fiction, photography

THE BOOKS IN THE BASEMENT

Chris R-1-63 Image by Christine Renney

The bookshop is busy and bright. Pushing against the throng Daniel moves toward the back of the store and down the rickety wooden staircase. Once below, he is able to breath again and, taking in the stale and musty but familiar aroma, he begins to relax. He finds making the short trip from the plate glass doors at the front of the shop to the basement so stressful. Daniel worries that he will be apprehended by one of the sales assistants, that they will demand to know what he is doing, why does he keep coming back and why does he spend so long down below?
Daniel has been coming to the bookshop every day for months now and he must have been noticed. But he hasn’t been stopped yet and no-one seems to care. And why should they? After all, the books in the basement have been forgotten and abandoned, left to molder and fade. And so why should he warrant more than a cursory glance and a fleeting thought.
Daniel is thankful for this. It means he is left alone to his own devices and he can read. It also means that at least some of the lost books will be rediscovered.

Daniel doesn’t have to worry about making the return trip for hours. He has a flask of coffee and sandwiches in his backpack and, if he wants, he can stay down here all day and quite often he does. Once settled on the old and cracked leather sofa in the far corner he loses track of time.

There are a lot of books in the basement. The shelving units run its entire length and the walkways are narrow, just wide enough for two people to pass each other sideways. But Daniel suspects that this has never been necessary, or at least not in years.
The shelves are tightly packed, mostly paperbacks and all have been read at least once. Most more than this judging by the creased spines and the dog-eared pages between the covers.
There are so many stories stored down here, so many ideas. It is an archive, an accidental one maybe, but an archive nonetheless.
Daniel wishes that he could reach all of the books but even if he were gifted an extra lifetime he knows he could not achieve it. But Daniel is determined to keep reading for as long as he is able, he is convinced that, eventually, someone will notice him, that someone will decide to care. After all, this is a bookshop and not a library and he is breaking the rules.

Occasionally others do venture into the basement and whenever Daniel hears someone on the creaking staircase he jumps up from the sofa. Although he is entirely hidden from view he tries to act nonchalantly, as if he is just another customer, casually browsing.
It is dank down here and poorly lit. No-one ever seems to venture more than a few metres into the basement. This time, however, he hears someone moving purposefully along one of the passages. Daniel is intrigued and, emboldened, he moves across until he sees her.
She is searching for a certain writer, maybe even a particular book but it isn’t there and Daniel sees the disappointment on her face.
Still she lingers, scanning the titles and occasionally reaching out and touching the books. Daniel moves closer but she doesn’t seem to be aware he is there and, turning, the woman stares right through him. And he realises that she doesn’t see him, that as far as she is concerned he isn’t there.
Staying with her, Daniel glides along the aisle until at last she works one of the books free and pulls it down. She studies the cover and flicks through it and, turning again, she doesn’t put it back. Daniel realises the woman is going to take it, that she is going to keep the book.

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poetry, prosetry

Southend-On-Sea

We were standing on the old sea wall,
one Saturday night in August.
I was looking out across the grey
and thinking,
“You are not like me.”
I was impressed;
you impressed my 18 year old naiveté.
I liked your history, that you were older than me,
and the way you held me
and your money
and your energy
and the way you smashed the punch-bag
on that boxing arcade game
with such might that it nearly fell over.
New high score.
New adventure.
New boyfriend.
New life.
You were a good dancer
and you made me feel safe.
But there was a very real danger in you
and that appealed greatly.
I lied to my father;
told him I was with the girls,
but I was steeped in drunken debauchery
with you, by the sea.
(He caught me.
I never lied to him again.)
He was disappointed in me.
But then you made me happy,
the happiest I’d ever been
and it all seemed worth it.
But I knew, “You are not like me.”
You don’t read books,
you have a proper family.
We had the worst nachos in the world
and sticky, sickly bright green shots
that dribbled down our sleeves.
We had sex on the shingle,
in the shower, in the van, in the bed at the BnB.
We ran through the streets,
laughing, singing, thinking,
“We could do this. We could really do this. You and me.”
A drunken, drugged-up stranger approached us
and told us to “love each other endlessly.”
I was scared of love.
No, I was scared of loving you.
I was stupid, but smart enough to know that I should not love you.
But while the stranger spoke,
you grabbed my hand and looked at me, lovingly.
In that moment it was like we’d decided,
(without words, but with eyes):
Fuck everyone else, let’s do this. Let’s do this. Let’s do “us.”
He told us to “love each other endlessly,”
and we agreed.
And we did.
Until some years later
you ended the endless.
You ended the endless
on the day that I saw a photo
of you
and her
on Southend beach,
exactly where you had taken me
in those magic early days,
exactly where you’d promised
to love me endlessly.
Every once in a while, I think of that stranger.
Where is he now?
Dishing out impassioned advice
to other young lovers.
Dead in a doorway.
Drowned at sea.
What was fleeting for you,
was forever for me.
But I suppose I knew it
all along
that you are not like me.

