Posts Tagged ‘Transcendentalism’

Hackney Dusk:  “This is the gun that shot Gandhi.”

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Dusk sitting on my step smoking a cigarette in a typical London backstreet on a typical Summer evening. On the corner, where my road meets the High Street, the Eastern European accordion player recites a Balkan melody, pausing each time he hits a bum note to repeat, over and over again. His fingertips are bruised purple by the endless playing, fingernails ripped and pitted, at his feet a McDonald’s Styrofoam coffee cup to optimistically try to catch any passing coin. The music acts as a counterpoint to the distant sound of police sirens wailing and overlapping each other in the gathering dusk – an urban whale song.

A few houses to my left I can see the old man dressed as always in a too small sailor hat, white beard and corduroy trousers which end above the ankle. He looks like an emaciated Father Christmas waiting hopelessly for his stolen reindeer to return. Each day, come rain or shine he waits outside his house, motionless, shoulders hunched, head down as if the weight of his life and loneliness has physically crushed him from above.  Despite this he waits leaning on his little wooden gate, a final act of defiance, refusing to accept that whatever or whoever he’s expecting have long since gone, never to return in this lifetime.

Across the street I watch the large black woman walk round in circles in her small concrete yard. She’s always wrapped in a grey shawl, eyes vacant staring into the long-distance sweeping from left to right like a lighthouse beam. Even when I cross her field of vision sitting on my step she looks right through me. Haunted, empty. At her feet she kicks a child’s small plastic football ahead of her, her long and jagged uncut toenails almost puncturing the rainbow coloured ball with each jab. The ball shoots ahead, and each time she seems to panic and rushes towards it, as if scared it might disappear forever. She seems to resent the ball with each violent kick away, but then changes her mind and realises she can’t live without it.

It’s got dark enough now to see into the window of the apartment opposite me. Lights on full blast, curtains open, a man in his early thirties sits on his sofa tearing feverishly into a cardboard wine box. He is sweating profusely as he fumbles with the gelatinous silver pouch trying to locate the wine tap, like an alcoholic baby impatient to suckle on the teat. Most evenings around this time I see him do the same thing and by the time I return for my last cigarette he’ll have sucked that breast dry and will be sprawled out on his sofa having forgotten to draw the curtains, eyes closed as a passenger in a First Class airplane seat, destination nowhere, travelling round his room on an internal flight of fantasy.

I finish my cigarette and flick it into the open drain, missing by a mile now the wind has picked up. The accordion player has finished for the night, off to spend his pennies on another coffee cup ready for tomorrow’s concert. As I stoop to collect the cigarette butt and throw it over my wall I hear the sound of running footsteps.

A small Asian man runs past me headed towards the main road, in his hand he waves a broken china tea cup. Upon seeing me he holds it up, wild eyed, as if it’s on fire or about to explode.

“This is the gun that shot Gandhi!” he screams, before the night swallows him up once more.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”

Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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