hear things and I would creep into the kitchen in the darkness, you would perch behind me. In the morning, we’d find nothing. Later that year, you were there alone in the cottage while I was spending the winter in the Nevada desert. I called you from a phone booth in Death Valley and 16 hours later I was walking along Archway Road in the cold, grey morning.

Shortly after, it was your turn to leave. I lived on for a while in the cottage as you began shipping your boxes over the Atlantic. Eventually, little remained of yours except for the unused frozen items in the freezer. Later, I would collect your post before taking it with me to America. It fell to the floor every few days. By that time, the notices, announcements, and statements had expired and once in America you threw them away. I lived on in the house, though, guarding over the memory of seclusion, ensuring our local newsagent knew of your whereabouts. Shortly before I came to see you, my father packed all my boxes into his white 1980s Mercedes estate, affixed with rope and cables to the roof. Leaving London, we stopped off at a greasy spoon with the car parked outside and I never saw the cottage again. Amorphous memories of a cloistered life: set far into the distance, they punctuate the overcast stillness on this Sunday morning. Neither terrible nor ecstatic: just the undulating hum of memories setting fire to the solitude of the present.

Monday, 24 March 2008

A Home for the Night

Without sleep: the vast and black night stripped of an end, removed from a beginning. We are the last alive as the world turns quiet. Beyond the trees, a distant shadowline is created by those how have kept their lights on, as though to mark a vigil for the failure of sleep. It is a world in which the dead space allows involuntary memory to flourish. This room has become a crypt. We see more clearly as the daylight loses its strength. Things reappear, roaming freely and without obstruction, as the world of the present becomes swallowed by its own presence. Too much facticity during these long nights: too much materiality to prevent an escape.

The following day, I left Brighton. Impossible to sleep in a place where you feel yourself a visitor, especially where that extended stay has resulted in the fragmented formation of a “past.” We do not create our homes. Bachelard is wrong: sometimes a house, even a city itself, does remain as a geometric box. At best, the sense of “home” emerges as an accident, an alchemical conjunction of hidden and polarised properties. Massive chunks of disused machinery, overturned by thunder and wind, lay adrift in the fields as I left Sussex. A different terrain: an environing world dispersed in time.

That night, I was seated in a restaurant in West Hampstead with Julia Shaer, the only place I am prepared to affix the term “home” to. Because of this, everytime I arrive there, I simultaneously return there. In the restaurant, you arrived shortly after me. The dark and unending night disrupted by the memory of your presence, a presence that offsets the limitless horizon of insomnia and establishes a space of intimacy. My appetite had returned in this space of encounter and I savoured the taste, having previously forgotten the pleasure. I savoured the taste. The following morning, having slept, the same warmth rattled inside your room. Way above us, snow fell over the streets of West Hampstead, pressing down on the windows and evoking that primordial warmth so deeply associated with those words from Bachelard: “Behind dark curtains, snow seems to be whiter. Indeed, everything comes alive when contradictions accumulate.”

Sunday, 2 March 2008

How it Ends


After the last train had departed, I held a small piece of black plastic attached to a lamppost in one hand and my phone in the other hand. Strange to become aware of moments that will haunt us in the future as they occur in the present. Strange, no less, the amplified presence of things in the world, especially those that become impregnated with a sense of endings. Stranded. Stranded in a foreign night, marked by foreign faces. After I let the plastic go, a slow walk toward the underground. A slight opening in the iron railing - you go first this time - shortened the descent below street level. Shortly after that, I was alone in the carriage.

Time is coming in, and the past is creating several layers that overlap the other. In the early hours of Sunday morning, I was sifting through those layers, as they spread themselves out in the dark streets of West Hampstead. A strange return to different lives. At the junction between West End Land and Dennington Park Road, time has become compressed, seized in a state of contradiction. Stranded in a place that was once a home, that same place has now taken on a different life, a life in which that history is now forgotten.

And tonight, in the hours afterwards, I am watching so many shadows from the past that it has become impossible to keep up. Eyes affixed on a partly lit scene, a glimpse of intimacy afforded by distance. So many worlds disconnected in time. Tonight, feverish and fatigued, I have trespassed into these worlds. They are brought together by the ruins of experience, endings that overlap with previous endings. An entire city colonised by the debris of memory, and an identity caught between that debris.