I read once that nothing sustains us when we fall.
There was a RSPB guy, young and eager, with thick glasses and a clipboard. He guided me to the telescope. I had walked away moments earlier, mildly disappointed but planning to return on tomorrow's lunch break. The female peregrine was absent in that moment I decided to stop and chat. To look. The young man ran after me, excitedly brought me back to the viewing spot. 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 you could lose and could perhaps regain. Bullet-fast and bullet-strong. She sat there, imperious, vicious, marble-still, in the upper reaches of the Tate Modern.
Tourists flowed around us, the grey Thames calm behind them. A busker played bad acoustic songs. A bubbler blew bubbles that burst soapily on the coats of workers hurrying to sandwich shops.
That morning I 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 on the tube talk to his girlfriend about the benefits of paying for goods and services and on a smartphone, what the homeless would do in the cashless society some promised. In my city, 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 northwest London, looking as if the suburbs of Burnt Oak and Hendon were walled in by majestic mountains. I imagined peregrines catching diseased pigeons in the skies above the Brent Cross shopping centre, somehow surviving in the choke of the North Circular.
I watched the looming mountains in the polluted sky for as long as I could. But after Golders Green, everything went black.