AFTER DARK

By Safiyah Ouageuna

These silhouettes of the night time dwellers hide much of our cities daytime mundane. The cover of night gives illusions of romantic fantasies. They are both distorted and elaborated. The characters of the day and the night come and go but they leave their dent, constantly reshaping our London an ever progressive physical manifestation of narrative. Never static, ever evolving, a breathing entity, it, tied to us, us, tied to it.
Its capitalistic seductiveness speaks to the business man, young and ambitious, as he is pulled into working life at Canary Wharf. Commercial romance is ubiquitous on Oxford Street as couples once in love with each other stare with a new found love for an object embodying a transient trend. He traded her affection for a three piece suit as he entered the working world. Whilst he gazes at the digital stocks with lust he glares at her with apathy. There is misplaced love here; we are impersonal to each other, insular to ourselves, anonymity -the maxim of our busy and crowded streets.
From a great height somewhere in central, a man stands gazing down at ‘his kingdom’. In that moment he owns all he sees. The bright lights of the skyscrapers are but clusters of stars in the dark. He smokes his cigarette because he feels sophisticated like James Dean, in control like a super hero. He’ll throw it away when he’s done letting it land on the dirty ground with all the other trash that will drift between the high and low ends of this city. The ashes still lit fly through the air. This is his narrative. He loves the fantasy, cares not for the reality and anyway, the unpleasant and unwanted aspects of daytime realism will once again disappear at sunset causing the return of his pitch black fantasy world once again.
The commuters make a pilgrimage, committed to their routines, comfortable within them because of the illusion that they will not end. They interrupt the fantasy of the night time here in our city. Their world is mundane, their thoughts are robotic. The Victoria line transports them throughout the day light hours. He is among them, an anomaly still fantasizing about how the illuminated ashes of his cigarette fly through the sky in the dark, he endures. He makes a change at Victoria to a further dwelling at a station further down the line. He clocks in, he clocks out, he returns to his lofty position again to smoke his cigarette, to watch this strange capitalist surrounding dissolve into darkness, to once again watch the emergence of the night sky covered by electric stars in place of the cold concrete buildings that tower over him imposing upon him during the day.
After dark is what we wait for. It covers our city’s imperfections and gives each of us a blank canvas to project our hopes straight onto it. For those of us who are committed we will see our idealized self actualization staring back at us through the dark above the city lights which illuminate it.