That Night, Again

This piece was originally written and performed for the event ‘ARE YOU READY?’ an evening of readings curated by students of the RCA in collaboration with the Museum of London in anticipation of the museum’s move to their new location in Smithfield Market. ‘That Night, Again’ was written in response to the closing and subsequent re-opening of the nightclub, Fabric, which is also the former location of the Metropolitan Cold Stores.

Cold, cold, cold. January’s breath on my bare ankles. I should’ve worn longer socks. One must remember to dress appropriately for English winter. Relying far too much on a quickly dissipating alcohol blanket. Need more alcohol. Maybe James will lend me his jumper? If I ask nicely. But he already bought me my ticket and paid for the Uber. I’ll suck it up. The line is longer at the back than at the front. All sorts unravel down Charterhouse Street and around the corner towards Farringdon station. Standing on my tip-toes to see if I can spy the entrance. Too many bobbing caps and hoods blocking the view. Lower heels to ground; must remember to keep physical exertion to a minimum until inside the club. Have resorted to counting the number of boys in all black sporting a single hoop or stud in either ear. So far, five. Number of bouncers walking up and down, eyeing their unruly flock; six. Number of phones held up in the air to commemorate their owner’s presence; three. Each drag of my cigarette the only measure of passing time. Inhale one, exhale two.

A sharp gust of wind pinches lips, nostrils and eyes. Streetlights throw shadows across the road, making ghosts of us all. Faces contort, momentarily spectral. Bodies instinctively herd closer together. We are pilgrims, dishevelled but determined, here to pay homage to the tomb that is now a temple. Doors finally re-opened after five months of fitful resignation. Welcome back, but don’t stay too long. Pounding fists in the form of post-it notes dotted the silver wall. ‘Miss you’, ‘love you’, ‘thank you for the memories’. Flowers on the door step, candles lit in vigil. Mourned like a lover lost. ‘Please don’t become a Tesco metro!’ Pavement is wet and muddy. The Thames must be bloated just a few blocks down the road. Wash away the blood that streams into the gutter every Monday to Friday, 2 to 8am. Sanitise the city, sanctify the crowd. Just another cultural institution sacrificed to Saint Paul and Pret. It’s good to be back.

In these nomad hours, no man is an adversary, no stranger an unwelcome friend. I exchange a cigarette for a swig of beer, my lighter for a wink. Commerce operates in many forms. The city closes in, driving past in great white vans. One by one, bodies go in, not without scrutiny. Those who do not pass the test are turned away. This is not a selective but an equalising process. Judge not the colour of my skin or the clothing on my back, but the speed of my speech and the circumference of my pupils. Successful entrants are branded across the back of their hands, or proudly sport a band around their wrist. Where the temperature fell beyond zero to prevent the spoiling of freshly butchered meat, preservation now comes in at over 25 degrees. In a space dominated by Eurocentric techno-heads and dubstep enthusiasts, death and dancing go hoof in hand.

‘The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind…Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so the city can begin to exist’.[1] Forget yourself then find yourself. I am impenetrable, recalled into a sleepless future of my own projection, where the present is just a stutter, stutter, stutter.

This is my documentation. You are proof that I exist, that I existed, as progress razes all traces of my past to dust, transforming the city skyline decade and decade again. Even though it will be summer when I am retelling what I can remember of that night, surrounded by sloping green grass and the sweet smell of hot rising air, all that matters now is that you are here and that you have listened.

[1] Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972)

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