Hidden cities / THIS INFINITE SUNDAY
Have you ever walked a city on a Sunday morning? On Sunday mornings, cities appear naked. For a brief moment of time, they step out of the speedy game, reminding themselves of what they really are, what they are when they are empty, without the constant stream of wishes, of failures, hopes, worries, etcetera, that we engrave into their streets by walking every single morning. Except for Sundays. On Sunday mornings, they can breathe in their own rhythm. They breathe in and out, expanding their surface on which you can tiptoe and listen to your echo.
These are the lines I wrote last summer. They’re from a short essay called Hunters and Gatherers, and when I was writing them, I had no inkling that one day, the Sunday morning feeling will take over our cities for weeks, if not months.
In a situation like this, I almost called this a guilty pleasure, but: I absolutely cherish walking through my empty city. There is nothing happening and yet, there is so much out there. Ordinary walks to a supermarket have become inspiring adventures. On the way to get a loaf of bread, I am a gatherer, collecting details of buildings I had never noticed before, details of paved surfaces that now lay bare in front of my eyes, freed from busy feet of commuters. Balustrades, trees, the color of facades, window shapes, roof details, and all the angles. I watch the surfaces changing under my feet, I see tiny weeds sneaking out in between cobblestones, their growth uninterrupted by marching boots. I stop and inspect the structure of travertine stone on a facade. Nobody steps over my shadow.
Did you notice that we tend to look up much more when there are no crowds of people to navigate through?
One evening at the end of March, as I was standing in the middle of the Main Square with no one around, I noticed a tiny flicker of light up in the sky. It was Venus watching yet another plague taking over the Earth. Somewhere deep in the dark sky, the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction was unfurling with cosmic preciseness, a rare meetup which, as astrologists say, has coincided with pandemic outbreaks throughout history, the point where heaven meets hell.
Stranding in the middle of the empty square it came to my mind that, actually, there is earth underneath the paving stones I stood on, that somewhere deep down under the surface of this city there’s dark soil and maybe some bones and ceramic shards and limbs of slowly rotting roots. On the surface: the buildings covered in yawning advertisements, now awkwardly calling for attention when there’s no one around to see them.
Last week I got myself a takeaway coffee and sat in front of my former University. What day was it? Because right now, the city knows no Thursday. The sun was blasting with a newly gained strength and time felt timeless. The sensation of warmth on my arms suggested that it could very well be a late August afternoon. The atmosphere was Chirico-esque. I took off my face mask and sipped coffee, feeling the heat on my palate. Time never felt more real. At last, time was not something to have, but something to exist in. Nobody steps over your shadow.