11 September 2017

0 grenfell


oh my god. oh MY GOD. an elderly woman on the tube exclaims to the woman sitting next to her, as we slide by. it's not at all what i expected. 

and i wonder, how in the hell did she imagine it to be? because it is pretty fucked up.

this thing looming over us, this burnt out coffin shadowing the tracks.

in three days it will have  been three months. a crane is going, floor by floor around the building, like a sundial.

i've not written about this because i do not know how to write about this or even talk about it really because it doesn't involve me, except in the most passive sense.

in the sense that grenfell has been a part of my life in west london all along, something of which i was entirely unaware until it burned. now, it is impossible to ignore. it demands my attention.

the week after the fire, i was telling N how horrible it is to see it, how different from reading about it, and she says, well, you can't feel that horror all the time. some things you have to let go. 

perhaps it is because i am contrary. or because i live in west london and it is a wholly different thing to live in east london and never see versus living in west london and seeing 6-10 times per week.

N has never seen. i think maybe it is different.

grenfell is about presence. in contrast to 9/11, which is about absence, grenfell is about presence.

the building is still here, strangely beautiful in the abstract, harrowing in its reality.

i look because i want to imprint it in my mind. because i may not be here forever, it will not be here forever. but also because it is here. it seems important to look, to witness- in my capacity as an academic who studies memory and culture and narrative as well as a human being.

but also because it is constantly either sliding by or on my horizon- to the right when i'm crossing the road, to the north when i come out of shepherd's bush tube, to the left when i walk to church. this building in which all those people lived and died.

maybe i'm giving myself a choice where there is none. i live in west london. i am here, grenfell is here and it is in my path. it has become the beacon by which, when walking west, i find my way home.

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