From the Ponte apartment building, Johannesburg, it seemed the death was a rush to eternity, all downhill and possessed. So what was obvious to everyone thronging about was that no one can take what they want. Instead, it has to fall to them somehow, and then its obviously fate whether or not you live a happy life or not, and not about striving for it. It wasn’t so much that they felt a breather coming, more that even if it wasn’t a lovely idea, how else were they going to express the emotions of reunion they were all feeling, like a big-framed mirror hung on a familiar mantel showing them surprises?
On the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, there were attempts to pay evil in instalments, and the crowds watching were sullen and unaccountably childish, as if the bird’s death struck them as disproportionately awry, as a kind of infantilism they had to match. One or two jeered at the wickedness of the act with classic symptoms of choked appetite like those believing their movie-born ideas or getting too much off the lines of popular songs. They had badly judged ideas for making money on the side. They’d go off to play cards later and scheme with looks that were darkly austere.
They were not talking and looking scared, stragglers over Van Stadens Bridge, Eastern Cape, disfigured in soul and shaped like retribution, nothing less. The crowd was left feeling exposed by what they saw, as if a great devil had taken up residence and countless smaller ones thronged about to serve it. Vendors had little to sell, and the whole scene was muffled up by a dim-witted sense of something coming back to roost.
They wouldn’t even look at each other, and tried to laugh at nearly everything as they went to keep themselves together, nifty and in shadows thrown crooked, distorted and aloft by the Cairo Tower, and there were many who felt they should just keep walking and not despair, but it proved too much. They ended up looking like they didn’t care and just wouldn’t bother giving anyone a direct glance but instead walked as if begging, their limp hands as if being then and there mustered in mud, like they were freshly made and not quite in charge of all their different parts. But small children got it: they were crying in a quiet, sob sobbing way, so their chests bounced out of their ribs and the air was dusted with their sounds but couldn’t absorb it, which left the adults looking profoundly afraid, words streaming trash and rapturously painful.There are different refinements of respect, and this was a time they could be noticed.
But out on the Mapo Bridge in Seoul the image of the killed albatross seemed like a cage had found the bird it had always longed for and the throngs of suicidals turned back and started for home, somehow inspired to let their despair go elsewhere and breath deeply into nature. Indoors others aired their rooms, let in a fresh slice of sunlight which was leaner than before, and flowers glowed with a new inheritance as if someone had pulled back an extra curtain and the core of wreaths conducted themselves inside like winter-moody plush.
Suffering badly, meanwhile, in the Aokigahara forest, Mount Fuji, the sun was shining differently afterwards there too, as if drawing circles around everything, each one a hoop of heart-searching, and bringing with it strange hours of question and answer, which struck everyone as being like a peculiar kind of grieving, and cold eyes, a little sick of everything, were prepared for any kind of finding, as if they were made that way on account of the fact that there they had retained a dizzy watchfulness, and were well acquainted with omens and unwitting dread, which somehow accounted for their ability to carry their burdens in powerful paroxysms of random sex and violence from the depths of flowers in quiet trees.
There were murders at that time, with a lot of guys being shot, and by accident a mother in the Delhi Metro too. That's where no one underrated their bodies anymore, and thought how each might be strong enough to destroy heaven. This showed heaven proves the impossibility of bodies. That was the first time anyone saw the albatross excitement as a rebuke, and people were rude and full of sharp thoughts in connection with the badness of the winter, and were fed up. It wasn’t just commentary or observation but was getting down to a core, like when you have to deal with the police.
By the banks of Han River there were those who saw the slaying as evil and no longer asked for it to be believed. Some went as far as rushing to print accounts at odds with what they’d seen, as if they were wanting to test something, bring out a new angle that no one had seen before. But even these had to admit all their wicked evil was just sublimity, in other words, a swig of reality like a sledgehammer on the head is. What was the point of further education and refinement, they thought, given that the situation seemed to call for groaning and wailing and falling to your knees in abjectness?
At Hussain Sagar hiding places suddenly became available, and there was a slightly acrid or pasty smell. Some people started fainting a little more, as if to make themselves better understood because how else were they to make sense of what seemed senseless and hateful?
In the Milad Tower there was what struck people inside as dark psychological tunnels, rising from heat and disfigurations, unsought, with a general love of imperfect and lurid looking people bursting up and changing what before had seemed freakish, fragmentary and all noses and teeth.
