Steps

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In February, the sun stoops low before your eyes have  fully widened, so it feels like you never wake up. I peered into the fading light, indistinguishable bodies cluttered in the street. Heels were a bad idea. They announced my arrival in sharp clicks, made it impossible to be a hidden observer. Even in tights, my feet were cold. I had paced in front of the mirror, discarded everything until a heap lay on the bed. The shoes helped, charmed my reflection into thinking it was more than I was. My departure echoed in the concrete stairwell, announcing my intentions to the neighbours. By the time I’d arrived at our designated meeting place, my feet hurt.

So I stood still, decided you would come to me. Or that if you didn’t find me in the greyness of the night, it would be a reason to retrace my steps to the warm sofa and bright spooling images from the TV that substituted companionship.

The crowd outside the tube station was a soft mass, surging forward and back, individuals dripping away from the station entrance, leaking into the street. A shadow became human under the streetlight. I didn’t recognise your gait then, couldn’t separate you from the mulch of the crowd. A description and a blurry online photo, solidified into one smile, one angle of your face. That’s all I had.

You stopped a few paces away, a squint in your eyes. I was unrecognisable to you. This charm rested over us, through the walk in the street where you grabbed my arm to stop me turning my ankle on the stupid shoes, the excessive glasses of thick red wine drunk because we didn’t want to leave. Kissing by the bus stop as my route home swished past two, three times, to savour the sticky pleasure of your lips.

Your foot plant is familiar now. The soft curtain has lifted. The sleep crease in your cheek, the gentle annoyance in your eyes when you are exasperated but still in love with me. I wonder what you see of me now, what was hidden from you in the glamour of new meetings. If I am still precious to you in this stark light of knowledge.

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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