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Travelogue G31

February 12, 2016

After this line of questioning had come to a head, the city ceased to exist for me as such, and I kept little memory of it until such a time as I arrived at the airport late in the morning the next day. Seated comfortably in a waiting area chair, I ran over my notes as my attention wandered from the woman to my left solemnly intoning her shopping list to the television at right stuck on Bloomberg. On the screen, countries flashed in red or green beneath the presenter’s feet, and numbers rose from their surfaces. Muted as it was, I had difficulty getting at their meaning: an incomprehensible immensity, vast and ridiculous or just “énorme” as the French word binds these senses together.

My notes still confronted me with the question of whether I had in fact lived London. I had undoubtedly dwelt at length on its organization into parishes which were founded and split, accounted for and dismissed. I had traced how certain churchyards had become public parks, the dead thrown from the rest. In these, I found so many ways of organizing the social space of the city or, more simply, the cityspace.

The foregoing reflections tempted me to a stark vision of the city, one on which London offered a space where neither dead nor living could live. Inner development and outer pressures had made the city unlivable for the dead still within its bound in that their churchyards became public parks. In those same parks, the living were ever merely passing through, for the same forces prompting the expulsion of the dead had spurred reorganization such that the living were unable to afford the city.

As room came at a premium, so did social space. Polite speech and double modals masked aggressiveness; each kind-faced word oozed with brutality. The world had thrown those in the city, both inward and outward, to the point that few found rest therein. In response to my question of whether I could make a livable account of London, I might now answer that, if I had not lived London, it was precisely because the city could not strictly be lived.

With that, the boarding announcement sounded. So had elapsed the seventy-two hours which I had allowed myself in the city. It remains to be seen whether London will regain its existence or another at the time of my next passing through.

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