From Mount Mihara fires and smoke from the centre of the earth continued to pummel up like slithers of the Tree of Life, whereas onlookers, more certain of the Tree of Knowledge, looked confused as if guilt was nothing to do with sinfulness but was lifelessness, and the albatross had shown them a glimpse of this.
The Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge held bright sunlight and even if it had crumbled away in front of everyone’s eyes right there and then, as the incident happened, it would somehow have remained untouched. What this meant to the people there was that somethings can’t be destroyed even if it becomes no more than fine dust, and their thoughts grew steadier as they brooded further about this and drew more conclusions, refining them until ideas became positively unreal, which is what often happens, leaving the extremists to die alone of their foolishness and makes you think they’d have been better off stopping the philosophy and going along a steadier way with honester, kinder drunks.
At Shin-Koiwa Station the event created fear with an awareness of the necessity of all the things connected to the world, an aroused terror that was to some degree a matter of responsibility.
In the Tehran Metro the main feelings were about the sensual radiations that emanated from the image of the falling, dying bird, as if they were taking sides with themselves against those who ask for something that is ultimately damaging.
Tojinbo saw everyone weeping suddenly and dramatically, as if they were caught between being infinitely small and making themselves so. It’s true, tender-hearts like to depend on tougher souls to carry them through, which is a puzzle that probably explains lots.
Over at the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge people ran away from what they saw, as if they were trying to blot out their lives through their actions. What will the world do for you without kindness? The incident struck them like a taunt from a dark heaven.
Along the 25 de Abril Bridge the citizens of Lisbon no longer held light beliefs but instead turned to weathered, dark, weightier ones, whilst at the same time they didn’t hold a high opinion of this onrush of kind emotions, likening it to having a random hard-on, which they thought lessened all the other times.
Along the Älvsborg Bridge cold living faces with beautiful jaws and painfully clear forms, smelling of pines in sun, of granite canyons and waters pure north, seemed rather lost and on loan, as if they belonged elsewhere and to someone else. No longer belonging to the inside ring of equals, they made an unnameable mixture of dragging flow as they moved backwards with a cold lick of fire in their eyes, back towards the wastelands.
In Ringgadebroen the sight of the killing was like a seeping-back of night from the bad filters of a low, dangerous and now sad skyline, all purple shutters over golden faces and devotional decorations which none of them had understood before but now did, as powerful and formal voices ‘made allowances for mortality’, as one of them put it.
On Archway Bridge, Highgate, the greyed, alleviated people yielded up a foggy tone of absent-minded, long-stemmed innocence, with eyes trying to take their time with the sorrow and the great clear and critical calculations and confidences made in the key to which the event’s true dominion was set.
Atop Beachy Head, Sussex, windswept roarers and shouters did stunts with their mouths, like they were circus performers all of a sudden, with the bird’s final summersault a leading part of their private dissoluteness.
Meanwhile, loopers made their way across Bosphorus Bridge as Istanbul fell into a strange, quiet, affectionate roughness, and when money was spoken of it was done so through clenched disdainful teeth and ultimate disbelief.
Along the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare pairs of walkers scraggled and plucked, followed a trajectory of where the soul should walk, eating maybe fish and rolls, or else why were the scabbards of their jaws moving like that? But they were shaking heads and wondering like everyone else and beginning right away to make other arrangements, as if they knew it was going to be alright to do that, and actually, the done thing.
In the haggling yellow dark twilight steep on black-hearted Clifton Suspension Bridge, slender and broad together walked and held back, wondered and then flatly refused to go on, as if they felt the need to apologise and press themselves into their nervousness, trying to find out what wrapped their nerves up.
Same on Erskine Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge but not so Derry’s Foyle Bridge where there was just this one fellow, reaching inside his sleeve with a lifted shoulder, and who turned off having seen it all, and watched as the blue darkness, fat-earthed and petrol-streaked, wired up night and made it clear that what he’d just seen was a disaster.
Beneath the Göltzsch Viaduct, Reichenbach im Vogtland where the 2002 documentary Teuflische Spiele (Diabolical Games) had taken place the lovers tasted puke in their throats and knew what it was, pure fear, as if their hearts had been stolen and what was running up against them went far back, like machinery cooking up heaven.
Towards the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge, Luxembourg City, they’d seen it through a Plexiglas barrier discoloured by fatigue and brushed up, seen it without at first any particular interest and then slowly, impermeably changed, troubled and rocky, as if the poetry of death had seized them more intensely than more common itches.
