On my lunch break I leave the office and walk along Garrett Street, rummaging in my bag looking for something – my purse maybe, or my phone. Above me the sound from an open window makes me pause, hand still crooked into the depths of my paraphernalia. It is a stream of music – someone practicing the scales of a piano. Up and down and up again.
This week Fabs is back in London and we see each other for the first time in months. In the crowded room we stand and hug with the faces of her brothers around us, the voice of her father, the scoop of wine glasses on the tablecloth.
There is a man who was opposite me on the Underground who stays in my head; even a few days later, I can imagine him, see the way he sat with rucksack between his legs and head bowed. He wore rigger boots and his work trousers were covered in dust and streaks of mud. There was the glimpse of a luminous jacket tucked in the seat next to him. Short grey stubbed hair, and creases around his eyes, nose and cheeks. His hands were large and grey with dust but the book he held was cradled softly, gently. I watched his face as I read. I like the way his eyes line right to left, the way he smiles at something in the pages, then up at me.
After the rain, the afternoon is clear and sharp like metal and reflected water. The colours are stronger than usual: the red of a post box, green tarpaulin sheeting and silver in the puddles. Two old ladies on the next table make me smile. One is in a sunhat and sandals, an umbrella by her feet and guidebook open in her knees. The other has straight white hair, a paisley skirt and a watching, lovely smile on her soft face. “Yes,” she says, “but that’s perhaps a historic spelling” and her friend nods, turning her head back to the book. When the lady with the white hair turns her face to smile at me, her eyes are bright, bright cornflower blue.