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Saturday, December 24, 2005

City Of Dust

Now that the weather is cooler and drier, the city you live in is encircled by fine particles of dust. You see flurries outside shops in the morning when sweepers wield their brooms; it clouds streetlights in the evening, giving them a translucent orange corona; and your fingertips have only to brush past exposed surfaces to leave clear stripes behind.

On your way home at dusk, you look out upon the trenches that have scarred the city's roads in the name of civic amenities, and see a haze reflected in the headlights of cars that, in their impatience to overtake, ride roughshod over the rubble. The windows of the car you are in have grimy streaks on them, a dried-out mixture of dust and water. You pick up a book lying on the back seat and your fingers encounter grainy particles that you brush off till the cover is glossy again.

Back home, the first thing you do is wash your hands and face: the water runs a light shade of brown before dribbling into the drain. Somewhat cleansed, you attempt to untangle a thicket of wires in order to connect your amplifier, CD player and DVD player together -- the equipment has been lying separate and disconsolate ever since the packers deposited them into your new house a week ago -- and find a thick patina of dust coating the crevices and sockets at the back of each device. After a few wrong connections, you find the right plug for each socket, and then you need to wash your hands again.

You shut the windows; you draw the curtains.

But it is never-ending, this attempt to keep surfaces clean. It is the first dark hint of the law of entropy which dictates that out of dust we have arisen and, no matter how resplendent or boastful our civilisation, it is into dust that we shall again descend.

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