Over the wild desolation of the Humber Bridge people there were gripped, as many Yorkshire folks are, by notions of infinite expanse and copiousness, a result of their history mixed in with this thing, carried to an extreme limit, of laborious creation and solid work and primal determinations.
Further South the London Underground people started to return to wherever they were heading as if nothing had happened, but this just impressed upon everyone the fact that perhaps atheisim is impossible, because even speaking about it requires some sort of faith, and these will, like raptures, just writhe along the tunnels no matter where they might be, Ealing or Bethnal Green way, it doesn’t matter and never did.
Fog had swirled around Nusle Bridge and made everyone there who saw it feel completely quiet and alone and then filled up with dread, wishing they’d stayed home in bed, wrapped up like Nero, but that, after all, is what Prague can do even without such resounding global strangeness.
Along the Paris Métro it felt possible to bathe in the reflected glory of Odysseus, as if they heard their own silence in the dismal event and now forgot everything else that had been before, all those lies and tricks and disownments, just drowned them out.
If you happened to have been near the legs of the Segovia Viaduct you’d have heard a cuckoo, another bird so full of wiles that not even the goddess of destiny could penetrate to its innermost being, and this seemed to add poise to the whole incredible thing, like Sirens vanishing in the face of resolution.
Those with an honest intention of just walking by the Türisalu cliff were more changed than the others; confronted with a version of heaven, it was as if they were rocks broken into elements, crashing down into mighty slabs of what had been before even bigger.
The strangeness of Americans on the Memorial Bridge, Seattle was this: that upon seeing the unbearable image they immediately wanted to keep seeing it on recordings from far and wide, as if by repeated observation it might be erased so that the unbearability of life might be both captured and discarded.
On Arrigoni Bridge they were ashamed of wanting to die, and began to talk of crutch-hoppers and beggars back in town who they resolved to help straight off with some gifts and one or two even said they’d go through the dark gasp of a church door after this.
On the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena there were uncertain creaks in throats, and faces red and hot with excitement, others packed pistols and bellies, hanging over what they call pants and me, jeans, were big and downward, and still others seemed changed a bit, preoccupied and astonished, eyes working with a certain voltage and shimmering gingerly and without waste of attention to the study of what might have been to them a cathedral, because the thing was spiritual and deep, an iron bump of religion.
Towards Coronado Bridge people were wanting to go elsewhere, stirred up by the instant and now navigated more by the stars and nature than human terms and words, as if only higher considerations, or those at the root of things, mattered, and sculling in the shallows was no longer an option and that if exile meant this then so be it.
Dark bitter lips moved on the Foresthill Bridge in Auburn. If you were nearby and saw this you’d have wanted to move far away and try and forget it.
Whereas on George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York City there was a look everyone had you couldn’t tell if they really were that innocent, or if they were all bluffers, although if you’d asked they’d have said something along the lines of wanting to be as good as they could be and that that was how they knew themselves, as far as they did, better than worms and beetles do, although even in the insect world there’s a lot of swindling if they’re to escape hunters, and worms, not insects, the same.
There’s something already unearthly about the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California with its skinny, smouldering thoughts and its look, like an underworld red intestine carrying whatever split out the chest of a human sacrifice to heaven, a soaring impassivity that blended with the atmosphere the event made, such that it became staggering and a lure, as if Caligula had something to do with it, which some of these folks thought he probably damn well did.
The burden carried by those along the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge in Southern Maryland just tied up what they saw with old things, rough jokes, coffins, rats and asses, and they were all worshippers before and remained so after but at a higher altitude, way up in the highest air flesh and blood could endure, proud though slapped and pinched by this astronomical sign and its rapacious death throes aura. It was as if it left craters in their brains, every one of them, with spores and parachute seeds that would fall into the crevices there and grow up coaly bubbles of underworld prayers that would start to murmur and murmur as if trying to stay disguised. But nevertheless, they knew.
It was like they were hooded on Jacques Cartier Bridge, Montreal, Quebec and then the hood loosened off so their eyes were gruesome pearls or emeralds with little lines of cruelty, and they seemed out of breathe but regardless, it was like they had beef in fists and were twisted by the sight of the killing, like they appreciated the prouder pull of the deed, its heavy squirt of spirit wonder, romance and elocution.
