Opposite my faux leather office chair, there's a block of flats guarded day and night by a conniving metal door. The residents passing through rarely linger long in its frame, sometimes standing so to stop it swinging shut whilst beckoning in a companion or takeaway. From my first floor vantage point, the door appears to be conventional but there's a caretaker who's tormented by it.
Someone has probably complained that it doesn't properly lock itself upon closing. The caretaker, evidently a man of diligence, won't go through it without turning around to peer closely at the closing trajectory to make sure it fastens correctly. Once closed, he'll open it again gently, leaning in closer towards the locking mechanism. After repeating a couple of times he'll go on his way with a deeply furrowed brow. It's as if the more time he spends with it, the more elusive it becomes.
This caretaker of diligence can sometimes be attending to other important busyness. On his way to taking care of matters elsewhere, he can briskly stride through the frame, marching onwards as the door comes slowly to a close behind him. Then, in a climactic flash, his head swivels back at just the right moment to see the latch attach the catch. His rumpled face tightens, as the door lets out an evil cackle because it will forever disappoint this troubled man. There's nothing that can be done because he is incapable of fixing or avoiding the door, and he will never understand it. I don't know why it's happened like this.
And I sit, in my faux leather office chair, watching things like caretakers and my fingertips move about the letters on my keyboard. And I swivel, in my faux leather office chair, towards the kitchen. I forget about making a cup of tea until I remember to. By which time, it's almost been made and affairs of some kind have been mentioned. Opposite my faux leather office chair, there's a kitchen taking my line of vision. I don't know why it happens like that.
To the brink
To the feel
In the morning
In the night
And alive, she's alight
At the sun
At the fun
To the left
I'm the worst
I'm the best
A blessing, a curse
Just watch me
She is wry
She is crying
Warnings're boring, hardly unkind
At the coats
On the floor
What is known
What is seams
What it means
and flat, sidling
And sidling, and sat
And sidled, and flat
And sidling, and sat
You can catch me blinking in the hallway or saying definitely nothing to an elsebody. The line between thinking and speaking is usually connected, like the passing thoughts I have about you. Thinking without saying's vice versa is tantamount to throwing eyeballs at walls, where they become part of the paintwork. My self assurance has grown dangerously. If we liaised online soon, I could perform to you what has become of my poise. Sometimes people ask me if I want to go back to the office. I'm ambivalent.
I've found the closure of pubs and restaurants to be somewhat liberating because it's given me free time to explore Manchester by bike. On sunny weekdays I'll be spontaneous after work, deciding a destination once already on the road. At weekends I might bike further with a picnic and partner in crime (I mean 'crime' literally because she's from another household and 'partner' figuratively because of commitment reluctance). There's so many nearby towns, parks and sights I've never thought to visit in my three years here. If you ate the compass of Manchester, it would taste a little like what you're about to read.
On the steep journey towards Manchester's highest point, a cordoned-off observatory called The Temple, a handful of skyscrapers disappeared behind us as we transitioned past sleeping bougie bars, bustling international shops, and Synagogues. The destination bench looked out further north past two thick forests that were like opened theatre curtains revealing a green stage miles deep. It provided a moment of sitty dwelling to forget about my city dwelling. The moment was brief because the chaotic escapism of everyone else was within earshot.
Our exploration method has been to head to any suburb-sized parkland on the map, enjoying the scenery and landmarks on the way. Neighbouring one Friday night greenspace destination was Sportcity, an area made from stadiums and concrete. We took full advantage of its abandonment by riding down a long bridge at speed onto the empty perimeter of the Etihad Stadium. We did this twice and took pictures. I felt like I was living the life of a young person. In those moments I wasn't doing much else.
The busiest bus corridor in Europe has a dedicated cycle lane from which I almost feel like I can tour my impending trajectory. The University campus is prominent but quickly behind me and before and long I'm passing suburbs each seemingly inhabited by those a decade older than in the one before. Before my eyes, the houses detach from each other, birthing between them impeccable hedged barriers which one day I might spend my time attending. I sigh at the predictability, shudder at the privilege, but look forward to the kitchen space.
A lot of the main roads coming from the centre tend to incline themselves upwards. We were so pleased at discovering the flat canals as an alternative, we accidently cycled to Wigan and Warrington. As casual cyclists our trips haven't been about covering distance or planning efficient routes. They're more about stopping to eat some chocolate and showing appreciation of the empty path ahead by saying something like
Listening to lyrics under lamp light, I bring an arm around the duvet spooning me graciously. The sheet is smooth, and I know the pillow is there because I feel it underneath my head. The shop, bar and beach are places elsewhere to this. They're different somehow, some kind of blur I've no desire to put my finger on. Time awake is no stranger, no stranger than the gentle lulling of soon. I'm tired of seeing, being seen, thinking and being thought of. What's to come will remind me what I even care about.
I love the contrast of an empty space that shows abundant signs of life. When I worked in a cafe, I'd often be alone after closing time, cleaning down silent surfaces and humbling humming machines with the flick of a switch. The purpose of everything around me, from the coffee machine to the marked walkways, would sit dormant. Object outlines dominated the concourse, but their meaning was faded without the people who gave them life. I'd pad softly across the resting floor, no longer observing the energy of the day, but feeling it all around. I felt similarly the Saturday night I took my bike past the pubs and restaurants that had been ordered to close that day to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The evening streets would normally be full of taxis unloading frivolity into seas that vibrantly flow between drinking destinations. I'd be there amongst them, wearing jeans. That night I wore joggers as the usual commotion was replaced with only the motion of my nosy commuter bike. The would-be crowds were compartmentalised into suburbs and inner city flats, leaving me to peruse the hush they left behind. Like the peace I found in the cafe, the quiet was made beautiful by its close proximity to life. That night I viscerally felt the busyness that belonged there.
But as lockdown continues, the city seems less on pause, and more like it's crawling painfully by, as my romanticism fades. The streets move just enough to feign function and the missing bustle has become more like a fantasy than a memory. There's a sad litter-to-person ratio and the buses carry only their drivers. Posters show signs their lifespan has been exceeded by their tattiness and because they advertise mass gathering events, which are now illegal. Across Manchester, the side of some bus shelters have the big words Let's Get Together across a backdrop of a crowd of travellers. It's an advertisement for the very same train company that now frequently tweets: please avoid travelling by train unless it’s your only option. Those waiting for the bus don't look amused by the irony, they just look alone.
said the concluding paragraph of my undergraduate dissertation. It continued. In boredom we get taken away from the trivialities of the world and towards whatever is important to us. Declarations of boredom often inadvertently answer important questions:
what am I doing?
why am I doing it?
what meaningful activities do I want to engage in?
True, feeling bored can be unpleasant. It can force us to stare at the clock and wish our time away. But a declaration of boredom transcends the experience itself. As Heidegger would argue, when we are bored we are made acutely conscious of the passing of time and therefore of the fleeting nature of life. By enabling us to establish both where we are and where we want to be, boredom reminds us what it means to be alive.
When I was twenty-four or one of the other ages when some say you should choose who you are, again or for the first time, I was walking home with thoughts that went a little like this:
Wintered into action, sprung into flower. Passion for a season, lust for an hour. Hunger for a reason, but with every must I cower. No one is seeking me out to
Ask me how I am. The contradiction in description would be fiction not fire. Not tiny metal canisters saw my moonlight desire. I'm wild like a flame, but by twelve just a lier. Rested on request from empty streets I tire. I confess I forget to ask how you are...