Seething since 2000*
A city of terminals. Crashing cymbals greet the slapping match contestants. Skies rain down grey, metallic drops of thunder. Manners are loose. At the station, hawkers sell second-hand saucepans and yesterday’s newspapers. Here the time is digital but everything else succumbs to the analogue of winter. Only one species of tree has been planted here. Nevertheless, each tree sheds its skin at a different rate, the pixellated leaves shimmering in the haze of pre-nitrogen fuel emissions. There is a river here, known as “the snake” in the strange, unpunctuated language of its people. They crowd the banks, shaded by the giant overpasses and rusted cantilever bridges. Once there was a port here but the river has silted over the years and is now so shallow children can walk across it, unimpeded. Shopping bags inhabit the water as the jellyfish once did. Smoke from plastic fires stings the eye. Banners have been hung between the tallest trees, demanding celebrations. Wearied, the streetwalkers refrain. Here and there in the quiet spaces, women with small babies shelter from the sunlight. Old men read unbound books without covers, passing the leaves from hand to hand. Pages from the lunar calendar litter the pavements. Awash with alien capital, anti — makes the most of the boom, erecting mirrors on street corners to satisfy the woman’s vacuousness, the man’s thirst for the perfect haircut. Nobody speaks, least of all to strangers. When you leave, someone will sweep your footprints into the gutter and they will remain there, homeless, until the time of the next pavement cleaning. Teenage boys make their fortunes this way, eradicating foreigners from the bitumen shores. Night comes, and the neon day begins.