You drive through the clouds to get somewhere. You get out at the side of the road to eat flabby tortillas off a polystyrene tray inside some comedor. Outside, the road disappears into cloud as if into heavy snow. The air is thin and damp, your lungs feel infinite in their greed. All the colours were left behind at a certain altitude and you will go back for them.
The Stoodley Pike monument has stood on the ridge of the Pennines above the Calder Valley towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge since 1856, a thick finger of gritstone pushed from the moorland into the wind like a finger dipped into a cooling stream.
So, there we were, tearing round bends, wind clawing at our hair, shrieking like cats in heat, and after each turn we’d look at each other and laugh, like – that was a good one, right? Only then, after one of those turns, somebody’s gone. Just, gone.
I spend my days on the roof of this fort. Looking for you. It’s how I fill time, in a sagging beach chair so low my backside rubs coarse ground. I did think of leaving, in our boat that I would fix. But I can’t ditch these forts – these stilts – that stand proud in the mist. Jagged metal and bird-waste stain. Weird, like a distant planet. Scarred by wear and wave.
A few years ago, I briefly dated a man whose recent ex-girlfriend was the stuff of nightmares: an ethereal giantess and beauty, an artist and musician. He was telling me about one of their arguments. “And then came the baby voice,” he finished. Wait. What? What?
As 1951 surrenders to the first breath of 1952, Albert Burton sits hunched at his kitchen table, spelling truths for his wife with a near-invisible hand. How he is able to grip the pen, to touch it to the paper, he does not understand ... Because Albert has been dead for exactly seven days.
At the edge of a ploughed field sits a burned-out Smart car. Its squat dimensions make it appear as if compacted in a Thames Estuary wrecker’s yard, prior to being set alight. The carcinogenic hulk against a pastoral backdrop is a particularly Essexian sight, as is the detritus scattered around it: a chalky, transparent baggie and a discarded Durex packet — Es and sex.
Brexit happened". A text from Ulijona via iMessage. "I hope you changed your pounds to dollars early". I didn't. I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to. I’d hoped it was a bad dream. “omg”, is all I can reply.
I cast around for literature, words to find myself – ourselves – in. I need to get my head around the weirdness of sharing my body with another and my changing sense of self. Pregnancy books discuss the physical changes, but fall silent on the mental and emotional experience of becoming an ‘us’, no longer a ‘me’.