The sky might be blue, but there is something ominous about the clouds. They seem to promise violence. It’s hard to say whether the men of the rock are cowering away from whatever is coming or clawing at it. Either way, it seems to spell danger. The heat burns like the fires of hell, unforgiving and inescapable. The very air seems to press you down as if trying to force you into that flaming underworld.
People gather all around, seemingly unaware of what must surely be to come. They seem happy; laughter and chatter are matched by smiling faces and the kisses of lovers. They are drawn to this spot, as if by demonic intent.
That and the signposts. For some reasons this is a tourist hotspot, it is very beautiful I suppose. And the heat isn’t so bad in the shade. Perhaps the sky is just blue after all.
I feel so sorry for future archaeologists. As we stood, looking at the work of unknown builders from millennia ago, I couldn’t help wondering, what are we leaving them to discover? Will our towers of glass and steel still be there, or will they have been replaced by newer ones, built to be ten feet taller? Will it even matter anyway? We have photos and videos, news reports detailing their construction. What mysteries will be left to uncover? Bits and bytes don’t fade away, they don’t get eroded by the wind or carried off like some piece of stone to build another wall.
But that’s what we’re leaving. It’s is something more and something less. Something longer lasting and more fleeting. Not stone or brick, we’re leaving ideas.
I look at you and I wonder, what have you seen? 2000 years old, you were there for the rise and fall of an empire, the rise and decline of another of sorts. You were built so within your walls, people could be entertained, but now it is your walls that provide the entertainment. People come and stare at you, they marvel that you’ve survived so long. Many probably look at you longest through a screen. I did. You can have no idea what that means. You were never built to be on a screen, you were designed to contain tableaux, to hold that art yourself.
I also wonder what you will see when I am gone. A thousand eyes have looked at you and mine are just another two. Do us little folk, us people, really matter to you when you will see a thousand more?
The dust; the dust and the heat; the dust and the heat and the blaring sun. Even now, the conditions are nearly suffocating, when they were matched by the smell of blood, the shrieks of pain and roars from the crowd, it must have been overwhelming. With the stage at ground level and rows of seats rising upwards, you can almost see the ghosts of gladiators, dressed in bronze armor, stepping out into the cauldron, god-like with life and death in their hands. At night, the ghosts seem to come to life. The lights show the amphitheater is still imposing two millennia later, but they also cast shadows that shift and move, remembering all those who met their bloody end there. The Colosseum, almost a ruin, still very much alive.
It feels like our footprints should still be there. It was our beach after all. We claimed it with the marks we left like a flag on the moon or a scribble of a name on an old school desk: ‘we were here’. We walked along the beach at sunset, with no one else in sight. We weren’t going anywhere, just taking our time and letting the Andaman Sea lap at our feet. The water was warm, as was the sand, but the breeze was cool and drew us together. I tried to take a photo, I placed my camera and tripod on the sand and the sea came and lapped at that too. A little damp, but not ruined and an almost perfect shot captured. The only thing missing was the footsteps, the footsteps that marked it out as ours.
It’s a fast city, Amsterdam. Cyclists, on their battered bikes, weaving through pedestrians, bells ringing and crashes averted at the last second. If feels young, even though its old. And there’s no mid-life crisis in sight; it wears the tourists’ khaki shorts pulled up high and the socks in old leather sandals in knowing irony. The coffee shops and the red lights summon tittering people, alive with the feeling of freedom and not-quite-safe pleasures. It has what people call, an ‘atmosphere’.
But we took it slow. We were bullet time. Detached from the rest of the world as it revolved around us in a blur. We had our own world. We had each other. We were tourists yes, but we walked to our own tempo, following the rhythms of each other’s feet. And we haven’t stopped. We still walk to our own beat. We’re still bullet time.
She just wants to play, she’s only three. She has a favourite ball, it’s still just about yellow, despite all the scuffs and the dust. Really, it’s still only just about a ball, it’s certainly not round, it probably wasn’t designed for feet like hers. She throws it around anyway, up in the air, along the ground, towards anyone who she thinks might want to play too. And who wouldn’t want to? She’s beautiful. Her eyes sparkle with a mischievous intelligence and when she reaches out for you, it is as though you’re being blessed.
She throws dirt up in the air just because she can and she knows she won’t be told off, not with that smile. It looks like a smile anyway. It’s certainly easier for us to think that way. Because she’s chained. Tethered to a wooden post with metal links. Still, it looks like a smile.