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Maelstrom

bath-black-and-white-crying-naked-sad-Favim.com-192610

The betrayal is deep. Maybe made more so by the stupidity of trust I possessed. It was as if he severed that last remaining piece of trust I had after all the other stuff had happened in my childhood and without that last piece I became a maelstrom.

So you are a maelstrom because you are me. Right now. Sitting in your bedroom listening to Aria with the windows flung open and the scent of jasmine in the air – you are a wild untamed fool who is a maelstrom.

You wanted to be special to someone. It was that simple.

You knew you didn’t have much chance of that because the girls who grew taller than you and had darker skin and more fawn like gait, were far more likely to be the objects of love than you. You were ordinary. You hated that about yourself and when anyone told you otherwise you hated them for lying.

Nevertheless even ordinary girls have dreams. When he told you about his girlfriend and how much he felt for her, you listened to his words and you inserted yourself in her place. But she wasn’t you. She was and still is, a beautiful, tall, glowing golden girl who brought her cello to school every day in a big leather case and walked with the wide stride of a confident and yet demure girl-woman. She had lips like the film you’d just seen and skin that seemed to drench itself in sunlight and you were a flake of dried skin in comparison.

But golden girl didn’t like him overmuch. In fact if memory serves, golden girl soon got together with son of an important man and they were a couple for eons. Golden girl was slumming it with boy with the nice eyes and she knew it and cut it short before anything irretrievable was done. But you didn’t ‘get’ that then, you didn’t really understand much. I wonder at that, because if nothing else you were smart, so how couldn’t you see the writing on the wall? Still you didn’t, you only used those malformed equations to equal your own chance with him, lapping up her left-overs like the fool you were.

He didn’t have an interest in you at all but you remembered something your father had said many times. That since you didn’t have the looks or the pretty little ballerina shoulders with the tawny skin, that you’d have to hook em with your winsome personality. And that was something you could do. You could crack jokes like a sailor, you climbed trees better than any other boy, and knew all the rules of soccer. Hell you’d even bet you could kiss well based on all the films you watched and that unreal world you inhabited when the vagaries of this world disappointed. Armed with those tools you set to world, the one and only time you set out to possess someone.

And he fell for it because he was 15 and he wanted to get his rocks off. It didn’t matter that you weren’t her, when you kissed in the park in the rain and your dark hair dye ran down your faces and turned you both grey, it didn’t matter when he rooted around in your bra and found little of interest, it didn’t matter when you weren’t her and you didn’t have her pillow lips or the sunlight in your huge brown eyes. He’d have taken anything and you convinced yourself that the little lies boys will tell girls was the truth.

Of course it wasn’t. He didn’t think those things about you. He was still talking about her. When he touched your hair and muttered how soft it was, he was reminiscing, when he traced your clavicle it wasn’t you he shared the sofa with, it was her, she was there all along. But you denied that, as you denied that you had gotten him by default, on a plastic rebound from a young goddess to the flats of his disappointment, only ameliorated by your willingness.

And you were willing. Less so than most teenage girls with low-self-esteem perhaps, but only because you didn’t really like his string-bean legs and his concave chest nor the length of his fingers nor the hard knot in his neck. You probably already wanted her, though you didn’t know it, you only knew it didn’t feel good being unwanted and you’d do anything to grasp for yourself a morsel of attention. But his attention wandered almost the moment you began, his eyes always lifting over your head and into the distance. For a time you tried not to notice that but as the false promises and the cheap silver ring on your finger attested, you couldn’t pretend forever.

One night, not hungry for you but hungry for the act, he pushed you down onto the narrow bed in his unmade room and filled himself with your giving. He took without notice, he wasn’t even there, it was the rise and fall of a moment, branded in your psyche eternally. To this day you can see him, giving less of a damn than if he’d been asked to act like he didn’t, a fine performance, a knock-out example of two people and one emotion, dividing them like a snake.

