A friend told me this story a while ago. It’s been part of my thinking about the ethics of occupying marginal space.
It’s a few years ago. I’m in town for a festival. I and a few other university types break into the old, seemingly disused post office downtown.
We go exploring for about 45 minutes, and as I’m the boy scout who brought a torch, I’m at the front. Street lights spill through the large ornate windows, but as we venture further in, the ambient light decreases until my torch is our only source.
They were a couple, with a baby, clearly at their fiscal and social ends. They were afraid we were cops who had come to throw them out. They were apologising profusely, their eyes reflected in my torch light like animals. It actually was really shocking.
I felt terrible that I had woken them up. I also felt terrible that they were in such a position to have wound up living in there with a bub. I mentioned it to the other people I had come up with when I got back to the hostel.
When we went back the following night, one of the ground floor doors had been kicked in, a power lead thrown over a fence and a small dance party was happening.