I took the train home from the airport. It was the same journey as it had been earlier, except that now it was in reverse and I was alone with my reflection, and you were in the sky. The cloud was cold against the glass and not a jet plane was to be seen rising into the English cumulus cover. I set my face, my ear really, against the window and I tried to read the last few pages of a book of short stories that I had brought with me for company on this leg of the journey, but the words kept sliding away, partly because I was numb that you were gone and partly because I was trying to detect jet engines through glass over the rumble of iron. By the time I got back to my stop, the letters, the punctuation and the clouds looked like nothing but black greyhound shapes; unusual and elegant and set in Monotone Dante 10.5pt. The windows, the words and the worlds, the fictional and the literal, were full of rain and cloud. I wondered if American clouds looked the same.
When I got home I smoked rolled tobacco in the kitchen with the window open until the ashtray choked with stubby little paper teeth. I smoked until I thought I was close to having some kind of heart attack, and then I ran a hot bath. As the bath filled I drank two full glasses of cold, white wine – one for you and one for me. Then I poured another for us and watched the seagulls float around like print above the wet rooftops. It was about that time of the English day when the gulls’ undersides look black rather than white. It was about that time of the English day when the raindrops, plump on the black telephone lines, captured the back street and the brickwork, globed them for an age before plummeting. The cloud was so heavy that the birds couldn’t quite escape its flatness. They turned circles and their noises sounded like sad laughter. I sat in the bath and every time I looked down into the water, hot tears brimmed at the edge of my eyes and the room, and beyond, blurred.
I had filled the bath pretty deep and I sat in it with my knees bunched up to my chest and I felt quite uncomfortable because the water was way too hot. The rain fell on the skylight window and I was loathe to let out any of the hot water to replace it with cold as the plug never quite closes properly again if it is mucked about with after the bath has been drawn. So I sat and tried to read again, but the lines kept racing and running and my legs beneath the water turned a sort of painful pink. I’m sure I’ve heard it said that lobsters scream or cry when they are placed in the boiling pot, but actually it’s just the air being squeezed out of them through their armour. I couldn’t figure out if this made me feel better for the lobsters or worse. But it was something.
Not so long after, the hot water, and the sight of my legs, and the seagulls crying or laughing or whatever it was that they were doing out there on the other side of the glass between the rain drops, became a little too much to bear, and so I put the next cigarette butt into the ashtray, I put the book down on the tiles and I sat up on the edge of the bath and cried for a little while into the bath, but the water didn’t seem to get much cooler. Eventually I did, however, begin to feel cooler and the lines on my legs, where the water had met the air, began to slowly fade through several tones until they appeared almost pale again. The interesting thing was that as my body cooled in the steamy bathroom air, quite significant drops of sweat, and some tears, dropped into the water, leaving a sort of greasy, dissolving film on the surface. When I snorted back up my nose the snot, I could smell you, taste you, in my throat. A sort of bitter and primal taste. And this only produced more sadness. But then I smiled because I remembered earlier that you had said that the Herring gulls were laughing at you, but they were only laughing with you. But now, for sure, they were only crying.