On Monday I sat in the sunshine square of the lunchtime park, legs out and back against the black rails. Across the quadrangle there is a piano and, next to it, a stool with a frayed velvet cushion as an invitation. Above the black and white keys are painted the words Play me. I’m yours. The woodwork is dappled in the leafy sunlight and a man – topless, flat cap, tattoos on his back – sits down and plays. His fingers make the most beautiful sound. I watch as the scurrying commuters slow. Footsteps delay. Heads turn and conversations cease. In the busyness of the day, they pause and linger just a moment.
The next night, I stand at the side of a record shop and watch a young guy on stage whose music I am beginning to love. Having heard it from the crackle of my old radio, it is lovely to watch him here – to see his fingers move on the guitar and the ways his feet shuffle a little. It is early evening with the afternoon light and my grandpa’s bike parked outside against a railing. I need to leave soon to see my Dad but his voice anchors me, making me lean in a little to hear the soft words.
On Thursday the Oxford English Dictionary has its lovely daily vocabularly: womanly adv, East Coast n, west-north-westwards n adv. For some reason, the combination makes me think of my godmother, of Crovie, of Dundee and that open scrape of wind and earth from Aberdeen. Funny how words can lean your mind, pull it in a direction, lift it up and carry it.
On Columbia Road there is a swing band on the corner cobbles. I sit on a pavement edge and stretch my legs out in the morning sun. By my side I have some clothes off the market, a paper cup of coffee and the citrus peel of a clementine, still soft and sharp. The girl on the double bass wears bare feet and a bowler hat, curving her hands around the thick neck of the instrument. Two small children stand right in front and their small still backs are mesmerised slopes.
I have cycled there on my bike, occasionally catching the inside of my ankles on the gears, peeling the skin off in thin epidermal sheets. There are old cuts on my feet from a running injury and high heeled Friday nights. I have a faint burn on my left arm and a scar on the white inner of my right, both from years of waitressing and hot industrial ovens. There is a white circle on my elbow from childhood chicken pox, five pierced holes in my skin and a cut on my cheekbone that is slowly, slowly fading. Sitting there looking at then cuts and old bruises and the faint marks of something I had written on my hand the day earlier made me think of the ways we mark our bodies, the things we inscribe in our skin: layers and lines that trace the cartography of our lives.