City of sandy streets in a lonely tear gas nation. City of secret cities and minimal identification requirements. City of corkscrews. Dawn breaks across the children’s playground, the eerie neon of the all-night soju bar casting a sick light over the kerb’s exchanges. As I work my way through this alien’s alphabet, I take solace in the cheerful smiles of advertising posters. Inside the club, the space is dense with the sweat of foreign girls and couples lining up for the coatcheck. I order whiskey and coke for myself, then try to dance. Some people – mostly girls – can do it easily. I stumble through the first of many traditional techno-climaxes. Dancers mince and groan on the stage, grinning at non-existent admirers, or perhaps their own unchronicled secret one-liners. City of thrash and guitar experiments. City of miniature pizzas served in paper cups, full moons folded in half. City of night explosions and odyssey marches. A city that cries like single men coming home from soulless clubs in taxis. City of strange circadian rhythms resembling sky thermals, arms resting on car windows, taxi drivers laughing at woollen hats. City of disappearing small businesses and recurring multinational chains. A repressed memory of police violence reappearing unexpectedly in a gold tooth. Who knows how many of these old men were once agents of the imperial holocaust. All together now, into the fearless pitch black of death. City of wine imports and plagiarised conversations. Men in suits wearing sashes across their chests, smiling at strangers. Christians. Cheesecake promotions clog up the footpaths, while clouds continue to flee from the droning skies. I look inside myself and see only shadows, extinguished candles and a leaflet explaining the atrocities committed by my forebears. Emo blasts from the crib of some cryptic anagram mouse on marzipan. Encores by the unwelcome gusts of spring. Sweetstuffs dressed as racks of raw red meat. Caught in the updrafts of belching subways, a new mythology to replace the reverse dream.
First published in Stylus (July 2006).