Every day I’ve woken to the sound of the city as it filters into my consciousness, the volume on a half-tuned radio slowly turned up. It rises somewhere between the crumbling buildings, evaporating off the cracked ground pressed hard by the weight of the sun. I listen as it condenses into voices, singing and shouting; car horns; dogs barking; motorbikes making their slow progress down the road; work songs keeping time for a team breaking a floor with pickaxes; an accordion; a phrase from a trumpet; a pneumatic drill; the old idling engines of the vintage cars. It all knits together in the slow moving morning air, a tapestry woven in each moment and undone the next.
Across the road, an old woman has taken delivery of something in a bucket, lowered to the street on a rope and slowly, haltingly, pulled back up; a few doors down, another woman, a shawl around her shoulders despite the heat of the early evening, leans on the edge of her balcony and watches the meandering procession of the people below. I have been leaning, like her, on the balcony for some time, and I was here earlier, watching as a man began cutting lengths of a metal pipe that he had clamped to the top of a trailer. Every time I found myself drawn back to the balcony, leaning over the edge to look down into the street, he was there, tirelessly rotating his tool around the pipe until a section would drop clinking into a bucket at his feet, the sound cutting through the heavy air.
I watch a man carefully picking his way across the rooftop of an abandoned building to sit, still above everything. He might be smoking, or on the phone – I can’t see from here – but I can tell that he is looking, watching the city move; its rhythms and routines, patterns repeated and predictable and always changing, like eddies in a stream. From there he can see how gestures and the paths people take through the old streets, their clothes, the way they wear their hair, grows into the chorus of a city, drowning itself out. George Upton 2019.