Sun doesn’t only darken skin. It’s journey is long but feels quick. Sunlight is a kind, old light, just let loose from a dark interior. Eight minutes through the void, those countless photons fall upon us, beginning work, zero rest mass, exciting plastic dashboards of cheap Japanese rentals till they’re too hot to touch, melting ice in glowing cupolas of gin, dripping onto hotdog legs, breaking apart ink, fading signs and hastily inked tattoos marking birthdates, ice cream sundaes, old flames and kiddie pizzas, erasing safety warning stickers on red lacquered tandem shop riders. Finding themselves one side or the other of bikini straps or lifted collars, that flame is written into the skin. Liquids, gases and solids.
Hands move and touch, where the lines cross; air, life, eye, tram, coke, city, coast, battle, queue, heart, the holiday factory open for business. Feelings meet with economy, inscribing half remembered histories. The places are set, plates of the land shift and are washed clean again.
Random, but insistent, unheard under nostalgic concussion against all the glass, John still sings “because the world is round, it turns me on”, speakers compete like birdsong in the canopy. The reef is busy with needs, attention is sparse, you might walk without notice, but eyes are always on, coercing, bidding, noticing, judging, hands move, hands move.
When shoulders turn red, still, older light from hazy stars drenches sticky paving, sickly blue, their songs still move and stir stories, their gentleness gives way to acid discharge of neon and fluorine. A similar process, electrons rattling loose ions, shuddering ill light from tinted tubes making those white football shirts glow, darkening only where oil, tears, blood and other fluids are. The radicals are free, already doing damage.
Fear has a low roar, a green cross is always within eyeline, paracetamol, anthistamines, plasters for stubbed toes, salve for scooter rash. Secure, sucker, succour. Smells and sounds loom past, blue colour and blues chords and blue sirens, sometimes bougainvillea, ghosts of spears, calling laughs, hot salt, two-stroke, roasted meat, half remembered chorus, lynx, sandal claps and white musk. We are all here, but we aren’t what we once were.
Some of them get under your skin, cracking bits off you, missing their electron, they search for it, smashing your jeans, tanning skin looks so lush next to white genes. Denim and cotton, the workers’ weave. Melanin still frames the sides of the battle, between all comers and those stayers, yet illicit love stories make those edges bleed. The loops are loose, they are open and closed, yet still the maths doesn’t make sense, the landscape is sketched but the books still don’t balance. At the margins, slices through strange unseeable shapes, remainders loom, unbalanced sums.
Unstable, these radicals searching to fill their holes, oblivious to why or where. Yet, this is far from oblivion, there’s subtle order here, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Dutch men, missing their families, stand behind coin marked formica or perch on old stools to give only what’s asked for, glancing at but not looking into the eyes of the threat that they gather their futures from one pass at a time. Abierto, salida, tambien, ole, ole, ole, para mi, yo soy yo y mi circunstancia…
Out on the road, where the tight packing loosens, dust settles on upward edges of white plaster. There are closed doors and open ones, moths to the flame, they go inside, drawn by light. Out their, beyond the fields and the pale pink stacks, you might find half tethered tents, cracked plastic chairs, corrugated iron, red light traces the edges of the same eternal peaks and curves of more new bodies. “He cleaved a wedge out of the mountain with his sword, for he knew when the light left the body of his love, she would then leave him, forever”. Out on the road, payroll cabalerros peddle old horses and roasted chicken, myth and new wine. Those compounds at the end of private roads with frayed sharp edges, some beckon, some say nothing. They feel empty, but the signs of life linger, basements blister with growth, bedside drawers glisten with the action. Like they half-remember when we all passed through the heart of a billowing star. An earth’s mass of solid gold atoms, seconds torn a sunder, a cloud, post collapse, a remnant pattern, still laced with a little violence.
This is a green place, but dry, shot through with arroyo waiting for rare heavy rain to wash them down. Some shake white powders, taken inside, they make muscles and confidences bulge, fabrics cinch and shoes are forgotten. Someone says gypsies and nudists live up there, sometimes those caves open, their light walls hold back things, events, lives you’d be lucky to see. White shadows turning steadily darker.
Sometimes you half glimpse it in a wing mirror, surging past in old Mercedes, out the window, hurt men weave, something in hand and with something in mind, making their way out onto the road, what are they searching for and who told them how to find it? Wake up earlier in the back of a taxi, turns blending with the estates back home. It’s just the same here, but the difference works its magic.
Reformed dads warn sandy little feet, shaking their heads as red chests gurgle and roust. It’s not all piss and chips, the flatness brings the older ones who look on with the whir of batteries and old stories. “Men made this beach”, “out there is the real Spain”, “the Dutch came here to grow expensive crops”, “the English have grown up now”, “the Lagos girls come here to escape”. You see them sat, one eye on their Galaxy the other right here on earth. Days off at the cool mall, after plying tristes in stairways, sharp shadows near to fizzing purple LEDs, cheap bed legs writing unread stories on marble floors, quarry, door cards on Spanish porcelain behind leg pinned stall doors, keeping those speed dial dogs at bay. Quarry.
The smokes are cheap and the mirrors are everywhere to catch and keep light and sound. All gathered in the curved bowl of these pretty bays. “that’s not nearly all, tainted love”, “how could he miss the toilet?”, “don’t you wonder sometimes, about sound and vision?”, “when did you last see him”, “under pressure”, “do you know what day it is?”, “I’m gonna get you too, another one bites the dust”, “are you here with friends?”. The radio is tuned in, two stations at the same time. The numbers go up and down, roaming is expensive, “do they expect us to tip here?”, “they’ve got proper bacon there!”, “what time does the bus arrive tomorrow?”, “can you take me home?”, “I’ll need another, calmer holiday after this one!”, “pupil response, negligible”. Incessant, concussion.
Who steers it? In secure compounds at the end of the road, heavy glass and sliding garage doors. Not that nice Indian couple, their lives spin by under the blare of Donner light, too many pigs end on plates here, like lambs to the slaughter. Perhaps there is no wheel at all. The cleaner’s protest falls silent, wails drift off the balcony, falling down, up the steep hill, tall blocks block, blue pools settle, don’t run around the slippery edge, dive in at the deep end. “The hours are long, but they pay well”.
There’s a lightness here too, kids drag school bags, meander, giggle, god’s still here, that same fierce light also dapples and plays. The land is beautiful, plants are pleased. You can go and see whales, if you want, they do a cruise. The product rolls down the hill, cash is lighter, easier to carry home. His name is Beni and he is a character in your story, he’s funny and sweet until you cross him, until the dark yawns, on your way to disappear. These lights don’t only darken skin.