The details

2 June 2008

Streets in that same gray light they always organise for the early morning taxi rides and the city still dreaming its most persistent night figures – the makeshift crew of staggering drunks, curled bench-sleepers and lone walkers, the street corner-standers, the lingerers of various doorways, african guys stood tall, dressed in white, black skin dense against the morning fog, the lovers, the occasional tangle of friends whose eyes are blurred by the onslaught of the morning, still laughing about yesterday. It comes to you in waves of blankness and sudden details. On a further street, a big cop holds a small guy at a skeptical arms length, the latter pushed back to the shuttered news-stand/kiosk painted an anonymous green. And meanwhile, in the back seat of the car that pulls up spilling music to a slumbering traffic light, the middle passsenger slumped forwards between compatriots appears to be cause for concern, nodding into uncousciounsess or nausea perhaps, and while the car waits even the driver leans back to see what's going on there, gesturing as he-that-is-slumped slumps more and the others look to him, or nod to the music, or lose interest and watch from the windows as the green light in the opposite direction gives free passage to nothing more than the morning light and the nothingness – the cross-street a whole direction in the city which no one apparently has a use for right now.

The light changes a bit. You pass a zone where the tops of the few high rise buildings are disappeared in fog. You see the derelict form of the homeless here and there –  the best (and worst) of them a guy cast as a sleeping knot of piled rags on the bottom steps to the church. They do the details very good for these trips.  And alongside all these the morning city dreams and spits its first born into the streets – street cleaners in orange, taxi drivers, night workers heading home, the insomniacs, the stray dog-walkers. Strange how it works – that only at this time, now in the mornings, do certain features of the landscape come into focus. Only now, somehow, do you see the walls, the boarded up windows on the 3rd floor, the beautiful repetition of the graffiti tags, the angles of a building, the letters of the traffic signs. Only now, perhaps because its near empty, so almost deserted – a film set waiting for the action. And at another street you see the moped that got knocked over sometime in this previous night and which now lies like slaughterhoused cattle, neck broken with the bolt gun, head forwards, handlebars splayed into the road. Or only now when your defences are down does any of this become clear, or even enter the realm of the visible, since at this time in the morning your eyes and brain work a weird and vivid back and forth; a sleight of hand, a dawn hustle that lets stuff flow and form on the back of your skull directly, stuff that would not flow like that any other time. The lulling steady cam of the taxi window whose gliding, speeding, curving vantage point is yours temporarily (for duration of this journey) and you think about how many taxi rides like this you have done – how many early morning escape from where-evers – how many tracking shots out and over to the airport, while the city calls out its cast of shift-working extras to do background detail, so loving, so complete in its partialness, their narrative.

And you remember back at the hotel. The night porter/conceirge was sleeping in his suit when you came down to check out,  his head lain on the desk by the computer terminal with its spiral of screensaver and he woke with the closing doors of the elevator or with the sound of your footsteps or suitcase wheels on the stone floor and while you paid and waited for the cab the two of you shared some blurred time, sat there in a kind of awkward half awakeness, in a foyer silence doubled by the lack of a language to speak in and in any case a space too close to sleep still and too hard or too intimate to share with a stranger.