It started with a thought on a rooftop. Purplish palm trees covered the square, clean cut gardens of suburbia. They were draped in the darkened waters of the night yet stained pink with the thick smog rising from the distant city. I dug my fingernails into the plant pot next to me and felt the annoyance of soil between my nails, whilst enjoying the rebelliousness of it. The air was damp with the scent of watered plants and fresh soil out of a packet. The balcony overlooked the mysterious community pool, which harboured an allure to it. It remained illuminated all through the night, despite the growing need for environmental awareness. I don’t think that it really mattered here though. The whole area was constructed, as if some manor of feng shui was pretentiously applied to allow it to be peaceful despite it being meticulously planted and cared for. Waves of golf course grass carpeted the rolling artificial hills that covered the floor of the garden, a perfect shade of spring green, all 1 inch long. Trees that belonged to various different landscapes of the orient were potted together to fight for sunlight, each of them tied with plastic tape to ensure that they grew into arches and walkways, whose benefit that was for was unclear. To take a walk through the garden was to witness a perfectly manufactured existence where the only water to ever reach the roots travelled through rubber veins under the surface of the soil and pumped out distilled, crystal clear water all day long. If you were small enough, you could find a fort within the artificial hedge boxes and gardenia flower arrangements, because behind the netting that supported them was the welcome absence of human interference. Whether it is behind a set of crisping palm trees by the side of a paddling pool, or whether it is under the roots of a laughingly large oak tree that had been flown in from India last summer. As the night rolled through, you heard no animals, no insects. The welcome chirp of cicadas that was so familiar to me was absent. The cloying silence was only broken by the ripping grind of a motorcycle or the horn of a distressed car as they flew by on the road outside of the gate.
The night only brought with it hungry cats in search of unopened trash cans and the metronome of streetlights flickering on and off. If you ever felt the need to leave such a place, then you had free will. However to return was less easy, as a system of numbers and codes kept you puzzled at the foot of a 6 foot gate, painted army green, that separated you from the rest of the world. Next to the gate you would find a list of all of the names; Doctors, lawyers, surgeons, accountants, bankers, professors and even the occasional socialite. The only traffic that wavered through the gate tended to be shiny metallic Bentleys and Mercedes with pine green scented leather interiors that rolled out for dinner or church. Rarely would you see a woman walking around without an oversized bag, dark rimmed sunglasses and the scent of expensive hairspray and perfume following her. That is of course, with the exception of the ‘staff’. Who walked up to this gate, humbled by its size, and braved the scrutinising walk from the mouth of this garden, down the artificially paved road, to the hidden back entrance of the large and daunting chateau where they were to spend the rest of the day cleaning. If you spent the day at home, say you were sick; the likelihood that you see these women uncomfortably walking miniature dogs with ridiculously silky hair was pretty high. In fact, the dogs quickly learned how to walk themselves. Whenever they fancied it, they strolled right out of the front door and wandered around the city for a while, doing their business. What they got up to on these walks was unknown, but they returned at the same time every night to resume their roles. These poster perfect houses lined the streets around the garden, like the crust on a pie. Not a blemish, no bad paint jobs, no ridiculous plastic flamingo’s in the front lawn. What lay behind the painted houses was anyone’s guess. But I had a feeling that know one would ever know.