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, reflecting. The cloud was cold against the glass, a jet plane rose into the cumulus brew. I set my face, my ear really, against the window and I tried to finish a short story that I’d been reading, but the words kept slipping away. I suppose I was numbed by the rumble of iron. By the time I got to my stop, the letters, the words, the punctuation, all looked like nothing but greyhound shapes actually; unusual, elegant and set in Monotone Dante 10.5pt. The window, the words and the worlds, within and beyond, brimmed with rain. I wonder, do American clouds look the same?
I smoked rolled tobacco in the kitchen until the ashtray was choked with paper teeth. I coughed until I thought I was having a some kind of heart attack. I drew a hot bath. As the bath filled I drank two white wines – one for you, one for me. Then I poured another and I watched the wet birds float above the roofs. It was about that time of the English day when the gulls’ undersides look black rather than white. That time of the English day when raindrops, pluming on telephone lines, capture multitudes of the back-lane; tagged brickwork, labelled bins, some newspaper dervish; globe it all for an age. Plummet. The cloud was so heavy that the birds couldn’t escape it alive. They turned circles and cackled. Every time I looked down into the suds, saltwaters brewed, blurring the edges of the room.
The rain falling on the skylight. The water was way too hot, but I was loathe to replace it with cold, so I sat with my knees bunched to my chest, trying to read. The lines kept running and beneath the water my legs turned painful pink. Lobsters scream when dropped in the pot.
“Not that I’ve ever.”
“It sounds like screaming,” you said. “But, actually it’s just the air squeezing out through the carapace.” I couldn’t figure out if this made me feel better, or worse. But it was something you said.
Not so long after, the sight of my legs, and the seagulls’ crying or laughter, or whatever it was squeezed on the other side of the glass, became a little too much, so I put down the ashtray, I put down the book, I got up and I sat on the edge of the bath and I cried a little. The water didn’t seem to get much cooler for some time. Eventually, the lines on my legs, where the elements met, slowly faded through several tones until they appeared almost mine again. As my body cooled in the steamy air, large beads of sweat and tears, dropped into the water, leaving a greasy, dissolving film on its surface. When I snorted the snot back up my nose I could smell you, taste you, in my throat: a primal sensation. you’d said something earlier, something about the gulls laughing at you. “They’re laughing with you,” I’d said. But, now, for sure, they’re crying.