Monday, 22 February 2016

Snapshot Observations: Sleepers in the Underpass

Crossing in the subway, near Hyde Park about a week and a half ago.  Coming across the oddly intense private moment of a man and woman sleeping wrapped tight in each others arms, partially covered with a dirty green sleeping bag, partially with damp cardboard boxes.  Just at the side in the middle of the distance between one exit and the other.

The rough glaring strip lighting, the harsh blue white tiles smeared with some kind of grease on the walls.  Sandy coloured stones, granite flecked floor, smelling strongly of wine and urine.  Wet all along the edges of each side, small tunnel drains cut next to the wall, filled with grey murky water, bits of black in it.  Hair, fluff, something else.

There they were, hair matted together and greasy, arms tightly round each other, faces to the artificial and unflattering light, covered in a layer of sleep sweat as if they'd been asleep for many hours while people went past.

I did stop for a moment, because I thought they might be dead.  But when I saw them breathing and my own heart started up again with a big turn, I just watched them for a moment.  Out in the open with no walls to hide their unconscious and so private intimacy.  Faces slack and trusting.  It was as if every single person going through was intruding.

I wondered what they'd wake up to.  I wondered how they'd got there, long term or short term, together or seperately.  I wondered if they had fallen downward through life to meet, or together, or at different rates.  Whether they were old friends or new.  Whether they were drugged or just so exhausted.  Some of the people coming through the tunnel were talking so loud it seemed like they might be drugged.    Clip cloppy shoes.  Noisy lorries overhead.  Not even REM eyes, so still, just breathing.

And I thought - I feel like a voyeur.  I can't use them in a story, I can't work with this for my own ends.  I'll get clouded by pity at their circumstance or judgement at sad 'choices' (that I am purely imagining with no knowledge); or anger at the NON-choices, that led them here.  Me writing about them in any more depth will be nothing but a political pamphlet or an exploutation of them to make some sort of point.

Maybe at some point I could do the sleeping couple justice.  But for now I can only record them.

That is when I saw several grey black mice running over their still feet and through the sleeping bags, around them.

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