He didn’t like your breasts, he didn’t like the color of your skin or the breadth of your shoulders, he didn’t like the color of your hair, the size of your lips, the way you felt inside, there was nothing, literally nothing, that did it for him that you possessed. If it had been the most important thing in the world to claim him for your own, you would have failed, you did fail, you were a humiliation to yourself and you hadn’t even seen it yet.

So when he told you things they weren’t true and he knew it and anyone with a brain would have too but you had given up on truth, you’d decided you were going to buy it, hook line and sinker and I’m sure that only made him despise you a little more. Because he did you now, despise you, in the way that young boys do, when they don’t get their fantasy and they have to make do with the girl next door. You tried every art in your collection and they all fell flat, but just the calves of a dark-skinned girl with curls down her back could have driven him to his knees and you didn’t own a thing he wanted, not then and not ever.

Giving up that precious space within you for the insertion of trust and another’s soul, is no easy feat, and when you let him inside, he fouled the future with his lies and your acceptance of them. What was worse? That you’d been such a fool or that he’d felt it was acceptable to let you act the part? It was obvious he got less than he wanted but more than he’d get with himself and his hand. You could have been a hole in the wall. You could have been a blancmange or a hooker, maybe you were, maybe you were worse, a happy hooker who falls for her client. What a little idiot you were.

The self-hate only grew like a mask behind you as you strived without success to garner some interest. He found it hard to climax with you, he said it was from drinking but you knew, there was nothing about you that excited him, he may as well have been dry humping the sofa for all the investment he had, you were a living, breathing creature who wanted to be loved, to be special to one person in this world, you’d lived with that need all of your life, you didn’t see why you’d be denied it and then he showed you the horror of how it really was, that no matter how much you may want something, sometimes the absolute underbelly of life will show you the reverse.

Alcohol can loosen the tongue and it did that night he told the truth. It was a strange witching hour, you wanted the truth more than anything and you couldnt’ stand the truth, you couldn’t stand to hear what he really thought even though it made so much sense. He spilt it gladly, relieved presumably from hiding it so long, all those nights he fucked you he’d probably have preferred his own hand or the hand of a stranger. You were less than that, less than anything he could want, he’d only stayed out of pity, or apathy, he couldn’t be bothered to do anything to change circumstance, he knew he was young and time would shift everything without him even trying.

And it did, the night he went to a party without you and a girl with a long neck turned toward him and he felt that absence he’d been searching for all those months, a longing, a quickening for her. They had made love in the garden, he had whispered things to her that he meant and he had been disgusted at himself for wasting that time on you, on your pallid complexion and your wan face and your unimpressive body. He probably found his own sister more attractive than you, he hadn’t thought of the rules that guide us subconsciously and cause us to direct our gaze toward opposites, incase we should get bored with those who resemble ourselves and our beige unsatisfying childhood.

The long-necked girl, she laughed at the desperation in your eyes. She never had such emotions, she could control a boy with the switch of her eyes, the tilt of her body, the smallness of her hands. She was an Audrey Hepburn in a sea of milk, she beckoned him with her tiny wrists and he came, suppliant and hungry with gold in his eyes. And you? You didn’t hear about it for a day or so, and then the whole ugly story came spilling out, a bag of steaming, foul guts, polluting your nice little fantasy that was ludicrous and childish and absurd and shameful, branding you with a ‘I told you so’ a hundred times over.

I told you so. I told you the specter of her father said, if a father thinks a daughter is ugly, that’s like a test of the rest of the world. What were you thinking? Why did you think you could be loved? Cherished? Adored? What dared you believe this was a destiny you could penetrate? You were only ever going to be a neighborhood shag for the bored boys who hung desperately like weeds on the road side and took anything that happened to be passing.

The first night you slept alone you saw it clearest of all and after that you began your lies again, the delusions you told yourself, the ability to forgive the unforgivable and soon you were going back on every promise you had made yourself, you were standing there crying, beseeching him, a part of you screaming at yourself for the sickness of being the one to do that, and the other part urging him not to leave. But he had never been so he couldn’t leave, he just wasn’t there in the first place, he was a face, a glance, a dismissal, that stung to the very marrow of your being.

