‘Planned demolition’

When I was ten, I watched my house blow up. I lived in a tower block. Fifth floor, sixth perhaps. Not right at the top, but still high up enough to have the most glorious view of Vauxhall. I was late for school that day. They didn’t make us watch them come down, but I wanted to.

Two decades on, I ended up living in a townhouse in Runcible Gardens; a left turn and a two minute walk from my old front door. I lived with Mia, and mostly wished I didn’t.

We were exploding into each other. No walls. Embryos, tax bills, affairs, gin tears, forgetting to put the bins out. I think, looking back, we were just two buildings, standing too close, each on our way down.

From time to time, during those months, or perhaps it was years, I felt the taste of stone, itching the roof of my mouth. The feeling of everything falling away, even your spine, and being powerless to stop it. Falling down. Becoming waste. Becoming free.

I used to wonder what would be left, at the end of it all. Not just the rubble, that was simple enough; I mean the dust. When I saw it happen for the first time, it was the dust that made me lose my breath. That air was the space where I’d lived. It had held me inside it. And in a single mushroom cloud, it rose, drifted, faded with a sigh into the broad London sky. Where was it going next? Had I gone with it, a little bit?

Through more of my thirties than I wanted to admit to myself, I staggered from girlfriend to girlfriend: from their maisonettes to serviced apartments to plush penthouses. Each time a fraction higher. A little more unstable. Less of me left.

And as staggering went, I did an excellent job. When the time came, I knew exactly how it would end. There would come a night, a quiet night when enough explosives had been gathered. The next day: an almighty explosion, the plume of dust, the losing of myself. A new beginning.