A Brutal Sight
He came to the precinct often. It was a Brutalist monument to a time when practical considerations seemed to be secondary to a post-war vision of community. It had a large central block with various stores, the bottom-most being a large supermarket, with smaller outlets on the three floors above it. Around this concrete slopes snaked about, delivering pedestrians to their destinations. It was faded and crumbling, with rust streaks and clumps of moss giving the whole construction a strange earthy smell when wet.
He arrived just after dawn, mesmerised by the hustle of the rush hour subsiding into the sedate trickle of mothers and fathers with buggies, the retired, and those who find themselves at a loose end. Most with a destination in mind, focussed with a day’s tasks ahead of them.
Afternoons were different, he felt; the day seemed to sag in the middle as the hope of the fresh day faded into bitter, familiar, mundanity. Time seemed to flop lazily by four. It stretched out as though on the edge of night’s event horizon. Weekdays had a very familiar cadence, ending at dusk as he watched the parade of the exhausted, day’s work completed, passing him on their way home. The precinct became dark and cold and lifeless.
On Saturday things were different. The bustle of the shoppers pleased him. From his vantage point it looked like starlings swarming as they prepared to roost, all of them with a destination yet the mass seeming to pause and sway at random.
As he stared he would start to pick out the individuals. The burnt-out mothers screaming at weeping children. Their bulging eyes and puffy red faces looked bizarre to him as they spun further and further in to raging circular arguments. He switched focus to a family buying a violin for their daughter from the music shop on the second floor. An elderly couple sat in the waiting room of the glass-fronted doctors surgery on the first floor, shifting nervously in their chairs struggling to hear each other’s whispered questioning. A group of kids entered the tobacconists, rushing out of the door clutching cigarette papers and packets of flavoured tobacco. Families streamed in and out of the children’s play area at the top of the building, buzzing and full of energy on the way in; ragged and sleepy on the way out. The place seemed to hum all day.
As the day started to ebb things changed.
Once the herds headed off to dinners and TV popularity contests, a different sort of visitor arrived. Young men and women in shorts and hoodies, knee pads and helmets. He watched them sizing up the concrete chasms, hopping down from their perch, walking the gap then returning once more, mentally preparing before leaping.
Their grace and bravery was breathtaking. Over successive weekends he would watch as their confidence grew, and one jump joined to another until they were gracefully moving their bodies as if with no effort at all as they navigated their way from one level of the precinct to another.
They almost seemed to have no weight, as it they were spring-heeled and as light as birds.
As light as birds…
He moved forward to the edge of his vantage point opposite the precinct. “I AM A BIRD” he announced at the top of his voice. “I AM A BIRD” he cried once more as he launched himself into the air.