The city awakens to the rumble of the early morning traffic as cars and buses sleepily roll along its slate grey streets. Large trucks and vans filled with various products make their way to the shops that are quietly pulling up their heavy shutters and letting the early morning light illuminate their structured interiors. People walk around the maze of items inside, ordering shelves and sweeping the dusty floors until the minuscule particles vanish outside and establish themselves into the misty morning sky.
The translucent sky slowly transitions to a clearer blue as the tall, grey apartments become alive and vibrant with the vigour of human life. Dark shadows move against the windows, pulling back patterned curtains and drawing up stripy blinds. Showers start running and toasters pop, filling rooms and hallways with the mouth-watering smell of fresh bread. The flurry of children can be sensed as cartoons play in the background while breakfast is noisily eaten. Irons release smoke, smoothening the crisp white shirts and the heavy school jumpers. Bags are filled with books and lunches while shoes are polished and hair untangled. Keys clang and car engines are started as people hurriedly leave for school and work.
Cafés are filled with the buzz of college students as they stop by on their way to their early morning lectures. They move quietly and their tired eyes scan their surroundings subtly, looking for empty tables. The unmistakable smell of fresh, hot coffee wafts out of the windows, mingling with the cool air. People sit in corners of the cafés, on chairs and little sofas, with hefty books and shiny laptops. The earphones they possess block out unwanted noise as they sip the dark liquid and flick through the morning newspapers. Coats, hats and scarves lie draped on chairs. Friends see friends and smile tired smiles as they move closer. Whispers and laughter rises over the serene music.
The sun becomes more evident in the sky as the morning progresses into the afternoon. The bright blue and yellow double-decker buses carry the masses into the city and deposit them on grey pavements, leaving them to bask in the midday sun and the sheer awe of a vibrant city. The sound of camera shutters can be heard as tourists group together, capturing fleeting moments and lasting memories. They pose next to statues and monuments. They take pictures of the strong blocks of Georgian buildings and the glassy modern ones that line the streets. They walk past hundreds of years of history in a few strides, the old colliding with the new under all-encompassing sky. The tourists explore the shops, trying on items and comparing prices. They root around in their functional rucksacks for money and credit cards. They always remember to obtain a souvenir and a little something for the people waiting back home.
Lunch time results in the smell of fast food spreading out into the atmosphere, enticing those who long for a quick meal before they return to their hectic, yet sometimes mundane, daily lives. Groups of teenagers on lunch breaks flock to the fast food establishments, capturing clean tables and forming seemingly endless queues. Some people head to daytime restaurants with enchanting views of an energetic city. A man in a suit weaves quickly through the paused crowds choosing where to eat, balancing a sandwich, a coffee and a briefcase within his hands. For a while, there’s only the hum of friendly chatter and the chimes of moving cutlery.
The streets are never empty. Crowds gather at traffic lights. No one person is the same. It’s a blur of individuality. People with sparkling jewellery. People wearing various uniforms. Skirts and dresses. Suits and ties. Shorts and trousers. Tracksuits and hoodies. Hair laden with various bright colours; blue, pink, red, green. High heels. Sandals. Trainers. Hats. Sunglasses. Handbags. Briefcases. School bags. They patiently wait for the pedestrian light to turn green, occasionally checking their wristwatches, watching the seconds tick by. The light almost suddenly turns green and the magnitude of people rapidly move across the blackened road while the drivers sit behind the steering wheels, waiting patiently for their turn to move. As it reaches the other side, the sea of people begins to split and disappears in various directions. Everyone has their own destination to reach.
The sun begins to set as the day progresses deeper into the evening. Children are collected from crèches by their parents; their minds brimming with stories and experiences from their day, ready to be shared. Colourful pages sit on their laps and they eagerly demonstrate how their craft projects work to parents who smile and ask questions. On the way home, the excited chatter quietens as the children focus their attention to what’s flashing by them outside. People are huddled with blankets along walls, holding out boxes to passer-bys. A cat runs into a littered side street. A flock of birds take off at once, swooping down over traffic. Bus stops are surrounded by tired people who lean against railings and walls in order to hold themselves upright, periodically checking their watches and the approaching buses, hoping that their one is next.
As the children are finished listening to their bedtime stories and are being tucked up into their beds, somewhere else in the apartments, a group of young adults are preparing for their Friday night out. The girls plug in their hair-straighteners and hair-curlers and brush their hair while waiting for them to heat up. They speak excitedly and laugh, anticipating the long night ahead. Make-up items are sprawled out over the floor while glistening and colourful dresses are spread out carefully on the beds, waiting to be chosen and worn. Eyeshadow palettes filled with all the colours of the earth, the sea and the sky lie side-by-side on tables. Shimmering silvers, glistening golds, breezy blues, pretty pinks, raging reds. Lipsticks are tested, and powder applied. Perfume is sprayed and handbags are prepared. Next door, the boys prepare their wallets and quickly choose outfits, fumbling with deodorant and hair gel. In the street below, a woman changes from her walking shoes to high heels before entering confidently into an Italian restaurant and being led to her table by a smiling waiter.
The glittering city lights stand out against the dark sky, illuminating the streets below. Taxis drive by, their yellow signs vivid against the cloudy sky. They stop at intervals and then quickly recommence their journeys. High heels clatter against the hard pavements as groups head towards the nightclubs. The music radiates out from restaurants and bars and the fluorescent lights flash distinctively. Rain begins to fall. It’s slow at first, barely a whisper, and then it picks up pace, building a heavy rhythm. There are surprised screams as people hurry to huddle underneath shelters while they wait in infinite queues, eager to preserve their carefully constructed appearances. Smoke from cigarettes rises up against the dark sky, leaving long curvy wisps of white to disappear after being cut through by the shimmering drops of cold water.
In the early hours of the morning, the clubs begin to empty. The people file outside in a chaotic manner, still singing, laughing and chatting. Hugs are shared, goodbyes are said. Taxis anxiously wait outside, ready to collect fares. Small groups enter the taxis while others decide to walk home through the damp streets, unravelling umbrellas and avoiding puddles. The apartment hallways are once again filled with loud sounds as everyone makes their way to their neatly made beds, intent on falling into a deep slumber.
But the city never really sleeps.