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I pause before the scenery. The doors are open and my desk is strewn with papers, a stuttering line of coffee circles about the surface like phases of the moon; there is an unopened sweet, two facemasks, a roll of black electrical tape, wallet, calculator, half-empty tube of bepanthen, some packaging from a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 film, two sets of headphones. Although the doors are open, there is no breeze upon me – and that is why I paused before the scenery.

There was no wind nor breeze, there was no movement in the air, and so nothing about the bushes and trees moved. They stood and squatted there, still green, perfectly still. Flowers soured at the end of their branches, at the end of summer, their scent strong and unmissable. What struck me was how much the view was like a photograph. Not even in the sky did the clouds move, as they were so inclined to do, to move in the altitude towards the sea. I turned my head this way and that, leaned, I swung my eyes from side to side. The photograph was perfect. It was in focus. Every detail had been truthfully captured, the colours too. It was difficult to work when such spectacles could be admired right before one’s eyes. And so the photograph remained, until…

A leaf fell. It was a yellow leaf but that tree only knows how to produce yellow leaves, as though it spoke in a different language to those around it. Since the lawn was mown yesterday into light and dark strips of green, many yellow leaves had fallen from the tree. They fall onto the cut grass and there are many of them. I stare, waiting for the next to fall. It does not happen. I know that each and every one of its yellow leaves will descend before the autumn is through, but when?

And then a crow flies! The crows are busy now. I do not know why, but I observe them flying one side of the garden to the other, performing tasks I do not understand. They speak to each other in a language I do not understand. Their silhouettes make silhouettes on the blue sky. They cry out. Their wings curl and spread.

A squirrel – the squirrel that has claimed this garden as her own – runs back & forth before my desk. Often she regards me, but as I neither follow nor sniff, she is unconcerned. On her way back, her mouth is empty; on her way forth, her mouth is full, and she will bury the fruit somewhere nearby. As I sit there working, she makes many journeys, her tail flouncing as she hops. She is very busy and focused. The fruit in her mouth is white. Her fur is reddish grey.

The cat stops underneath the tree. Again the scenery is like a photograph so it is something that the cat saunters along, shoulderbones bobbing. She arrives from a neighbour’s garden and is always looking for mischief. She gazes up at a tree and waits, then she sits. Up in the tree, on an outstretched branch, the squirrel looks down at her, another white fruit in her mouth. The cat means to say—‘Get down here!’ The squirrel—‘No way! Not with you about.’ The cat—‘I promise I won’t hurt you.’ The squirrel—‘Pull the other one, it’s got bells on!’ Neither budged. I interfere, walking to the cat—‘Peggy! Come on, leave the squirrel alone.’ First of all, Peggy looks at me and then up at the branched squirrel, as if I might understand the appeal. ‘No!’ and I muss the hair about her ears. She recoils and claws at me, then she lies down and begins to flirt, exposing the paler fur of her underneath. I go to stroke her head but she swipes and nips at me. ‘Little cunt,’ I say, and toy with her—‘Leave the squirrel alone.’ Peggy listens. Half an hour later, the squirrel runs back and forth again.
She was sitting in the corner of the café when I arrived. She was reading a book with coffee from another café, slouched and diagonal in the chair, her long frame stretched out in a straight line, her shoulders dotted with raindrops. I approached and she showed me what she was reading, although none of it made sense to me. It was a story about a Polish doctor who saved and schooled children from the concentration camps. ‘Are you happy with this?’ She left the office earlier than me, saying she needed to ‘clear her mind’, before sending her location. She left an umbrella for me at reception. It was a dark, rainy day. I told her the café was fine. Her blonde hair was slightly wet, stuck together. We got our food from the counter and sat back down. Wind came in through the open door, rushed past the queue, the splatter of rain beyond. It was so different from a week ago when we sat in the churchyard, among wasps and butterflies, tanning, engrossed in the orchestra of flowers, the sun so much like a lover, so wrapped around our limbs.

We ate coolly. Everything fit on her fork so neatly. I watched her enviously. She anticipated a journey back home and how it troubled her mind. Poland was haunted but she wished to embrace her mother.

‘Wojtek’s a lovely bloke, ain’t he.’ I not so much asked as declared. Yes, she told me, he is lovely. Very good, she said. She saw the good in many, but of Wojtek even I felt positive. I knew they spoke. Besides myself, he was the only one in the office she appeared comfortable with. ‘He talks very fast,’ I said, not thinking much of it, half out the side of a mouthful of turkey burger and slaw. ‘He speaks English very well, but, Jesus, he speaks fast!’

‘Hmm, yes,’ she said, poking pesto pasta onto her plastic fork. ‘It is sad. He is very anxious. Both of his parents died in a car crash and since then he struggled with anxiety and speaking.’

I told her it was a shame, that there is so much that happens in the life of others. We sat there and thought of Wojtek. He seemed a good man and I made sure I thanked him often for any work he did on my account. Soon she broke the silence. She has this way of talking that I have to put down my flimsy cutlery and pay full attention. Lunch took a long time. Still the rain fell outside.

We were both down to the cool remnants of our lunch. I do not know the cause, but she turned and said—'I feel like I have known you for ages and had a million seven hundred thousand and twenty-five conversations with you.’

When we walked back, the rain fell less. The leaves on the wet pavement caused one to slip and stumble. Neither of us held out our umbrellas. Buses passed, splashing in the streets.