I am back in the city and I go to visit Rosie, the old lady I used to live above. I’ve come to pick up my bike and we sit out in her backyard with some coffee, talking about her grandchildren.
It is a week before I leave and I am editing someone’s novel. The Olympics are on the background television and I cycle in the thick summer mugginess, past people and glinting shop fronts. Saying goodbye to Lori in that square of Somerset House, half hot with sun and half an eye on the blacking clouds that tug themselves across one corner
The front door is open and I have that lovely sense in the morning: opening the curtains, pushing up the shutters, sitting out with a mug on the front steps that don’t belong to me. I watch the lady over the road doing yoga in her front room, a black cat slinks past, and next door’s builders talk to me as they troop in and out. This morning I woke up crying; a dream about a fox which is just beginning to fade now. There is thistledown on this eleven o’clock air which makes me think of John McGahern – the preface to those short stories – and the man who introduced me to them.
Across towards Church Street, I take a diagonal through the park and help some wee boys fill a water bottle from the fountain. There is the strong thud of liquid and a sudden rising gush.
With the boys from university, sitting on a table outside the pub, laughing until my stomach is tight. Their girlfriends join us and we all squeeze up one on the bench.
That night with Sian: light on the water and the way our conversation is turning. She gives me some earrings that hang, luminous, on my neck and I think, as I write this now, that I’ll wear them when we go out to Angel tonight. We shout on a British runner and across the city somewhere, a world record is being broken. She is smiling in a new way.
Waving goodbye to Lauren and Fabs, I am back on that front step with the hot night around. Though it is past midnight, the sky is still light. Behind me the door is open and I am barefoot on the concrete. I wave them until they pass the hedge and can’t see them anymore.