city (2007)

The city can breathe, feel alive, secret, banal, exotic. Forever.

Autumn. The light is cold-bright and comes in low. The sun sets quickly, embarrassed. Time moves slowly. It’s still outside; no wind, no people. I’m on a train, travelling slowly along arteries of wood and iron. Steam makes Mandelbrot patterns on the embankments as the country is grudgingly giving up its paddocks for new housing estates. I pass discount sex-toy megastores, and abandoned cars with “for wreckers” spraypainted across dirty windows. I crack my knuckles; a hollow, lonely sound that stands out above the murmuring of conversation and the gentle howl of the train’s passing.

Grass turns to suburbia, turns to city. Tonight’s culture is a temple to steel and glass. Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Mexico City; these are gods of the city, omniscient and omnipresent, warping the landscape with their geometry. Nature works differently in these cities. Water flows the wrong way, birds live their brief lives by traffic signals, skyscrapers create new weather patterns that bend and twist their way past pillars of light and steel.

This city is just a small god, in the greater scheme of things. It’s a localised deity, a guardian spirit. But it holds its own secrets, in the hours between night and day. The city is interstitial, defining itself through negative space, the areas inbetween, the ‘soft places’. Graffitied alleyways, baroque ironwork, cellars and attics. Carparks become nightclubs, warehouses become bars, stairwells become shops, hiding places become hangouts. An endless procession of grey suits parade past at street level. Apartment blocks deep in the city are the front line of a turf war between rival drag queen gangs. Lipstick tags delineate territories, scattered sequins mark the site of fierce skirmishes. The faded beige corridors are the scene for twenty-first century trench warfare.

The city is filled with people who slip between the cracks. They’re the subterraneans, the rooftop dwellers, the urban legends. An abandoned doorway. A stairwell leading to nowhere. I’m lost in a red shift as I recede into the evening.

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