At the start of the week I get a call from Han, walking her dog in Newcastle. The wind is blustering down the phone, pushing its way through her voice and I think of her on the black Town Moor, shouting after Pepper.
On Valentines Day I am west for a meeting in Hammersmith and there are too many men on the tube with bouquets of flowers: huge and garish with orange pollen that threatens the cotton of their open shirts and cellophane that crackles wildly. “Is it just me or has the world gone mad today?” a friend messages me. As I leave my meeting the houses are tall and red brick against the light sky, kids shout from the swings and an old man cycles past me on his creaking bike, a bunch of yellow tulips in brown paper in one hand. On my way back east, a little girl and her grandpa are sitting on a bench on the platform, she swings her legs and scuffs her shoes as he tells her how the underground works.
One morning cycling and sunshine and white February sky, pausing at every red light and hearing the unexplained clicks of my bike. Yesterday’s rain puddles catching this morning’s sunshine.
On Wednesday night the Morden train slides off, taking Sian on the black line back down to Clapham. As I step off, I glance back at her but she is looking down at her bag as the train moves away. I lean against the turquoise tiles of Moorgate and watch the Metropolitan line screech through: a couple stand and hug each other goodbye, someone is reading, someone standing up, flicking images in the white squares of electric light window. I start a new book and bend the spine back on itself like I always do, cracking the binding, feeling the weight of the paper.
A couple kissing each other on the corner at Embankment, Keri’s face over a table, Alnwick faces outside The Ten Bells – as I cycle past they tell me off for not wearing a helmet. Friday night drinkers spilling out across the pavement.
I find a tiny plastic butterfly on the floor of my flat. It is pink and sparkly and belonged to one of Peter’s daughters. I pick it up and lean it on the window ledge of my bathroom.
Saturday night party in the girls’ new flat: bodies in the kitchen darkness, cigarettes out on the walkway and conversations up the staircase in crochets.
The streets near his house are bright and hard and cold and there is still a sharpness of last night’s gin in my head. The feel of cotton soft washed and rewashed on the backs of my shoulders. In the café on the corner, a father and a daughter are sitting in the window – he has a coffee and she has a big glass and a long spoon and looks overwhelmed by fruit and yoghurt and cream. He is helping her to read something and when the mother comes along and presses her face to the window, the girl’s head snaps up and her face is a silent round o of recognition and surprise.
Above them, in an open window with the sash pushed up, a woman stands in an old tshirt, one hand on a hard jutting hip and a cigarette trailing smoke and ash in the other.