Friday, 15 January 2010


I stop by the bus-stop. Nothing seems to be occuring. The ice is beginning to melt. I lost my gloves earlier. The skin on skin gone. Each time I bend my forefinger the wound reapears, a fleck of red burrowed in the flesh, cracks like ice. It hurts. I have just retreaved money from the cash-machine. Since then everything is done in slow motion. The ice makes you test out each step- go a little deeper- bear the weight down and ponder somewhat. Everything is contained into where it is, settling into the tiny grooves where even the dirt and rubbish and flecks of disruption suspended in the ice-pack become a possible foot-hold. All that free floating stuff kicking around on a usual day, locked in and untouchable, except by the total pressure of a body mass, lingering on the path, hovering between propulsion and fall. Warming the ground. So it is that we face one another, one after another, like a role of honour.

At the bus-stop I have purposely not run to catch the line-up of buses that one by one now pull away the door seals meeting with warm bodies pressed right up against the glass. Outside it is cold.  There's a Vietnamese restaurent that I have my back to. Inside there are rows and rows of rectangular tables each with cleanly laundered and starched white table-cloths that folds at the corners like origami. Between the tables from the door to the counter, there is a walk-way left uncluttered for the waiters. On each table is a vase with a single purple flower the shoot of which is suddenly magnified where the water begins. There is only one couple facing each other across the empty table-cloth amidst these rows of tables. The waiters are all clustered around the counter at the far side staring out into the dark street below the bottles and bottles of honey coloured liquid above them.

The door flaps open and closed. It never quite opens or closes, like an invitation where nothing is settled yet.
I take it as a good sign out there with my back to the restaurent even as I glance and manoevre at each new temporary settlement of the door acting on its restlessness. Suddenly the wavering sense of that motion ceases. The interval has gone as a man- a waiter- briefly fastens the door- creating a seamless line with the window glass to either side.

I look away. Affronted. That's when I notice the woman, actually a tall girl pushing the small boy who is balancing and tipping on and off this hair-line point of balance. He is on a high metal bar that extends through the ice out of the ground, loops into this high length of horizontal bar and then descends again some distance away back through the ice and into the ground.  It looks like one of those things for attaching bikes to. Only taller. The boy is laughing his hood up around his tiny pinched face the collar of a red sweater showing at the top of his jacket high around his neck. He is tilting this way and that, sticking his chest beyond his hips and then quickly tucking it back in line. His feet and legs swing freely, stuck right out or tucked right under the bar, pulling on and off in counter balance from his rocking torso. The girl is laughing ecstatically, using her back to stop at the verge of collapse, that fall from happening. They are working as one in this push-me, pull-you contraption. There is another boy dressed in greys at some distance with his back against the glass of a shop. He looks on somewhat removed but still associated. Later when the first boy lets himself fall off , the other boy pins himself up there, but does not really let himself go. The woman; woman-girl jokes with him too but there is a sense of remove, as if the joking had to travel too far and fell mid way in that passage of time which remained too empty. Only here too there is a kind of tenderness even in the tentative non-starter that it becomes.

A group of Japanese crowd around the door that the waiter earlier made close. A man lingers and suddenly doubles up, folding in half, dropping his head and then raising it as his back again straightens up to meet the eyes of a man he is facing. He is bowing. With his right hand he manoevres the door, turning the handle and cracking the rubber seal in doing so that had created a wind-lock against the outside. He pushes against the glasss whilst now using his entire arm and shoulder to keep the door in place. Files of men and women who are gathering and continually seem to be streaming into a mass out on the pavement now filter in, the men giving way to the women who are the first to enter the restaurent.

A man with a dodgy leg crosses the road lifting and placing the dead leg by shifting and tilting upwards his hip on the side where the dead leg is. He does this by softening into the ground with his other foot and just before he needs to lift the leg, lowering the hip on the side of the good leg. Between good and bad, through this circular motion, he walks. The displacement creates this undualtion that is repetitive but never the same. When he is beside me a song comes into my head and I start humming under my breath. Fragments escape without me knowing it at first.The man tilts his head towards me once or twice and that's when I know.

The bus comes and I get on. I am sitting at the back where the girl and the two young boys are sitting, all three squashed into two seats. They are speaking Spanish. The atmosphere is eruptive as if all the manoevres and practices that went on between them outside have to go on in words and the catapult eruption of those words denied any space becomes a force. They are grabbing one another, thrusting forward and backwards, shoving and holding. Laughing, almost in pain. People on the bus- in the rows of seats that stretch out before us from the very back of the bus to either side of the long central aisle are looking down into their laps or mobiles. However there is a constant though silent re-emphasis of bodies as patches of double seating suddenly becomes available and people single out from one another to occupy them. Somehow they know with very precise timing that the seats have becomes available. No matter how far away they are or how inconvenient it is to brush past, the moment is seized; a removal and re-insertion takes place. There is this shifting topography which is beautiful to watch.

Something white shifts. It catches my attention as if it were an animal running to hide. It is the scarf that the girl has on her lap and that falls to the floor as she violently leans forward in one of the motions that is going to make up the play between these three. There is a pause. It lies there where it dropped. She carries on. I glance at it then pick it up and hand it to her. She takes it, a black smooth hand against the wool scarf, encircling it. She nods. I see a strenuousness in her face-a sensitiviy that is aghast with itself but continuously is there. A seriousness. And the boy by her side; the one with the red collar; he has the same look- that pinched look not just from the cold- a smile leaping out and escaping those confines- something choking between where he is and where he expresses himself. He moves his hands back and forth in front of him, opening and closing, rhythmically manufacturing a practice of space out of the pace of his breath and the movement between his hands. But the words keep pouring out- smothering over everything, with the bodies jerking back and forth, balancing on that bar that is no longer there to give reason.

Then suddenly -two words- this time in English, that the boy delivers in a dead-pan East london drawl where there is a defacement of all concern, an absolute disownment of anything mattering and those two words act like a full stop. A momentum caught and dropped. A deep depression seems to sink on to the outer skins of these children like a thin dew that is wet and sticky and cannot be removed. The girl actually crumbles up folding her long limbs into her centre and burrowing her face onto the shoulder of the small boy.

There are two men opposite the Spanish group. All through this- through the jerks and thrusts and now this leaden silence -there have been these two men, the one with glasses and a receding hair-line the other with stick-out fair redddish hair and a placid face. They continue to talk talking about their lives and their living situations and the one with stick-out hair at one point; at the point where I happen to catch into the conversation says: "I like where I live because even through it is in the city it is a quiet residential street with plenty of trees where nothing much happens. Some people might call it boring or dull but I like this quiet residential street and the fact that nothing happens and it is always the same whether I am leaving or coming back.." Then they get off the bus and the Spanish group spread out, making use of the now empty seats.

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