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the skull beneath the skin

I spent three hours and walked five miles around downtown for the first time in over a year and it felt both surreal and hyperreal: a city mediated by maps on phones that persuaded those around me to reorientate themselves at every angle. “Look, there’s the Ben & Jerry’s, we’ve found it.” You’ve found it. I golf-clapped the fuckwit who ran the red light at the crooked crossing of the de-obelisked nexus, regretted not asking the people in orange for their email when I photographed them beneath a mural that said “Orange”, took the eight flights of stairs to the top of the deserted multi-storey car park and watched the cars beneath compete for the few remaining on-street spaces.

Driving back, I saw in the oncoming lane what looked from a distance like a fluttering black bag, but as I got closer it became a squirrel, winged, its tail vertical, thrashing side to side on the tarmac in its last moments. As I headed to the tunnel, I hoped that someone coming my way would swerve to put it out of its misery. I hoped I’d never see that again.

To see life in the world is simply to live in it. It is the normal state of things. It is the background hum. But when you start to see death around you and walk past the place where you first felt death strike hard from a distance, death finds you. Everything dies, the teachers say. Everything is dying: sometimes gently, sometimes not.