Shove your hands
in your pockets and set out. In London in winter it’s nearly pitch at half past four. By six, you’re in the night city, and in backstreets you can be alone for a long time.
Some chance conjunction of latitude and climate: in this city artificial light cuts darkness like nowhere else. There are no trees like these, streetlit up, fractal cutouts. When you were a kid you ran through this bluster and raindrops so tiny they were like dust falling in all directions, not just down, and missed it even while you were in it.
There’s been a revolution in remembrance. Digital photography’s democratised the night-shoot. One touch at the end of a sleepy phone call on your way home, you can freeze the halo from streetlamps, the occluded moon, night buses, cocoons shaking through brick cuts, past all-night shops. Right there in your pocket, a lit-up memory of now.
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A shorter version of this essay was published in the New York Times Magazine, on 4 March 2012