There were unsettling portents from the start today.
I’d not even properly started the drift and I was noticing warnings of what I presumed was capital’s tendrilled commingling with this part of the city. The ways in which it is always reaching, ominously to dissect or suppress that which might subvert its atomising pall.
Walking through the St Enoch Centre, en-route to where I intended to start my drift, I was forced – under the auspices of social distancing – to walk a profane labyrinth around its galleries, which guided me, not through an enriching contemplation, but by chilling spirits and sigils. If this drift was – following many psychogeographical traditions – looking for something outside of capital, capital wanted me to know it would chase and block me all the way.
As it turns out, it wasn’t capital’s tendrils that I had to be wary of today.
After drifting around Argyle St and the Merchant City – listening to the ghosts of nights out and soaking up the paranoia of shoplifters – I headed towards my intended destination; Merchant City House on Miller St. This is where I first lived in Glasgow, a block of flats that mainly housed 1st year RSAMD students. I’d intended to return here with the inkling that the passageway that gives entry to the flats – and links Miller St to Queen St – might feel like or represent something of a liminal space for me; a transition space between the person I was and someone closer to who I am now. Memories of nights with friends, transcendentally drunk, spilling onto Queen St seemed a far cry from the awkward ‘refugee from the nuclear family’ walking determinedly off Miller St. I was carrying Sophie Lewis’ excellent essay on the horror films Hereditary and Midsommar in my mind, and her explorations of both films’ protagonists, who ritualistically metamorphose through the pulverisation or preclusion of their nuclear family units.
I walked through and hung out for a while in my puported liminal cut-through. I looked up at all the windows and felt glad. All these windows, like portals onto different worlds. So many apparent exits.
But another memory flashes across my mind. John* and I, sitting in my room, through one of the windows up there, after another heated debate about music. I could never get on board with his love for contemporary ‘prog’. Exasperated by my protestations, he casts around the room for support (there is none) and his gaze settles on my desk. “What’s this?” He picks up and looks through, with dismay, some bible reading notes I’d been given by my church back home. “I didn’t think you were that sort of person…”
As I stare at the cut-through from Queen St, I see, not just a potential liminal space, but a furtive tendril, reaching towards me. I am thinking now of another horror film, where terrorised hostages undergo various (often forced) shamanic exits. But frequently bound and tracked by rope. Whenever we think we’ve escaped, we need to check what’s come with us. Claustrophobia closes in as I realise I’m trapped between the repressed, presbyterian childhood I thought this liminal space might free me from – lurking out there on Miller St – and St George’s Tron (barely 300 metres behind me), my first point of contact with the Kirk when I moved here.
For sure, I feel freer having retraced my steps into these dark territories, perceiving afresh their occult currents. I have disentangled a little, and maybe this trip will help me disentangle a little more. But no exit yet. No exit.