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I went gasping into tepid, malnourishing air, gazing down at my breath illuminating a deep-black evening. This was the end of an almost-interminable something, but it also had the giddy vibe of a beginning. Flickering lust-fuelled positivity. Damaged greatmoods under-surface near a hill-top petrol station – Tesco Metro’s high-end, fizzing glare. I checked my phone’s tiny LED square, a digi-smile in my palm. Vague suggestions of future dalliances. But – and this is a misty, time-bended recollection – a fresh game plan was brewing. It manifested itself in a sensation of near-unreal, water-coloured hope, the papery yellow moment, just before the moment just before spring, but eternally paused.


At a unique angle, the view of the centre of the metropolis and its mud-brown river offered up a kind reflection of it: not that it needed such enhancement, but this viewpoint showed off fine neoclassical palaces, effort-proud bridges and glass-tastic skyscrapers clustered together, seemingly battling for dominance, as they were gazing down on small churches and rail termini on the ground. From there I headed south through a personally popular route, content on the top-deck, enthusiastically grinning at chequered vistas – garish pawn shops, trackside rubble, the red and blue petrol station – while a reassuring, repeating gust of late-spring cut grass veered in, bloating a feeling of nascent near-hugs.


Nobody wanted to go down the side-alleys that reeked of whatever came with the darknesses; fortresses of rain-wetted Aldi carriers, half-smashed Bud and prosecco bottles, vein-patterned rivers of piss and their tributaries. Each one could have been any one: dangerous territories without an end. In this section of the city at this time of year, such passageways were eternal, cold wounds on the map of the whole place, searing a bleak impression throughout a southern quilt, tortuous lattices criss-crossing interminably, pure urban frontiers. Hushed blacknesses, occasionally lit into headachey grey by classic lamps. But it was comforting knowing that the narrow spaces remained, often like protection, in arbitrary locations, despite their grim uninviting facades.

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© Copyright 2018 John Maher