And years later as you sit in your chair and watch the lustful gaze of men traverse your body and take in your face, you still feel that sting. You still remember with a lurching sickness the way he dismissed you. It would never be enough that nobody since had done that, it would never be enough that all you ever heard now was the opposite. You could be the most beautiful woman in the world or the least, and it just wouldn’t matter because it was no longer about such superficiality as it had been at 15, it wasn’t even then but you didn’t know it.

It was about being special. And you hadn’t been then. And it was the very end of a slow road of rejections and reminders, beginning with your earliest memories and ending with him, his flat eyes and his uninterested hands, pushing you out the door, a garbage bag of your belongings in one hand, and you were walking down the street unable to see for the tears that spilled out of you, tears for yourself, tears of hate, tears of permanency because ever since you had been that girl, the one who unimpressed, the one who didn’t matter, the girl who was overlooked and chosen last if at all.

You could climb a hundred mountains, be made love to and told everything you’d ever desired, and it would sit like a lie in your stomach. Poisoning any chance you had to change. You were wired this way now, wedded to the idea of your inadequacy, an altered picture, a dysmorphic version of yourself that was more real to you than anything echoed by anyone else. When they said wonderful you saw awful, when they said gorgeous you saw hideous, when they laughed at your jokes, you believed it pity. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing was ever believable again.

Except the truth of that first time. The honesty and brokenness of the moment when he infested you and you let him, with a life long supply of inadequacy and shame. When you closed your eyes you could see the look in his eyes when he took in your body and tried hard to orgasm. Failing. Failing. Failing. And that truth was the only truth, nothing that came afterward had the same degree of hideous accuracy and no matter how often you were told you delighted, you were still, underneath all the sham, the pretense, the bolster, the fraud, you were the same 15-year-old girl killed by apathy. No longer believing yourself capable of being special to a single soul in this world.

She needs to grow a thick skin and not give a damn about what others think and when she is old enough it won’t matter at all, none of it will, she will no longer be that fated creature who denies herself the pleasure of living because of one boy so very long ago. I hope you read this. I really hope you do. As you stare at yourself in your darkened mirror and wonder why nobody looks that way at you. I hope you realize, as good as it is to try for what we want, there are some things we should never want and one of them is to be the bed fellow of a disinterested boy who without even knowing, robs us of any potential to be something more. If he read this, he wouldn’t even know who I was referring to, I am absolutely sure he has forgotten you, and forgotten me, he is probably married to someone who made his eyes glitter and you, you will never even see the possibility of such things, because you are still there, 15 years old, feeling his uncaring imprint on your flesh, wanting to wash until you dissolve with the water.

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life

Green Lanes

​I was standing on Green Lanes when it began to rain. It always rains on Green Lanes apart from when it doesn’t. Once I walked 6 miles of it because I lost my bus pass and that was during a heatwave. I remember it because the added heat and smoke from the bakeries and kebab houses and the Saturday afternoon crowd made the trek almost unbearable to the point where I wanted to cry but I had no tears to shed because I was so dehydrated, and never will I ever be so happy to see the Palmers Green triangle as I was when I finally made it home on that day. When I met my friend she said I smelled like I’ve been charcoal grilled. I felt like I had been charcoal grilled. 

Anyway, this time it was raining. Big, heavy raindrops, the ones that almost hurt when they hit your skin. I was early for the meeting with my solicitor so I loitered about, opting to murder my finite minutes outside a Turkish bakery a few doors down from his office. Inside the bakery I could see a group of women making baklava and some men congregating near the counter, drinking tea. I could hear the men’s animated debate and the subdued chatter of the women through the open door though I did not understand a word.

I lit a cigarette, holding it within my cupped hand in such a way as to shield it from the rain, and watched the women work. It was mesmerising, truly, seeing them expertly arrange layers upon layers of filo pastry, the filo so thin it was almost transparent, delicate and satisfying in one perfect sheet like when you peel off sunburnt skin, lifting up a huge sheet of it with such care but seemingly such little thought, a technique honed through the decades, passed down through generations. They were wielding rolling pins that were probably longer than the women were tall, never tearing the pastry, never once coughing or spluttering from inhaling the continuous cloud of starch powder that engulfed them, toned arms made strong from years of lifting vats of honey hidden under old cotton dresses, the patterns and colours of their aprons faded with age but their hair as white as sugar and their eyes as green as the pistachios that they crush in the giant pestle and mortar. Traditional, routine, precise, step-by-step, live art.