In Fayetteville, West Virginia they sat indoors with feathers of something darker on their faces, and then drove in station wagons, hard pressed by dry impatience , to a jerry-builder drunk with blind mothers wearing old shoes, eating pinched chicken, bees out in the wood, thoughts of an educated God for once, and dreams of settling, one day, after the hardships lifted, hardships which were only what being human meant after all, so the message of the thing was plain and heeded, all the knocks and gifts as if it was really about accepting somebody’s hospitality somewhere along the line.
Niagara Falls was particularly busy when they saw it in their olive and brown and green coats, straw golden sunlight on the brassy water flushing over the ridges and plunging with a brighter greatness of the same, one boy with his fist on his hip and jacket slung shoulder wise, others sucking on water bottles or chewing hand made picnic sandwiches or fruit, witty-looking apples and the like, peeled for the young critters, with the mothers looking like they were determined to hold back all the carnage, misery, hunger, crime, wrath and futility of the world from their offspring for as long as they could, eyes hard and wild like they are with all mothers, not overstrapped by conscience but fierce like bringing up chicks in the dark with foxes hunting in the shadows.
Prince Edward Viaduct, Toronto, Ontario saw a mix. Time inclined to flatness. No single idea explained everything, which was a wry self-contradiction. When one world ends another lights up, or the same one under new management. Bankers stripes or baseball cap, there was always the fear of something phony been pulled across, like those who climb on crucifixes just to get seen from a further distance, and to see further too, and they never notice there’s someone been there a hell of a long time, who wasn’t peeved or corny or lewd but born over a sun of death. Invite death, refuse suicide and eat your greens. It was a time of advice givers and takers and they both amounted to the same thing more or less and was a stoical operation. What they took from the albatross was a few crumbs: offered love is just a matter of luck, and offering luck is the whole purpose. You’d have to be one of those highly systematic cold types not to do that. Everything starts at that wearied amazement, often a weekday when you’re trouble waiting for someone to happen.
If they felt romance, it was along the slumming lines of Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay, Florida in the song, "Skyway Avenue," by We The Kings where what happens is what always happens to the good at heart when they meet the earth: mercy gets thrown out and in walks justice. If the sea rose just a few meters maybe all their minds would have been made up, as it was, what they saw in the blinding golden light streaming through the air was the way they continued to go through the motions, acting like they knew their purposes, eking out responsibilities on just about everyone else they could set their minds on so long as they could escape the pitch, and never sleeping with anyone whose troubles were more than their own. It was a kelpy, fishy, salty kind of dissolution, which comes frequently by the sea, and where the alternative is a landmass way out of sight that’s impossible to reach, which merged into a loneliness better than just being, though not love. What they drank round here was whisky not wine: whatever wine had, whisky had twice, but with barracudas. The incident gave them all a sense of vertigo slightly ajar.
Tappan Zee Bridge dealt more with appearances than the truth, and some of them were Victorian, placing women in kitchens with the help or worse, which was the way with insecure people, and if this place had a fever the albatross was taking the temperature, sardonic in the way ‘money costs too much’ is, and restless like people get in mortuaries, wanting to make themselves clearly distinct.
All along the Toronto Transit Commission Subway there were those who liked the sun and others who weren’t so simple and went for neon, but they were lean and haggard through too much work, and knew grocery stores, coal yards, gas stations, taverns and rundown houses and churches from their grandparents and it wasn’t right, something was off about everything, like a small kid with matches, and the images kept coming in to them proving that their power over them wasn’t ended yet, nor would it be soon. Whatever was happening was particularly severe, and they were in danger, like weeds standing frozen by frost, easily snapped. What came through most noticeably was a new tough manner of pulling down breath and it seemed everyone was now listening to themselves in transient rooms in strange towns, drawing blank, holding to long-distance calls from a past that couldn’t hold its own to the powdery objective present.
Brisbane at the Story Bridge footpath you saw people jerk back and wrangle in their hearts with the deed which seemed like it screeched lost souls over their heads, in punishment but for what, who could really say? If they were all coming down in the world because of this, well, they were bringing down a whole lot of stuff with them as well. It wasn’t meanness as such, but it sure as hell wasn’t loving-kindness and seemed to be the wrong price at the wrong rate. People said they knew where they stood, and they repeated this a lot, but the more they cleared things up the less true they seemed, like those touch up jobs on Renaissance paintings that left the picture showing its parts better but obscuring how they got to be a picture. It made him feel like he did when he had gone back to his childhood square one last time, spookily both old and young together, and lost in scents of roasted peanuts and beer, cigarettes, bay rum and hair oil and tired feet.
