A midweek evening on Oxford Street with Sian, who texts me from across the road, teasing me about the bright neon bag I use for cycling. Backs of buses, chattering tourists and each shop playing loud music. We are in a high street chain: a bewildering criss-cross of escalators and multiple floors of bright lights and mirrors. I finger the fabric of clothes as we pass. We are shopping for black and make wry comments to each other.
At home, I brush my teeth and stand barefoot. There is a light on inside the building site opposite – huge industrial beams that bleach the inside of unfinished rooms. Above, I can see a paper-white airplane pass overhead, its noise bleeding into traffic on Whitechapel Road.
On the tube, a little boy in his pushchair pulls a blanket up over his face and peers out with one eye. We play hide and seek behind the cover of my book, his Dad smiles and tells me the hospital appointment went well.
Walking home and there is blue smoke around the heads of the guys outside the mosque and the chicken shops. The girls are coming for tea tonight – and we sit around catching up, our conversation sliding between spaces and rooms.
A morning train with Sian and an ex-boyfriend from high school. The images outside the train slide past and into each other until we are all in the back of Ruth’s car, wiping the steamed-up windows. Westgate Road is grey and lined with takeaways and pawn brokers. A circular disc of cut grass where shining cars rotate in a long stream. The way that some people have changed and others not at all. Inside and between the girls, I watch Luke put his hand on the small of Mikey’s back. The row of the boys standing behind us makes me bend.
Afterwards: a room in our hometown bar, the bright fizz and bite of lime and gin, the way we touch each other constantly when we haven’t done so for years. There is a slideshow of photographs – the river, slanting angles of hillsides, white beaches and sunlight that lies green and lazy on still water.
My friends are round and we sit in the living room with endless pots of tea and worn carpet. My mum keeps coming in and out and it could be six years ago except that now we are scattered over the country, stretched along lines across seas. Before I leave, I walk along the river with my parents with the thick rotting cloy of cut grass that has been rained on and dried, rained on and dried again in the back of my throat.
Back on the train and Sian sends me some words. Everything she has written is close and familiar, forming instant half framed memories that trip over themselves in my mind. The two little boys opposite look at me, worried. They have been restless and their plastic games and sandwich bags and puzzle books no longer amuse them. I see their identical eyes glance at their mother who sits next to me. Mummy, that lady’s crying.
Back in the city, I am swiped through ticket barriers that stand open and I try to remember if I have milk in my flat when I left you on Friday morning. The underground traces a pink line east.