No Casio around my wrist, so when I wake in the middle of the night I’m unable to say whether it’s just past midnight or closer to dawn. I slide myself out of bed, like a slug. The hallway is illuminated electric blue, pulsating and cascading across the walls. The light is what has woken me for I can’t sleep unless it’s pitch black. I move towards the window that looks out onto our quiet Kilburn street. There is an ambulance on the street outside. The sirens wail silently, for nobody to hear.
The train approaches the platform at Mill Hill Broadway. It’s 7.15am on a Friday. A stocky man in the chair in front coughs into his elbow, stands up, and grabs his rucksack. I notice he has the same shoes on as I do - white Reebok classics with an orange, gum sole. He walks towards the door, and when the train comes to a halt, he exits - I follow. The stairs down from the platform are slippery, soaked by the rainfall of the previous few days, the water dragged in by the feet of those still travelling. The man takes a right, to the Broadway itself, I exit left and out onto Bunns Lane. The sun is starting to set now, and the road is lathered in a cold orange. There is barely any traffic on the road, so I walk in the middle of the tarmac for longer than I should, crossing when I approach the roundabout. It’s so quiet you can hear the distant hum of some faraway generator. The familiarity of these roads reminds me that life still exists beyond the borders of Brent and Camden. A fox darts from beneath a bush, and eyes me up. I stare back. Another train whizzes by. A pale light flickers on in the bathroom of a suburban house.
In Hampstead Heath, we walk together, crunching our feet into the snow. With every step, a footprint is left only to later be undone by the passing sole of another wanderer. We twist our way through the brambles, searching for the familiar sight of a recognisable tree. The white of the snow has torn apart all sense of what we knew. Every left could be a right, every right a retracing of steps. In the bitter cold, the warmth of our flasks is a comfort. A robin flies out from behind a branch, coming to rest gracefully on an adjacent tree. She asks me to take a picture, but I fumble - my fingers are too cold, and by the time I’m ready to capture the small creature, it has flown off.
We flick on the telly. Here’s what follows:
Here’s your future, don’t let it pass you by, remember this song, you used to really like it, we’ve repurposed it to seem relatable, nostalgia is a fucking drug, mainline it straight, and follow up your hit with this, it’s all the food you could ever want, why even bother cooking anymore, you’re shit at cooking, you’re so shit at cooking you need this stain remover to get all the shitty tomato sauce you’ve spilt on yourself out, and do it now, before the show you’re waiting for starts, because you don’t want to be sitting there in a stained t-shirt, not when you could be buying a new sofa, a comfy new sofa to replace your comfy new sofa, and on that comfy new sofa, you could listen to this hot new single from the next big thing, don’t forget to check them out, they’re the talk of the town, and they’re almost certain to talk about them on your show, which is starting now, and it’s just a collection of pretty people trying to fall in love with each other, trying to steal a moment to touch each other intimately, in the designated way, in the way the script taught them to, so you know the women must appear coy at first, shy even and they must be won over in the step-by-step way we have orchestrated here, but don’t worry, it’s all very natural and entirely not forced, and by the way, did you notice how ripped these dudes are, brah, they’re so ripped, and they need to be ripped so they can score with these really hot women, who happen to be wearing the exact clothes we were trying to sell you just five minutes ago, and guess what, it’s time for your next hit of dopamine, so quick, get online and buy buy buy, because of course, here’s your future, don’t let it pass you by…