Monday, August 5, 2013


Mysterious buildings. You see them all the time. Nowhere places in places near places between other places. Intermediary architecture, filling the gaps. Perceptually vague. Both ugly and beautiful. Wind moves around them. Sun beats upon them. Traffic sighs beyond them. You don't know what's in them or who built them. You don't know what they are for. Maybe no one does. You rarely remember them and may have just dreamt them. Sometimes there are words writ large upon them. Words without context. Words like 'Paradigm', 'Felt', 'Sunrise', 'Best', or maybe a name like 'James Reid' or 'Tom Evans'. Imagine if you saw one with your name on it. Would you go inside? What would be in there? A load of filling cabinets containing the details of your life. A distant descendant asleep behind a reception desk. A crackling Tannoy playing soundtracks from obscure and forgotten moments in your past. Corridors that look like the streets you were raised on, played on, bought property on, started a family on. An endless maze of such. If you went inside a mysterious building with your name on it would you find your way out again? You might be frantically running around trying to get out and pick up where you left off. Maybe there'd be an emergency exit or maybe these are buildings you enter when you are dead. Once you go inside you stay inside, forever.


Maybe all buildings are mysterious. Even buildings you are familiar with can become mysterious if seen at an unfamiliar time of day, when caught off guard. A closed down supermarket. An off season holiday home. When I was a child I broke into my school at night. Empty classrooms and halls. Silence. Could this place really be my bustling school? This is what it was like when we weren't around. This is what it really was. Unoccupied, inert, indifferent. Not lonely, just alone. Staring into space. Bereft of the human life that provides meaning and purpose. The world without people is just a stone. Buildings without people are just so much concrete. People without people are the same, revealing normally unseen, emptyish aspects. Once, as a drunken teen staggering home in the early hours, I passed the father of a friend in an empty car park. He was sitting on the bonnet of his car. He was normally an ebullient sort, the life and soul, jocular and genial, but not at this time. He didn't notice me as I walked by. He was zoned out, expressionless. He was rolling a cigarette. I could have sworn I heard him muttering the word 'cuntish'. I wonder if that would've been the word writ large upon him if he was an empty building. All I know is that he passed away soon after and I felt duty bound to scratch that word into his tombstone in an effort to commemorate a facet of the man that was not widely known. To help people appreciate that there was more to him than just a 'loving husband and father'. His family didn't understand. They were hurt. They assumed my intention was disrespect. The court made me pay for my work to be removed. I tried to explain but was misunderstood. 'Misunderstood', I think that might be word writ large upon me if I was an empty building. That or 'Dickhead'. I get called that a lot. Sometimes, I even mutter it to myself. I hope no one scratches it into my tombstone.

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