recovering the rites
The last time I went there it was a late Friday afternoon in October, coming on dark. The key took time going in the lock. As soon as I was up in the room I could see something had been there before me. As I entered it was still disappearing, like an oily residue mixing in water. The air was almost as cold as the street outside.
I went to the window and pulled the blind. People were leaving work, walking quickly past with their heads down. Up and down the road the neon signs were going on one by one. October totters into November. London draws round itself for a second or two and seems comforting. I looked along the street at the smear of light under the railway bridge. It was a place I would now do anything to avoid. It was a signal from the dead. It was all they had to say. They remembered being alive, they remembered a slick of light on old tiles on a wet day, the pavement becoming wetter and blacker as people tracked the rain into it. They remembered the cold draughts under the bridge there. I rang the first number I could think of and said, “We live in the thinnest of worlds, between the past and the future. They occupy more space than that. We never see the whole of them.” The voice at the other end said, “Jake, is it happening again ?” Everything becomes more itself, or what people have understood it to be. Under the bridge the dead are a cultural force. “Even when they’re perfectly still,” I said, “they seem to us to be moving. We only see them moving through.” “Jake?
Neon by Tim Etchells
Image: Hugo Glendinning