The women didn’t notice me but the men had their eyes all over me and they beckoned me in. I shook my head and held up my cigarette to say “I can’t come in right now even if I wanted to.” They insisted, but again I shook my head. The women glared at me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, and certain that they were bitching about me in Turkish. The men are probably their husbands. Then, just as I was feeling unsafe, someone came up behind me and grabbed me, digging their fingers in my ribs with an almighty grip. Without a thought I twisted my upper body around and elbowed the person in the face. He immediately let go of me and his hands rushed to his face. He was doubled over and blood dripped onto the wet concrete.

Fucking hell!!” he said, into his hands. “Why’d you do that?!” He stood up and took his bloody hands away from his face. “Oh my God, GEORGE! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was you, you scared me, I thought you were a robber or a pervert or something!” “No, it’s just me. Fucking hell, you’ve broken my fucking nose!” “No I haven’t, come on, let’s have a look at it,” I said, searching for a tampon in my handbag. “It’s not proper broken. You’re still handsome, don’t worry,” I promised, as I unwrapped the tampon and shoved it up his nose. “Fucking hell, I only came over to say hello and invite you out to this thing tonight!” he winced. “Oh, Georgie, I’m really sorry, let me kiss it better,” I said, before I kissed his nose and he laughed. “You’re a nutter, you are,” he said as he wiped his bloody hands on his jeans.

We went into the bakery, George cleaned up and we had tea and baklava. One of the men in there paid for me. George said, “If you weren’t so pretty you wouldn’t get away with half the shit you do.” I concurred that that is probably, sadly true. My solicitor called to say he was ready for me, so we hugged goodbye and arranged to meet at Frank’s in Peckham at 10 that night. I promised to buy him a drink to say “sorry about the whole elbow in the face thing” and he promised that we would catch up properly later on and that he had some exciting news.

He never turned up at Frank’s that night. Nobody had heard from him. His phone was dead when we tried to reach him, and it’s still dead 4 years later. I ring it from time to time, just in case it might be switched on.

Where did you go, Gorgeous George? You just disappeared. No social media clues, no sightings, no ideas. The grapevine mentioned you running away to Thailand but then it also mentioned you in prison, and it was even suggested that you were living under witness protection and your true identity had been compromised. I don’t think you topped yourself. I just don’t know where you are. No one does. I wonder if I was the last person to see you: I hope I was, so that you didn’t meet a fate worse than a bloody nose and free baklava. And I will always look for you on Green Lanes, especially when it rains.

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prosetry

Fumar mata

It’s ten minutes to 7 and mordant sunlight is pissing through the gaps in the broken curtains. I can feel the gold light on my face and understand the meaning of the term ‘sun-drenched.’ I keep my eyes closed, letting my eyelids burn under the weight of the fulgent flood. I don’t want to be alive just yet. I am somewhere else.

I am back in Spain, at the villa, with you.

The sun woke us up every day, mid-morning, dancing through the net curtains, creeping up from the bottom of the bed in which we lay tangled and naked under white sheets, dozing, until I’d get up to smoke. I’d pull on your nearest t-shirt and go out onto the balcony, stretching like a cat, inhaling, exhaling, watching the ash fall slowly to the barren valley below, spotting lizards, gauging the temperature, watching the birds fly east towards the Med.

Then I’d sneak indoors, leaving you to sleep and start on breakfast. Cereal and a cooked full-English for you plus a mug of builder’s tea and fresh juice. Black coffee and a cigarette for me. We’d take breakfast outside on the veranda by the pool. I don’t know if it was apparent then that I had bigger dreams than you, but you were hungrier.

I had exams waiting for me back home so I tried to revise. I read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and The Italian, you watched ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and European football. We ate fresh swordfish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen.

We shared our first bubble bath, complete with champagne on ice. We’d only been together for 8 months and I’d been away at university for 7 of them, so this holiday cemented a lot of things for us. You and I, proving everybody wrong. The Dream Team. Us against the world. You probably don’t even remember it now.

We drove for miles along the coast following the contours of Spain’s face and everything around us was unbelievably perfect, the tiny white chapels shining against the orange cliffs and the deep aquamarine skipping alongside us. Windows down, music up, we wore smiles and suntan lotion and our faces ached.

