Fragments of a City

We walked home in masses, droves, knowing that somewhere beneath the streets, people were still trapped; still people dying down there in the tube trains, buried, still people escaping from tube trains, saved, still people being rescued, dragged from down there in the tube trains, hanging on... And still we walked on, directly above them, resolved to go on; still we phoned our friends, let them know we were safe; still we headed on our way, knowing homes awaited us.

We'd been warned about this from officials and politicians, told it was coming, told it was inevitable, that however many they caught, that however many flats full of chemicals and plans they found and caught and stopped, that it was coming. Before it came, we were resolved already to get through it, to go on. Some would act the fool, some be heroes, there would be the strong-minded and the trembling - perhaps all were to be found in part in each of us - still, we would each try to go on, resolved, through it.

Most of us came from our offices, left early, after a morning of texting non-stop from mobile phones, of office phones used for personal calls and no questions asked, of relentless non-work related emails, with all the deadlines suspended, a morning of TV streamed into laptops, of in-trays sliding to the corners of desks: instead the demands of the day became simple, became family, friends, lovers, husbands, wives; what counted was making contact, checking life was still life.

And so on the day a roof was ripped from a busying bus, on the day the lucky ones emerged from underground covered only in smoke, or cut only slightly, we were surrounded acutely with love. As the numbers of dead mounted, as the reports made clear this was no electrical fault, as the politicians quivered on our screens, the love for one another that is always there invisibly, in the background, the shadows, quiet and subtle, became a current circulating amongst us all, as we checked that each other were still alive; watched our Inboxes for new names, infinitely thankful as we read Colin, Peggy, Queeny, Karla, Rob, Amy, Kate, Mike, Rhian, Chris, Claire, Tom, Kim, Cindy, Adam.

And so we walked home above the dying, the struggling and the dead, who were still somewhere in blackness beneath our streets; we walked home thankful that others lived on; we walked passed the houses and estates and flats, not knowing which of the windows contained grieving widows, or which sobbing students, or which terrified children, the word orphan waiting for them on official forms.

Nor did we know behind which of the buildings were the bombers, which windows homed those who hated us, us there in the crowd, us there on the streets with our hidden love; the bombers whose eyes saw a city of seven million people as one, as one not deserving its love and its life. Somewhere their fists punched the air. Somewhere were those who judged to be on the number 30 bus that morning, or on the Piccadilly Line, or leaving a train at Edgware Road - that such a thing was sufficient reason for slaughter.

And so through the city of fragments, the city of the dead, of the grieving, of the dying, of the living, of the thankful, of the hateful, the city I walked home through to stare, to drink, to weep, to talk, to thank, the city of broken boundaries, where good and evil interlocked at random points, where nation and hope dissolved and recombined with each passing moment or person, where civilisation found its opposite, through the city circulated an invisible love; just for now, all I can do is tell you about it.