Sleep is impossible tonight. There is nowhere for me to go. I know the city too well, can't see beyond what I know, beyond to the places in between, places where someone could slip unnoticed.
So I walk and watch those who come out at night, watch them trying to capture something only the night can offer - love, lust, freedom - something dark and primal, something that can only be unleashed by intoxication and under the cover of darkness, when the city changes its face. Something that will dissipate in the starkness of morning, embarrassed and ashamed, when the real business of crawling safely to the grave begins. On a bus, or in a car, on your way to work. Slowly dying.
It's no surprise they come, looking for some dark magic, some release – to fight, to fuck, to feel alive – like moths with a single night to live.
Except this night lasts a lifetime.
I am here because I have to be. I'm not a tourist. I can see their fears, their hopes, their desperation. What they are looking for can't be found in the dark, in the bottom of a glass, in some contrived social ritual. If it comes at all, it will come unexpectedly. Happiness, joy, love – whatever it is. Unexpectedly.
I wander amongst them, avoiding contact. Killing time. Killing myself. The people come in hope, implode together in one sweating, writhing mass of expectation, before heading home disappointed.
Those still out amongst it become increasingly desperate, still hoping to find some human contact of significance, violent or sensual. All eventually surrender to the prowling taxis, already coralling the monsters inside themselves, back to their homes, normality.
I begin to walk uphill, out of the city. The buildings bigger, the roads wider. I work my way to higher ground, leaving the sprawl behind me, the darkness of night turning to the grey light of dawn. I find myself on Clifton Downs, space all around me, trees and grass, and I look across the Gorge, and see the bridge, and for that moment, that hell of humanity I've just crawled up from, looks like a beautiful corpse.
I hear the stifled roar of gas burns, see globes of fire on the horizon. Balloons, rising like fragile titans from the grey of the city below – all colour, all fire, all delicate hope. And I feel good that out of all that modernity, all that concrete and glass, all those machines, the harsh actuality of contemporary life, something so simple and uncomplicated can rise above it. Something as simple as that. Fire and air.
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