Familiar areas – given that description because of the friends I’d travelled with through them – were becoming secondary, turning into papery versions of what I thought I knew, reflecting back faded memories: spaces still there yet stripped of anything that came before. How I could I continue to populate these zones? Ghosts swept by me when I was there, almost-recognisable faces careering right through me and taking a big chunk of what I needed with them. But I smiled and conjured a sense of extraordinary relief knowing that tappable glories were locked inside the skyscrapers, the monuments, the catacomb clubs, the crossroads jamboree bars, the late-night mini-marts, the trackside kiosks, the rainbow-lit gardens, the riverview cafes.
On the obscurity of the distance, I picked out that graceful silhouette, one which I’d recognise in numerous spaces, and a figure that evaded my presence – just. This time it faded across a far-off panorama, other times it jumped from one train carriage to another, or moved slowly on the edges of my vision, a few steps ahead, in a corridor I didn’t have to go down. And no matter how much I craved some form of chase, I never followed, but lamented this excruciating nearness and didn’t find out the truths I perhaps needed. Yet I embraced this ambiguity, and in the latter days didn’t even become too despondent when the grainy outline fizzed beyond me on a platform, or near the bus shelter, or in the throng of the basement clubs.
The same as amputated radio signals or mashed-together pirate stations, the scene became a whiteness it was difficult to extract overt likenesses from, a core of refracted scenescapes layered on top of one another, not neatly but slightly out of place to create a wonky picture-echo effect – magisterial cupolas hatting river-reflected factory towers, kebab-outlet bulbglare fading into embankment-side engineering work-cubes. And did I allow the mixed version to cloud my frontiers? The days hummed and I not only thought about but believed in pre-incipient essences that flavoured the locale with a lovely richness and clear aftertaste through which I got the joycalories to glide with an authentic half-circle grin.
Just seeing the photo – an old acquaintance smiling, entirely carefree – I felt an expansive lostness that, apart from that brief elucidation, it was impossible to outline in words. The corridors of a wishy-washy past concertinaed deep and obstructively, housing disparate shapes that might have been human, maybe not, and the fleeting image enlivened those (at least in my rule-book) not-yet completed eras or life passages, and refocused a yearning to join everything up and bring together peripheral figures and sensations, from some place in the mind-stored city, which was a many-layered heavenliness where the fog remained an embracing pinkorange hotglow pulsing through the industrial heartlands layering on its endless tans.
© Copyright 2018 John Maher