There were many messages and they spanned the height of the screen, moving smoothly, each one captured in its own little speech bubble. Moreover, they spanned the summer of twenty-nineteen. I read each of them; I listened to every voicenote. At that moment, vulnerable as I may have found myself, I thought, quite certainly and without an ounce of doubt, that it was time to try to find someone.

At my window, with The Band Played Waltzing Matilda booming out, I looked down and observed a man arriving home from work with flowers in his hand. He walked into the building. From the fourth floor, as he unsuspects, I had the greatest view of the bouquet, until, with fluffed colours, it was carried under a balcony and in.

‘We haven’t had breakfast,’ says my brother, taking two beers from my fridge. I tell them they should eat breakfast. He passes a can to his girlfriend who is sitting down in my armchair, half-fussing over the cat, half-praising the amount of light that makes it into my living room. I am stood uncomfortably, not knowing where to put myself. The cat, who not five minutes ago had been unlatched from his carrier, was now slinking underneath my desk and, with uncharacteristic bravery, exploring my bedroom. She squealed after him, complimenting bedsheets, poking conversation below the mattress. They left me with the kitten as they went off to go ice-skating. I did some wiring and did not hear a peep from the cat. After an hour, I went to look for him. Beneath my bed, he looked back at me with wide eyes and wider pupils – ‘Thought you’d died!’ He twitched.

Two hours later, I met them in town and we went to a bar for happy-hour. The bar was sedative. I pulled cold condensation off the glass and rubbed my palms together. We spoke, and went back to mine, where we continued to drink, play video games and chat. The next morning, sober and placid before a creamcoloured rectangle, I rolled and cracked bones over the best night’s sleep I could remember having for a month. He was sat on the sofa, looking out of the window, and she was curled on the bare floor, applying makeup. I made them breakfast; fried bacon (the first the cat had smelled in his life), scrambled eggs and toasted sourdough; we speculated on the building next door through mouthfuls and a cat that peered curiously over the crockery. As my brother drove us back to our parents’ through the pleated flatness of north Essex and an angular sun that penetrated one’s eyes, I smiled in a warmth of electric heat and tobacco smoke: for so long I had held the fear that following the death of my mother and father, my brothers and I would barely associate, yet here, then, my sibling of thirty-years and possessing a UK driver’s license, was with me in leisure. Beyond their gaze, we met as men. What before had seemed hopeless, was now quite real, and I took the rearview mirror as my guide, a sheet of what was behind.

Three days later, as I rocked in an old local with a friend I had embraced firmly only fifteen minutes earlier, I relayed this personal tenderness. How, I might weep at any moment, so I choked on words that in any other order at any other time would be vacant, but right then he stared at me bemused. ‘You see? It doesn’t all end when my parents die?’ He laughed and slapped my cheek—‘I missed you, bruv. Things ain’t the same without you.’

I have seen beyond the demise of my mother & father, I have stared past their death, and the pearls of my childhood do not end at their last breath! The babes who grew at the margin of my age are not anchored to the maternal mound, but grow along with me. It was something that warmed me to the core; the boldest and most unexpected of assurances came to rest upon my shoulder like a heat.

Because I do not like to smoke outside of the office, I go for walks that last only one-and-a-half inches. The birds are back and their shit seasons the pavement; I dodge carefully. The cabbies return and their papercups tap against the kerb; I swerve begrudgingly. At a scoop in my route, I pass the churchyard and a flowering perfumes my nose so intensely that I clear my throat and chuckle. Pausing, I regard the culprit as it puckers back at me. Too long and I will become drunk! It is the first days of February, and still this holy flora is enthusiastic enough to reach my senses as though I were a pollinating bee! The scent of winter flowers is the most pleasant of flirtations. Every hour for the rest of the day, I circle my desk widely and the bush flutters its lashes at my distracted revolutions.

‘On my cigarette breaks at work, I walk around the block and one of the plants has started to blossom already, and it smells so damn good.’
‘Charming, isn’t it? – I love jasmine – There was so much in Palestine.’
‘Is that what it is?’
‘White flowers? – Little ones?’
‘You’re so hot – Yes, very strong, sweet smell.’
‘Exactly – I love it so much I got jasmine tattooed behind my ear in Palestine.’

And when spring comes, it is good to feel something again.