The Night Workers

by George Pringle

An air conditioning unit gusts the scent of unused bathrooms up in The Cavendish. Past the doormen, in the land of porcelain-

Disinfectant and gin.

A car appears and slows beside me out on the empty street. Tinted windows slowly reveal a middle aged man. He looks florid in the back seat. He asks if I’m alright and would I like a ride? I walk away quickly, pulling myself into a frown.

Outside a car showroom on Piccadilly, a homeless man sleeps in the lamps of an MG. The golden street is ghostly at this hour. Silver.  Piccadilly at 5am is littered only with closed Cashmere shops and phoney Viennese coffeehouses.  Cleaners move inside, like automated mannequins, caught in a grim display.  Buffing and shining the polished granite, the chandeliers and moorish lanterns.  The expressionless, corporate orchids.

Outside are stragglers from private clubs.  Sloanes, Arab princes, rich kids, gallerists, bankers and annorexic models all teeter on curbs, squinting for the correct numberplate.

And “Fortnum & Mason is closed, m’lady”. In the window, hog hair brushes are dimly lit against bullrushes and picnic baskets-

Confectionary and whisky.

In this scene of British, I drift in the multiple exposures of dawn.

The morning is drab and dark and and very quiet

But for the noise of advertising.

At the bus stop, I sit next to another night worker. He stares into the blue of his phone.  Our chariot arrives. The 159 is full of us, night workers. We are leaving the office blocks and hospitals and nightclubs and hotels.  All are quiet and semi-somnolent but for a drunk girl on her phone.

She sits in the Priority Seat.

“Yeah, I was bare embarrassed. I was like, no way is he fit!  Have you seen him?”

The bus careers across town, taking us quickly through the empty streets and past parliament which is overgrown with scaffolding. The metal thorns encase Big Ben who is silent and stoic within.