Going Under

Off the train at Victoria, I pass the great tiled map of the north. The red and black routes swerve and strike out like recalcitrant snakes, besieging my mind, encircling me, my horizons coiling tighter until every breath is a blessed relief. Gasping, wheezing, I emerge into the pale afternoon, battered by recent events yet resolute to take control, to make the day my own.

Instead of marching to errands and appointments, I opt to spurn the commercial, the domestic and the social. I relinquish it all for the indulgent luxury of abandoning my worn out conscious mind to the unfettered whim of the streets and the soles of my boots upon them. Looking up the hill towards Corporation Street, I surrender myself to the city to take me where it will.

Later, in a bar in the horse latitudes of Oxford Road out of term time, I recount my journey through my mApps. I sip my schooner of sour beer – a real face twister – and scowl at my screen. Despite my attempt to thwart intention it seems I was weaker than I suspected and succumbed to the imposition of order at the first opportunity, whether I surrendered to my own subconscious agency, tightening the reins as I strove to break free, or allowed myself to be marshalled by the force of the city itself – a character to be reckoned with for sure – my heart sank as I saw my journey broken down, when retraced, through four distinct phases from the tentative shallows around the station to the darkening skein of backstreets affecting a total, yet not unpleasant, disorientation… This city, comparatively, internationally speaking, crowds onto the head of a pin and yet somehow, at almost every step, it reveals itself to be governed by its own deep, internal logic, exceeding the rightful limits of its own physical constraints, sprawling from one quarter to the next. Refreshed, despite my journey, my first thought is for more. For this mode of transit there is much to be said.

I replay these thoughts as I lie here in my bed. I have pressed the buzzer, they will get to me as soon as they can. I imagine their feet gaining the stairs, one by one, ascending the floors, passing the rooms along the corridors, the open doors, snatches of radio and TV as they progress through the building as though scrolling through the stations, stepping in and out of lives. The colour of the walls: the same. Every wall: the same. One corridor and the next, one room and another. You are standing in the doorway with the flowers. It’s hot outside. You are finally here. I didn’t think you’d make it. I’ve been walking all day, through this home, through the city. I’m in the bed. I taste the cotton sheet. I open my eyes. I’m awake. I’m alone. The doorway’s empty. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m dreaming or if it’s real…

“We’re here now,” I reply. “This is real.” I touch his white hand. He doesn’t answer. His eyes are closed. He’s lost again. Gone.
Max Richter Ensemble
Royal Northern College of Music
Manchester
Saturday 21st May 2016

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