Nothing sustains us when we fall.
The RSPB guy, young and eager with thick glasses and clipboard, guided me to the telescope. I had walked away, mildly disappointed, panning to return on tomorrow's lunch break. The female peregrine was absent in that moment I decided to stop and chat, and to look. The young man ran after me, excitedly brought me back to the telescope. There, he said, she's back.
And she was. A predator that gripped my imagination in sharp yellow talons, the bird that fueled J.A. Baker's apocalyptic visions, the falcon that reminded me of everything we were losing and could perhaps regain. Bullet-fast and bullet-strong. She sat there, imperious, vicious, statue-still, in the upper reaches of the Tate Modern.
Tourists flowed around us, the grey Thames still behind them. A busker played bad acoustic songs. A bubbler blew bubbles that burst on the coats of workers hurrying to sandwich shops.
That morning I'd passed people covered in shiny sleeping bags with scrawny dogs as companions. I had to say no to a request for a cigarette; I'd quit and you can't share vapour. I wondered, as I listened to a dull man talk about Apple Pay on the tube, what the homeless would do in the cashless society some promised. In London, nothing sustains us when we fall.
The next morning, coming into the city from Edgware, the line was bathed in sunlight as brooding slate-grey clouds loomed over north-west London, looking as if the suburbs of Burnt Oak and Hendon were walled in by majestic mountains. I imagined peregrines catching pigeons in the skies above the Brent Cross shopping centre, somehow surviving in the choke of the North Circular.
I watched the mountains in the polluted sky for as long as I could. But after Golders Green, everything went black.