The futurist used to flutter her eyelashes at me as I sat in traffic on Lime Street for years. You see, back then I was a taxi driver, one of the exalted few allowed to drive from south to north on Lime Street who wouldn’t get a ticket from the tall skinny cameras that sat opposite the Adelphi.
I’d often sit waiting for the lights to change looking at the crumbling dangerous facades opposite, not the buildings that is, I’m talking about the smokers standing outside the Yankee bar. But occasionally, the traffic would be backed up so far that I’d have to wait opposite The Futurist. I’d rest my chin in my hand, sigh, and stare up at what looked like a haunted house, shuttered and shattered. Suicidal bushes clinging onto the gutters with a few scruffy pigeons staring back at me, looking for a fight, or a flight, it was hard to tell.
It was one such winters rush hour that I saw her winking at me, lazily fluttering silver strand eyelashes looking for love, drowning in despair and trying to catch the eye of a passerby, a passerby like me.
“Look at that.” I said to my half drunk passenger in the back.
“Up there on the left, first floor, those silver strands are blowing out of the broken window. They must have been fancy curtains or something, they look like eyelashes…”
He didn’t reply for a while, I thought he was lost in the romance of the moment just like me,
“Do you know what time the lap dancing club shuts?” He said from the back.
I suppose we aren’t all romantics after all.
I can only remember one film I saw in The Futurist, it was called Hanger 18 and it was rubbish, I mean really rubbish. Me and my mate Terry went to see it, I reckon I was about fourteen, nobody checked my age when I bought a ticket, nobody cared, same as nobody really cared when the place closed shortly after.
I got a job a few years later working in a jewellers on Mount Pleasant, that was almost as crap as the film, although slightly less predictable. I used to pass the Futurist as I headed home every night, the pair of us shuttered up and not noticed, miserable, wet with rain and stoic, assigned to our roles, her as a symbol of a cities decay and me a reminder that not trying at school led to dull jobs.
She didn’t wink at me then, she still had her dignity, and glass in her windows. She looked like a middle aged Miss Haversham, waiting for her long lost lover to come back and throw up her shutter and fire up her projectors. He didn’t come; he was too busy having a night in playing with his video recorder.
The eighties passed, Heseltine and Hatton and came and went, the nineties rolled into to town and her makeup slid down her face a few inches more. Somewhere along the line her windows broke and some letters dropped off her name like memories from a dementia sufferer. They left ghostly grime outlines, shadows of the past, almost forgotten like the building they’d once hung on.
The pigeons and seagulls moved in, not Walter and George, they’d long gone, these were the type that crapped everywhere and let feathers fall from the ceiling, slower than the chunks of plaster they dislodged.
I moved on, did different things, she just stood there, waiting at the bus stop, next to arcades, then the night clubs and then the half naked women. The smell of kebabs wafting past her nose, she squinted, eye sight failing, memory faded, fluttering her eyelash on her one good eye she waited at the bus stop for people to get off and warm her up.
But they didn’t.
One day I got a phone call off a flickeringly flighty creative soul who said,
“I’m making a film would you like to be in it?”
“What’s the money?”
“Well not really…”
“It’s called The Futurist.”
“I’m making it in The Futurist on Lime Street.”
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
And I did.
It was November, cold, drizzle, dark, buses whining past with farting air brakes and misted up windows as they smooched through puddles and reflected in shops. Town had shuffled across the city towards the Liverpool One, which made me think of someone stuck in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, like the Birmingham Six or something but not quite as many.
Dickie Lewis held his arm high, like he’d just slapped himself on the forehead after realising his time was nearly up and I walked down Mount Pleasant and across past the piss ‘eds outside The Adelphi who hustled around cider like pigeons round crumbs.
I banged on her shutters and looked at the student flats across the way, someone was looking back and I remember they waved. I didn’t wave back, which I regret now.
The shutters huffed and puffed up about four feet and a head popped out underneath them,
“I can’t get it up.”
“We’ve all been there.”
I ducked under the shutter, out of the rain and into the past.
The foyer hadn’t changed, the tiled floor, the dark walls, the ticket booth, the kiosk, the stairs off to the sides.
All the same except for the chandelier and the half ton of plaster on the floor. It was like the ceiling had given up the ghost and lent down to kiss the floor. The rain was outside but the damp was in, so damp and cold you could almost smell it. The camera lights steamed, their shadows the only straight lines left, I crunched across the floor and looked into the ticket booth, no need to lie about my age this time, there was nobody there, I’d half expected to see a skeleton with a plies of change on the counter, instead, all I saw was damp, more damp.
“Come up to the bar.”
Never one to miss an opportunity I followed the torch, the floor felt crunchy, like fresh snow. I touched the wall as I climbed the stairs, regretted it, and entered the bar. It was lit by artificial light and I could hear buses, top decks just feet away through the broken glass.
“Be careful where you stand or you’ll go through the floor.”
I felt like Alice through the looking glass.
I looked for the silver eyelashes and found them, up close they looked even sadder, so I pulled them out of the rain and into the cold, I felt sorry for them, I cared.
The seats had gone from the auditorium, as had the bums that once sat on them. Up in the roof pigeons called to each other and I could feel rain on my face sometimes depending on where I stood. We shone torches up at the beautiful ceiling but didn’t let them linger to long in case the weight of the light caused another part to fall, in one place I could see the roots of something growing in the sky, a whole new meaning to “roof garden”.
One night I found a box of movie posters in a storeroom, they were rotten and crumbled if you tried to unfold them, one was for Earthquake, which was ironic, as the room looked like it had been through one.
We filmed there for four nights; I’d never been so cold and I hate to admit I was glad to leave in the end.
“Can you hold the shutter up for me?” Said one of the cameramen as he humped his gear out to the van and I obliged, straining the get it as high as I could so he could pass under without bending double. I rested the shutter on my shoulder as others took opportunity to use me as a human door stop and I remained in place for a few minutes.
It’s only now I realise what it felt like that night, shutter held high, resting on my shoulder, like a jilted lovers head as I made to walk away.
The building willing me not to go, not to forget, to always hold dear.
I wish I’d left those eyelashes fluttering now; they were the only signs of life.
Here’s to the future, here’s to The Futurist.
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