In a busy northern city, made of hard lines and tight, narrow skies, it’s tempting to turn back to one’s self. To see oneself adorned, reflected in the dark windows of the dark Tube snaking through deep pits of earth.
I know a girl who took a trip to Florence. She went to get away from the cold clarities of the north, with its streets all packed up in neat, grey concrete boxes, and its tinted glass windows and tinted glass doors.
Florentine walls crumble like buttery biscotti and cayenne pepper. Where modernity’s spatial illusion was born, bursting out from its frames, we are humbled. Our own beauty diffuses as tabletops wobble on cobbled terraces in the cool shadow of the Duomo. It arches across the blue sky like an approaching, pre-Copernican sun.
But she went to Florence and could not lose herself. She could not forget her own image. So she clung to the ancient classics, sculpting herself in long dresses and dining on iceberg lettuce while the fresh Carbonara congealed.
Striving for a flattened perfection.
And she returned to the north with her Instagram shots of herself standing smooth against the old, red bricks. Like a renaissance cliche. David, proud and creamy, feigning nakedness and truth, but cloaked in the most elaborate burial shroud of all.
Photograph: Ruth Orkin