There was a little guy on the Grafton Bridge, Auckland who stood very still in repose and he saw the thing like a spy saw things, through a narrow chink at a definite angle. The albatross had seemed to him like a spark had gone out, and although he didn’t understand, he knew it was something, and he could see it in other people’s faces too, which now seemed to be trying on guises, hoping not to miss their mark and lag behind. It was as if truth was complaining about how after being in place for sixty years it was being replaced. Well there were choices to be made: life as something making for good or bad scenes, or life where the end reverberates back along itself, reversing into a structure that was always there but obscure, single and intended nevertheless. The little guy smoked some more, with the air of a wilted gallant.
Between Dunedin and The Gap, Sydney, a vast thrilling ocean fought with its sailors, as if looking to right the wrong whilst the sailors, afraid and more prompt than brave in thought, could see that this was bad for them, and if the world wasn’t plotting its revenge on them by now, it would be in the near future, and they knew that hatred was more compelling that affection or love, and faster. Maybe there were still occasions left for happiness, and maybe these weren’t illusions of people still permitted to forget permanent disappointment, death, children, wives, lovers, fallen faces or loathsome beasts, but it seemed a bit too quick and a bit too ultimate, and tainted by the great unease and remorse that clutched at everyone’s hearts, something that spread wide and made cheeks shine and eyes talk fearfully about causes and their ends.
West Gate Bridge, Melbourne saw people watching their whole world fall apart, like wings beating ceaselessly into a blankness that was universal, so no one was isolated, everyone belonged and it felt like repeating your innocence on someone else’s shoulder, like crying always does.
They were all in large intimate parties at Echo Point, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, New South Wales with the impression that life was beginning all over again, enchanting and inexhaustible, as if eternity was going in your direction with a tender curiosity, which is really all they needed to feel reassured and understood in all the romantic varieties of life. We all know the difference between sentimentality and romanticism is just this: for one, a desperate confidence that everything ends, for the other, that it doesn’t. But what they knew was infinite hopelessness which was both a decision and a sunny smile, the way the past gets repeated in books.
Below the Eduardo Villena Rey Bridge in Lima small figures haunted the thoughts that wouldn’t be banished, in blue shadows that tumbled about like careless dreams, which made people retreat back into their money or spoiled disregard, hoping others would clean up the mess that seemed to trail out after them, with the excuse that no one can live forever no matter how often life seems to take you and you take it. It struck them as a fact that everyone'sdriving to death, which was too much to think about every time you took the wheel, and a species of powerlessness that waited on what was going to be done to you before you found the chance act to get glory. This cools ardor in the heart and turns promises to bare essentials, because even if there’s always a small part of them that remains after this night, too few will be able to remember who they were and will forever remain lost. São Paulo Metro stretches out, and there’s an old unknown world down there, a vast obscurity beneath the city, rolling on under the night, elusive and faster than we are, a kind of orgy of memory and love, each carriage a sequence of gestures that would try and make everything worth while, like going to the library to cure insatiable desires.
Underneath the Third Bridge, Vitória, the sight was more a sigh, a radiance, a genial golden warmth, turning everyone back to an age where they held convictions like mountains. No one had ever lived long enough with a dream to find its limit, which was the problem with the world and also the source of its beauty. Nevertheless these ashen fantastic figures we’ve all got used to living with found themselves using voices full of ideals and it was tiresome, inexhaustibly diminishing, even though each strained to rise above the pettiness to reach enchanted things. This was what confused and separated everyone as they mulled over the event, as if their real desire wasn’t for anything real but just a dream thing, something you could wake up out of if need be, and feel relieved and back home again. This also was confusing. These dreams come and come and come again, over and over until at last you can’t dream, and that’s when things start to happen on a big scale, and get dangerous.
No one said a word about what they’d seen by the Viaducto García Cadena, Bucaramanga, even though they watched over each other for the next few days, with a full calendar built up of suppers and gatherings, and winter elsewhere was pouring in, smoky and dingy and it looked like the seeping back of the skylight from the night was going to become permanent, devotional and dark as if in a film by Alexander Sokurov, turning the prodigal son into a soldier of chaos and murder, finding this hard terrible core inside Rembrandt.
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