Their paths cross continuously on the trail. They meet in leisure-centre foyers that reek of disinfectant and on factory floors that smell of salty bodies. They collide and speak and pass in airless town hall ante-rooms among trays of untouched dips, in school classrooms where the furniture is miniature, by rostrums in medieval market places and at the side of community- centre stages usually reserved for dramas of a more amateur variety.
For the first time in decades, the British public have a clearly defined choice to make, one which involves a Labour party that is putting forward unashamedly left-of-centre policies. If we lived in a well-functioning democracy this would already have been common knowledge.
Virginia came in, lit a cigarette on the stovetop, and sat next to me to watch the downpour. I loved that she smoked, if only because we could sit like this: me eating, her with a cigarette—“indulging our vices,” she would say.
My old cat had been dead for seven or eight years, or possibly longer, or shorter, when I found him living on the lowest part of the bookshelf that was blocked by the couch. He was on a giant dictionary that I had inherited from my ancestors, who had carried it physically with or on them for generations.
I am falling deeper, becoming more remote. I sense more haze, more flowers, more bees and then visions of the accident surface. The stench of diesel and red wine penetrates my nostrils. I see broken glass everywhere, and a fractured window open to the sky.
It is so hot in my apartment that I soak my t-shirts in cold water and wear them dripping. I make small puddles on the floor, but everything evaporates quickly. I like it when the dust from the gutters gets ground into my bed sheets at night, and my days seep yellow into the mattress. It is evidence that I am living some kind of life.
They contained us, we, I, in their bellies, blood, and water; constrained us tight as seeds in the cells and in the breath. Before the splitting, the infinite doubling, and now I hold them all, a rabble of ancestors, pressing up from inside against my skin, and too, I contain the next generation, if I wish.
My grandfather once told me that he heard the word ‘Paki’ at work so often he thought it was the name of a co-worker. This was in his first job, as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport, and he told me as passing comment, made while flicking through the channels on Sky TV – it landed deep.
Ever since I found the group’s ASMR YouTube channel in 2013, I had felt I should be one of them. I wanted to know what they looked like. I wanted to have it confirmed that they were just like me, and normal.