… In an ordinary afternoon, I woke up curious and left the house for a walk in South Bermondsey, the neighbourhood where I live. Looking at the asphalt under my feet, I hoped that something below could change, perhaps the color or maybe the shape. I was looking for something that would make my stomach shake, my head tremble. Walking through the city, I came across a construction site where I saw a crying worker dressed in tiger skin. He was sitting on a large iron bar in front of some scaffolding, I could not believe what I was witnessing; his skin shone around the gray hardware that surrounded him,
“why are you crying?” I asked him.
“My colleagues who have now left the construction site do not have ears to hear as they are full of nails, and eyes to see as they are full of dust.”
The man dropped a tear on his hand and gave it to me.
“For me?” I said.
He replied: “Tear tear, you are my salty sea where I can remember the waves, salt my face so I can feel like a swimmer once again.”
I grabbed the tear with my hand, it was thick and full of salt.
“I get often mocked by the foreman scoundrels for my clothing but they do not know that you cannot see foliage and sea anymore, my skin is that of an animal because I prefer warmth to the cold metal,” said the man before lifting his strong tiger body and walking away.
His shift was over and his colourful and seductive skin convinced me to follow him alongside scaffolding and pieces of metal from other construction sites.
He was heading to the pub at the corner. Without saying anything, I kept following him, enchanted by his tail which, at regular intervals, slammed to the ground in a snaky dance.
With his paw he opened the pub’s door and, as soon as they got in, people burst into a huge laugh, mocking the worker's tiger suit. “Laugh, laugh,” he said in a trembling voice, salting his face with thick tears, “there will not be any place in the sea for you who live in steel and concrete.”
The laughter was loud, so I started to caress him as to cheer him up. Then the man, opening a bottle to let his tears flow into it, looked at me and said, “let my tears come down, we will need all of them to swim again in our sea.”
We ordered two pints and sat down, he drank in a hurry and asked me what my name was.
“Luisa” I replied.
“Luisa, you who do not fear the stranger dressed as a fool, you have a sensitive stomach that wants to listen, so I want to tell you about a secret beach where there is salt and not sand, where a tribe of weeping tigers works to revive the sea and make our faces happy. Here the tigers are free from the salary that was paid to them at the construction site, their tears are full of salt and they give it in exchange for nothing,” roared the worker.
I listened carefully, the man's sensitivity had nothing to do with the everyday asphalt I was used to.
Two men who were playing pool kept laughing at him while pointing to his suit. Still, this did not take away his desire to tell me about such incredible places. It got late, so we decided to leave the pub. The tiger was still in tears, trying to make every drop fall into its bottle. He remained quiet for a few seconds and then he left.
The next day, I woke up and went to the window to look at that constantly evolving landscape. For the first time, I realised that the steel bars were my trees and the construction sites my jungle. With a new awareness and renovated strength running through my veins, I left the house heading to the construction site where I immediately noticed the worker still dressed in that way. The place seemed endless and the builders worked so far from each other that they could hardly meet their gaze. I began to climb over the barriers and other construction tools approaching the animal that was cursing at the sky:
“My tiger, listen to the sound of the hammer and look at the flats they are building, do not growl at them because they will not hear, their ears are full of nails. Where are you, animals? Today I am a warrior but I have no warmth, nor color. Nature, teach me what irregular shapes are and the roar of animals lost in the noise out there. I regret, I regret, and I regret what I have done, please, teach me how to roar because I want to be like you, a feline who knows the aaargh and the colour of the body.”
His shift was over, the tiger approached me with eyes full of sea and, holding a tear in his hands, he roared, “this is the tear of innocence, it is sacred and it is the only thing I believe in, it is the transcendental purity of children. There is no time out there to be innocent nor for the sacred. Time runs quickly and disappears in memory, buildings are built and everyone will forget about them!”
The man raised his paw, and I accepted the invitation to hug him.
“Take me with you where the sea cries on concrete,” I said, so we began to walk through the streets of South Bermondsey surrounded by the noise of construction and the cry of birds that, instead of singing, swooped down to catch some fried chicken left overs on the asphalt.
“Come on!" shouted the worker, “let's go to the beach where weeping is made of joy and the sound of the hammer pushes the waves to sing.”
I let myself be carried away clutching his hand full of claws and found myself in the construction site promised by the worker. Salt water and salt dunes caressed my feet, in the background roars of joy were resonating. It was a tribe of humans, or perhaps tigers, who had escaped from construction sites of concrete and metal, all lying soaking in salty water.
Immediately my body began to tremble feeling overwhelmed by a luminous cry. The worker with his big paw took my hand and said, ”this is your real salary!"
After looking at my back, I saw a man on all fours immersed in water who was watching me with big salty eyes. With a sudden gesture, he raised his elegant feline body and approached me. “Take this gift as a symbol of our friendship,” said the man gently handing me a tear.
On the other side of the beach, a tiger slowly got up from the subbed where he was lying and began to shout, ”We have salt, salt, and more salt here, this is our salary.”
Another roar raised behind my shoulders, “The work, the 8 hours of steel and concrete, the tube, the unnecessary noise, the dinner, the pub, the sleep, and again the 8 hours. But one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. ‘Begins,’ this is important. Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. Wonderful! Welcome!”
I realised that I was completely surrounded, who was animal and who worker was no longer important. Behind my back, a tiger was smiling at me as it carried a long, heavy iron stick with a giant, colourful beach umbrella on top. After a few steps, he lifted it to the sky and vigorously stuck it in the salt. A very strong roar accompanied the action of the tiger that gently laid down in the shade.
There was salt everywhere and tigers here and there carrying bags full of tears on their shoulders. They worked relentlessly and effortlessly to give life to a sea that is not disposable, nor fast, or saleable.
Nothing more could be expected from this construction site, anything could happen on a beautiful day at the beach …