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Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2005 - 1:30 a.m.

Before the rain arrives in the city, the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians walking hurriedly to the train station. Some pause at shop windows, looking at the DVDs or blouses on the stricken mannequins behind the glass. Then from the doorway of a boarded-up shop, a small stream of water emerges. It slides down the dry sidewalk, and follows the slope of the street, opening a path in the crowd as people sidestep, change direction, or hop across it. A few stop to watch the travel of the water; it is an incongruent mountain stream that just appeared in the city. The stream of water carries with it dust, leaves, and the sign of more water to come.

The rain descends and people flee into buildings and underpasses. The sidewalks are now empty and have turned slick with the reflection of the sky. Roof gutters become a churning white rush, and a choked drain-hole on the side of a kerb pumps water out onto the road, each push of water as steady as a heartbeat. Thin waves of water slide down glass windows like interminable waves of erasure, distorting the light of the outside street. On a telephone line strung between two buildings, individual raindrops cling to the gentle sag in the middle of the line. When one raindrop falls away, it is immediately replaced by another.

The rain is a screen that changes the colour of the sky, causing a sepia filter to fall over the city. It is as if the city has gone back in time, to the age before the invention of full-coloured photographs. Light becomes suffused and quiet. In a small empty lane, a brown paper bag containing an empty beer bottle sits on the window-sill of an abandoned house, protected from the rain by the shallow recess. Under this screen of rain and uncertain light, the shape of the bag and the pattern of its creases causes the eye to experience visual doubt. In the place of the brown paper bag, the eye sees something else, a human figure - one of those small statues of the Virgin Mary, with her hands clasped in piety.


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