There are some firsts you wish would never have happened.
You strove to be the tallest, the biggest, the most. You spent billions on superlatives and on the people that broadcast those superlatives with other superlatives. You were obsessed with being Number 1 in the world. So you made The World out of sand and then left it to sink back into the sea. You are littered with accidental ruins. You are Dubai.
In the brochures that boast about the pyramids of Giza or the palace of Versailles, you are not presented with the body counts behind the wonders. You do not gaze upon human ingenuity, its aweing perplexities, its elegant poise, so that you can access histories of systematized indenture, suppression, and gratutitous servitude because that was then, and this is now. Part of the contract you, we, all have with the terrifying beauty of the past is what lies in its innards: naturalised horror. You are a tourist.
You scaled down the Burj’s gridded facade, harnessed, insured for millions.
Your mission was impossible made possible. You are Tom Cruise.
Your brother died in December. You have been working for Arabtec since 2000. This morning, as the sun shone like yesterday and tomorrow, you climbed to the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifah, and you fell – for reasons no one may ever know – to land on the 108th floor, 16 floors below where tourists come to gaze down at Dubai, upon its accidental ruins, and onto the World as it sinks back into the sea. You, Athiraman Kanan, were 38 years old, from Tamil Nadu.
Superlatives and firsts bring with them their shadow superlatives, their anti-firsts. Invention, accident. Disaster, destiny. In the country of first things.
At last, you say, I am the first.