By Ahmed Latif
Inevitably my thoughts return to that unspoken colossus we constructed so long ago. How dare I remember?
Before a tempest hits the shore with all its means of destruction, a serene calm presides over the sky and permeates through the air. The storm is meditating on our destruction. Our tempest arrives not with cannons and explosions but with a ring of the doorbell. It arrives every day and it doesn’t destroy us. It only prolongs our anxiety. It toys with us maliciously.
Our zenith, our extinct greatness, our false metaphor; our grand capital is not undone by revolution or violent repression. Instead we are complicit in the tyranny of everyday. The once celebrated ordinary is now the poisonous mundaneness that seductively turns moments into an eternity. We fade and vanish from existence a small amount everyday. Our fall is marked by the torrid pace of the city, the pace that usurps actions of their meaning and us of our purpose. Our capital was an exorbitant expression of vertical ambition, intermittent with flowing self-consuming abundance. Suburbs sprawled maliciously and skyscrapers rose brutishly. Our metropolis has lost its identity as we’ve lost our purpose. In the annals of history it will be marked that we were long dead before the tempest claimed what remained of our utopia, our precious Pompeii.
There was a time, on Sunset Hill where you would find young lovers watching the sun bid its daily farewell. Now, Sunset Hill is home to divorcees and disenchanted single mothers. Why didn’t we keep our promises to the city and to each other? Was love not enough?
The city, and its bright lively lights, shone less brightly with every passing night. Its clean walkable streets were stained by our emotionless baggage flung carelessly at every corner and in every alley. Our triumphant leaders possess no more empty words in their arsenal to awaken our dead hearts. The city still possessed a masterfully designed judicial system but it existed only to be twisted and mangled. It existed to serve no justice, only perpetuate disillusionment. Justice was the same blind statue in our city, but now it was disfigured and unaware of its disfigurement. Our bureaucracy, once famed for efficiency, was now a deathtrap where one does not die but instead is condemned to squirm forever, never moving an inch. The traffic on the road is emblematic of our hate for our city.
Our fathers and mothers, the parents of our republic — the good republic they called it — could not blame us. We’ve created an empire from their puny republic. But we became an empire with no soul. Our purpose became self-preservation and perpetuation of the status quo. We died in a flood of continuity. We were an empire extending in every direction but we had no direction at all. We were overwhelmed by aimlessness. Where others had begun, we had ended. Can you imagine being born at the end of your life? We are not the fulfillment of some honourable or condemnable dream, we are a life completely satisfied with nothing but itself.
I ponder no longer how we reached this end; but I still need to know why? Was an empire worth all of our souls? Was success worth all of our hopes? Then it dawned on me why Sunset Hill became a slum. Because the daily sunset lost meaning when the sun set on our empire, our city, and us. We are future beautiful ruins. We are rubble in the making.
Our city fell prey to life, the true tempest. It fell for the trickery of our ambition. We never believed it would end. Some still believe that the greatest thing about life is that it ends; that this end gives everything meaning. So where is our meaning as our end consumes us? Somewhere on Sunset Hill you’ll find nothing but remnants of dreams, dreams of our very own Pompeii.