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And what it all started
It all came down to just one thing—the view. At the bottom of the block, waiting for the guy from the estate agent to turn up, he was tempted to leave. He was, in fact, flicking through his phone to find the number to cancel when the agent turned up. He seemed so enthusiastic and pleasant that he was unnerved like you shouldn’t hurt this guy, so he went through with the viewing.
The lift smelt slightly of piss - it went unmentioned.
'Great sized rooms’ offered the estate agent, almost as an apology for the urine.
When inside, things didn’t get that much better. At least the screaming that presented itself to them when the lift doors opened had subsided now they were actually in the flat. It was on the 15th floor, which was thirteen higher than anywhere else he had ever lived, this, he felt, was a half-positive. The rooms, as the agent had said, were of a fair size, if low-ceilinged. Two bedrooms, each with space for a double bed, a large kitchen diner, a bathroom which would need to be steam-cleaned to an inch of its life and then the large open living room. At the far end, the windows. Four single panes in a row, which made up a large expanse of space and would let in so much light, when the curtains were drawn, which for some reason they were not.
The agent rushed over and started to tug at them and, in a spirit of camaraderie, or perhaps just to help lower the pain of rejection, he went over to help.
This was the moment that everything changed. Upon parting the curtains, the view was of an identical block of flats to the one he was now in. Only this time it was like seeing a wall of humanity presented in a myriad of small square televisions. 15 floors 24 windows per floor. In each, he could see a snapshot of life. Even from here, the range of curtains, blinds, colours, attachments, things hanging, and lights blazing was astounding. This was a project in its own right. This was the work he had always been looking for. Here were the stars of his movie, the characters of his novel, the portraits to be painted, the songs to be written.
‘I’ll take it’ he said within seconds of seeing this view. The agent seemed to choke and look like he’d won the lottery or managed an ‘A star’ in his exams. As he stood watching, a light flicked on in two of the windows opposite, around the ninth floor. A man walked to the window and seemed to stare at a spot directly opposite. It was incredible to see the smile that lifted the face - you should not have been able to see it at this distance with the naked eye, but somehow you could. There was a connection between two people and like two lights on an electrical circuit the voltage had travelled between these two buildings and switched these people on. Or at least one half that you could see. The man reached down and pulled up a large piece of white card with bold lettering in black, ‘Hi’ it read.
This was where the book had started. If he had known then what would come from it, he perhaps would never have been so rash, would never have made the estate agent’s day, week, month.
Wembley, London, April 2023. Nikon d750
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