It’s amazing how much permission you need, just to be a human being. Security guard, home guard, Clogard. Got kicked out of two separate places tonight, just trying to be a kid. I’m walking because I should not drive. Of course it’s roadblock city and no one can proceed in a straight line. Meander to Independence Square and being independent, decide to walk through it at two in the morning. It’s a lovely space, smaller than I thought. There’s a pathway of light and ponds leading to the University, a promenade I’ve never seen. Of course, forbidden.
Colombo is not the forbidden city so much as forgotten, veiled beneath a security chador. If you can get it alone though, the city still has some beauty. The hidden shade of Baudhalloka Mawatha, the sun glinting through the leaves. Those ancient canopies of winding trees, impossibly huge and majestic. The hidden treasures down residential roads. Empty lots, tacky gates and patches impossible taste and luxury.
We’re walking down Skelton Road (spooky) and there are two figures in the middle of the street. Not knowing if this is fight or flight, we advance carefully. I’m in the happy mood where I’m down for either, but it’s just two boys with long hair, listening to ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ on their cell phone speakers. Perhaps the least threatening thing I’ve seen on the street.
There’s a haunted house on Skelton Road which I’ve never properly explored. Being not a pussy I can hop the gate in five minutes, but everyone else spends a noisy half hour hemming and hawing at the gate. I don’t know this (or that there is one), but this wakes the caretaker. The gate’s not so bad, just avoid the spikes, turn and negotiate down.
Inside there’s an unfinished staircase with a two floor drop on either side. Stone, no railing. From there a balcony with a view. There’s a four story tower I’d never explored till tonight. Would never have really found the stairs if we hadn’t worken the caretaker, with the hemming and hawing at the gate. After his initial fright and talk of calling cops (as if he had a phone) he walked us to the gate, tying his sarong and chuckling. At the end he knew we’d bila and he couldn’t help but laugh. Go go, he said, see. The place was never built, just poured concrete. Nothing to steal. I wonder how he lives there at all.
He said the house had been in the midst of a land dispute for 15 years. Now it’s abandoned and haunted by the ghost of good taste, brutally murdered. Obscene three story pillars, winding stairs and catacombs, a fourth floor pool and tower to nowhere. All in poured concrete, now rendered salt-and-pepper grey with age. The view from the top is fanta coke though, can see to Galle Road and Havelock town and all around. Really quite tall. There are no railings and the stairs go back and forth like a Stalinist Notre Dame. Sweet of the guy to let us explore.
Later we call a cab and then find a ‘nother cab on the side of the road. We obviously try to take the immediate one and cancel the other one. They’re from the same company, which should be fine, but no. The dispatcher at 688688 throws a fit and wants us to wait for the other cab to come, switch cabs and then proceed. Because the bureaucracy is always first. He gets a good blaguarding and we meander home in some other fashion. Lovely city, with a dedicated staff to slow it down.