I never thought a congested, loud, smelly little triangle could ever be a source of nostalgia. But I guess literally anything can be. I mean, I am still here, and I already miss it.
The view from my window is mills and wasteland and other people’s flats, with more fairy lights than mine. Or maybe they just flaunt them more. Mine are well inside. The condensation on the windows is terrible. This was always going to be temporary, this strange perch on the edge of everything, barren and cold. So cold. I would curl up like a foetus under my quilt and a heap of my clothes and still be cold.
I live in a land of traffic lights and bird-muck, plumes of vape smoke blown over a shoulder in your face, water dripping in big blobs into the tunnel, the river rushing, devoid of kingfishers, otters or anything interesting. It only has bats in summer, tiny blurs you’ll miss if you blink.
Then, the triangle, where tram tracks criss-cross, and people rev their motorbikes, and beyond it all there is a pizza place, underground, and that is where everything kind of began. Not at once. There were lots of little bits of beginning.
I was told the best time of my life would be when I first got a job and could go out each night and spend my money. I would get pizza and ask them to add mushrooms, then work my way through their dessert menu.
I walked up and out one night and it was snowing in that dark square of outside, the lights from the towers opposite looking epic. That was when I had just found out she had died. I had no claim to being miserable. I barely knew her. I just read everything she had written, and stared at her photo.
The waiters never changed, over a winter, spring, summer. Hopefully that meant they were treated okay.
Then I let you in, sweet new mystery. Our conversation over hot banana calzone and ice-cream was when it began to tip. That was autumn, I think. You were daisy-like as ever, all squirrels and parchment, teasing me. You were breath, flight, evening calm.
I went to various gyms, back home - home being a number of cities and countries, just wherever I rolled up. Sometimes in my building there would be a tiny room on the first floor or in the basement, with a permanently-open barred window letting in cold air and food smells from the street. My neighbours who I never spoke to would occasionally come in and out, behaving like Olympic athletes - maybe they were. There was an Eastern European woman once who I think was a professional; she was fast and strong and when I did lose weight she would comment. But mainly few or no word passed between us - us being me and any of them. I couldn’t tell you who lived next door to me most of the time. Life was a lobby, stairs, a corridor, a door - my door - then click, lock, my world now, my desk, shower, bed.
A couple gyms I went to were really swimming pools with gyms tacked on, and often the gym was tucked in a strange place to fit it in, or broken in little bits around the building, meaning you had to drag yourself from the treadmill, down the balcony overlooking the pool, to the weights machines. It wasn’t the end of the world. Just felt like a labyrinth. I fainted once in a gym like that, in the locker room. A woman asked, vaguely interested, if I was okay. I dragged myself to a bus and home.
My soup and rice arrived, with a small heap of veggies. In the doorway I forced myself to close my eyes, inhale its scent,find pleasure in it, this moment of eating to live, to get through the next few hours. I could diet later, buy new clothes, go running - who was I kidding, I would never go running. I let the curry dance on the roof of my mouth, swallowed and felt the burn swim down to my stomach. I pressed a hand to it instinctively, then slid it away, opening my eyes, sure the gaze of the street was on my swollen gut. But there was no one, only a scrappy dog snuffling around, triangular ears quivering slightly in the tiny breeze. It was hot. I still couldn’t believe what I had to do.