SW10 (2006)

by George Pringle

Excerpt from “Steel & Industry” and also as featured on “Salon des Refuses” 2009

We were on the brink of self-combustion so we dressed as soldiers and dodged lines in the pavement and staggered the streets that we knew. The houses that held us were crumbling. I climbed the scaffolding and lay on my stomach and I took pictures of the debris and felt nothing.

We walked until we couldn’t. Until your tin hat hurt your head and my pigtails no longer seemed ironic, and when I woke in the morning the flight path was still alight. Planes were scoring lines and jet engines perforated my sleep and my heart was racing. It jumped like a synochopated bassline in my chest and my breath scorched cigarettes.  Another dream, another plane crash. This time it missed our house but all the passangers were dead. I couldn’t pull them from the wreckage. I crouched there and put my head in my hands and they lolled in their seats.

The house was empty and I was alone so I loitered. Everything felt the last time so I stayed in. I stayed in my pyjamas weaving between wine glasses and empty bottles. I pulled some shapes and laughed to myself. I didn’t know what day it was or how long I’d been pretending to work and I couldn’t remember where my parents had gone or whether the cat had been fed. I didn’t know when the last time I’d washed or eaten had been.

My brother’s room was a crypt and mine was a display cabinet in a museum, books and childish ornaments displayed like fossils. The cat looked at me incredulously. She hates me, I thought.

So I closed that Diane Arbus book. I resigned myself and I went out walking. I suppose I was searching, well I found the canvases that had been there all along only they were under construction. There was a knife surrender bin on the corner where the bottle bank had been ten years before. The laundrette was smarter and “Green Shadow” my racer bike was in the Satlvation Army playground. The hollagrams were still stuck in his wheels. “Tony the Tiger is dead” he whispered through the fence “and fat children are riding me every day and they quarrel”.

Whistler Tower seemed less imposing. Shoebox housing that once felt as though it could topple and crush me any second were just flats and the kids that used to try and mug us had grown up. They posed no threat, and the ones that had come to replace them were just kids. They posed no threat.

The cafes were all shut, chairs on tables and extractor fans off and backlit cabinets displaying nothing longed for cake. And the pool near the wharf that had seemed an ocean was a calf-deep trench that grimaced blue. It was empty and locked beyond gates.

The sky was still purple and brown.

Stars were still fighting to be seen.