We stopped in Benidorm, which is essentially a caricature of Britain abroad, but as we walked in the surf I was thrilled at the prospect of walking the same beach and seeing the same stretch of horizon that Sylvia did so many years ago. I told you that Plath and Hughes honeymooned in Benidorm. You didn’t know who they were. These things were warning signs at the time, for when things seem too good to be true they usually are, but I was blind to omens and had vetoed rational thought; I was young and in love and blinkered, all I could see was you and our perfect surroundings and our perfect love.

Before we left Spain I bought 200 Benson silvers as they were a quarter of the price that they were in the UK. The sign on all the packets said ‘Fumar mata.’ Smoking kills. But so does love. Love kills. God knows you almost killed me. And sadness kills, too, perhaps more often than smoking, more often than love. Falling in love should come with a government health warning. There are no billboards or pamphlets to warn us of the impending pain, the inevitable tears. Instead of printing photos of rotting lungs they should print a graphic image of a broken heart. Love kills. You always hated me smoking. You’ll kill me long before the cigarettes do, of that I am sure.

When I open my eyes I am not in Spain, at the villa, with you. I am sad, scared and alone. I hear sirens, a train, the builders working downstairs. A door slams. I am not in Spain. I realise that we were there exactly 4 years ago to the day. You won’t remember it, I’m sure. You have new important dates to carve on the walls of your skull now anyway.

But how lucky I was to be loved by you. I don’t know if the sun smothered me this morning in an attempt to mock me or save me but, wherever you are, at least we are both slaves to the same golden star. Fumar mata. Smoking kills. El amor mata. Love kills. And how lucky I was to have been loved by you, to have loved you and been loved by you in return. How lucky I was. How lucky…

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poetry, prosetry

Sometimes

Sometimes, things come back.
Things come back to me sometimes.
Not things, as such, but rather memories.
Memories come back to me sometimes.
Only sometimes, though.
Like that fancy bra poking out from my blood-stained white blouse,
running down the hill at 3 o’clock on Christmas morning.
Prison Break, Breaking Bad, breaking up.
Yellow flowers, always yellow flowers.
Lighting my cigarettes with a blowtorch.
Bike rides along the sea wall.
Inhalers and cat allergies.
Cheese and cucumber sandwiches at cricket.
Teaching me to drive the van.
Micky Flanagan and the £8 slice of pizza.
Never drinking the final third of your Peroni.
“Babyface” and squeezing the pus out of your knee.
Spain, swordfish, sunset.
Bunk up on the bunk beds under Manchester United duvet covers.
Me throwing up in Wayne Bridge’s toilet while you fixed his cooker.
The Best Nachos in the World.
Henry VIII and Henrietta.
Freezing under floodlights.
A firework display because I wanted one.
The realisation that you’re going to prison.
Apple crumble and custard.
The decision that I’d wait for you while you were inside.
Cutting 40 onions.
The jubilation when you were found not guilty.
Glass table-top on the roof.
Coaxing the gerbils out from under the wardrobe.
Sex in a hot tub in Sherwood Forest in the middle of December.
The diamond ring and fancy watch that I can’t bring myself to sell.
Your face when the test was negative.
Your face when the test was negative again.
Your face.
Your fucking face,
the face I know off-by-heart,
the face I can still feel beneath my fingertips,
the face that I know better than my own.
Your fucking face.
Sometimes, things come back.
You didn’t.


[Featured image source here]
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prosetry

More Chronicles of Us

Read the first part here: The Chronicles of Us

FOUR.
I walked past your old flat on Eversholt Street and remembered that night we put the world to wrongs, sitting side by side on the cold kitchen floor, drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label out of teacups and discussing the pros and cons of freedom. The cons of being free have stayed with me, even though you didn’t.

FIVE.
When we finally went outside we discovered that Spring had happened while we slept. The only time that red and pink ever look good together is when the cherry blossom trees have erupted outside the fire station. I wonder what else we missed as we slept away those unwanted hours. Later, as we were eating cereal for dinner, we realised that nobody missed us.

SIX.
Out on the patio you read Le Petit Prince aloud while I shaved your head, only pausing to look at the drawings. I had to rush though once I knew that you were dangerously close to the part that reads, “Vous êtes belles mais vous êtes vides.” It’s one of my favourite parts of the story but I could not bear to hear your voice saying that I am beautiful but empty, that one could not die for me, because it is true and because I would die for you.

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