Tuesday, April 12

Phantom Sparks

My weekends are spent alone, so that by Sunday evening I am very much looking forward to returning to work and what little humanity it offers. People, conversations, chatter; the small longings of loneliness. I tire of my own company after two-and-a-half days. It was beyond me to speak to a single soul all weekend. (Except for my mother who messaged me on Saturday—‘If you’re not out and about, do you want to chat?’ I was out and about – down a street I did not know, exploring – but I called her regardless. ‘I’m only walking,’ I told her. She spoke to me, asked me how I was, told me about her news then asked if I had any. My mind had gone blank. I could not think of a single bit of news to tell her. Or had nothing happened to me the past week? It was entirely possible. After we hung up, I was miserable. By that point I had found my way to the river, which was high and splashing up onto the pavement. The water was thick and foamed with litter. It bounced vigorously across to the other side where small figures could be made out, twitching in the distance. I wished I had not spoken to her. Things were quite bad inside of my mind and I found it difficult to stomach the city, so I walked home.)
This morning I was feeling more positive. I had not had any nightmares – none that I could remember – and my flat was clean, my bedsheets clean. I was feeling refreshed somewhat, and besides, it was a good-looking day. I will raise the blind of my lone window and exclaim aloud—‘Ah, it’s a lovely day!’ I said—‘See you later, cats!’ to a flat without a single cat in it, and left. Although the children were going back to school the streets were quiet. Straight away I wished I had not worn a coat. I pulled as deep on my cigarette as I could and held it down before exhaling, giving myself a head-rush; chuckling under my breath, I thought of when I started smoking. All the fast food restaurants were closed. Cyclists swung between the cars. Big lorries were making deliveries at a nearby building site as floating orange jackets guided them in. It was a normal Monday morning, I suppose. Nothing unusual or remarkable. I will die on a morning just like that.
I was late, so I hurried.
Then, looking up, I noticed something about the girl walking in front of me. It was enough to bring over a wave of acute nausea. She had the same walk, same posture, same hair, same sense of style as my ex. Of course I do not know what clothes she has bought the past thirteen months. (I imagine she has bought many clothes since; she did not stop existing after she left me, although she gave me two cacti as a memento.) I did not recognise the shoes or the backpack, they were definitely new to me. The shoes were not to my liking but I quite enjoyed the backpack. I looked at her hair; it was the same; thick and dark. Her ears the same. Her walk the very same. I thought I would throw up at any second, and yet, at the same time and despite all of my organs telling me otherwise, I wanted to confirm it was her, to look upon her face for the first time in so, so long. We walked close enough together that I could have stretched out my left arm and tapped her right shoulder. I became dizzy and did not know what to do. Should I say hello? She wants someone else’s baby now, but I so wanted to say hello. It is just a short word, a brief word, barely two syllables. I have occasionally said hello to people who do not mean a thing to me. What is one more hello but magnificent if it is said to her? Caught in a torment of wanting to say hello, to run away, to throw up, to confirm it was her, my route dictated that I cross the road toward the office. As I did so, I tried to look at the side of her face. I looked for familiar freckles. There was not enough to be sure, yet I was positive it was her and she had been but a foot away from me! It was her. There is no-one else in this place that it could be. She works nearby, although she was walking away from it, an hour-and-a-half after she starts. I walked away from her.
Dodging the traffic, I made it to the other side of the road and looked around. It was a large junction with traffic coming from all directions; one must be careful when crossing so as to not get struck. The parting of buildings allowed a great stream of sunlight to fall down in the middle of it; that is what London does to you from time to time: sends a sunbeam. I stopped and surveyed the junction. My eyes went where I thought she would go. I could not see her. I looked down one street and then the next, but nothing. Where had she gone? She was certainly there, and then she was gone. I could not stand straight. All of the strength had vanished from my legs. The streets were not holding her. I stood there for a while, struggling to find her, but nothing. I was anxious that with each second she was getting farther away from me, disappearing back into the abyss of this city. The lights changed, the vehicles moved, ripping the sunbeam from the road with their bumpers and fighting over it between them. I carried on toward work. I held my right hand out in front of me: shaking terribly. Meeting ghosts is difficult. I should like to be alone now. All of my optimism was gone, with her, down Whichever St. How odd to me that someone I shared a bed with for so long should become a stranger right in front of me on these streets I walk every day, how they should appear and then, like a phantom, disappear again.

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