They sat on the doorstep at the back of the flats every evening filling the jam jar ashtray and trading hushed nothings. Autumn, she sat with her knees drawn and clasped. She stretched her legs long before her, silk pouring from them, on June evenings such as this one. They had been joined by another of late, a pipistrelle, she said. But he was yet to see it.
The tiny creature foraged the dim garden air. It fluttered, mostly unseen, over the shadowed soft shapes of the buildings and the couple and the bins by the gate at the back of the yard. It passed, briefly, in and out of the yellow boxes of light and in front of and behind the sheet on the clothesline.
Their vespers barely touched the brickwork. The flats had once been a chapel, then a mission for seamen. They peered into the darkness and the stars began to show themselves. The creature moved into another space – somewhere out into the night.
If he said that he saw the pipistrelle, too (and he did want to), she might take up that string and pass it back to him and, to and fro, they could fashion something between them; a cats’ cradle, an new intimacy; the intricate, old game of lovers.
But, suddenly, she says, “It’s gone.
He squints into the dark yard, the sky beyond, sees the evening star slide behind cloud.
A minute passes and he says nothing. He has embarked on a little poem in his head; something romantic and thoroughly hackneyed.
They sit in the silence awhile and she struggles with the lighter. It sparks, but doesn’t ignite. By the time he reaches the fourth line, he has misremembered the first and the construct becomes confused.
“Look,” he says. He touches her wrist with the back of his hand, en route to pointing to the sky, but the cloud has become blanket and the planet has disappeared.
“It’s gone,” he says.
“I hate these things.”
She hands him the lighter, picks up the cigarette and leans into the flame.
She looks beautiful within the brief cup of light and it’s as if he can see for the first time.