Memorial Plaque

On the eighteenth of January I went round my cousin’s for dinner. She lives down a quiet road in south London, on the top floor of an unassuming block of flats. I rang the bell and she buzzed me in; climbed the cleanest of cream carpets to her door, outside of which were a number of crushed cardboard boxes that she had dismantled in the aftermath of Christmas and finally gotten round to taking from her hallway into the corridor that she alone passed through. It was a pleasant yet unusual evening — because we had never done that sort of thing before, dined the two of us together without our parents or siblings or at least the murmur of a family gathering in the background and overwhelming — and I left in a cab, staring out the window, contemplating what it’d be like to have my own place so that I might paint it in preferred colours, decorate it how I wished and perhaps own a cat.

After a bad night in and feeling very angry with my whole predicament, I signed up for a dating app. About two weeks later I had my first date with an Australian lawyer in a quiet riverside pub in Angel. The whole occasion terrified me, but from the moment I saw her — as well as realising she was far more attractive in real life — that we were not right for each other in the slightest and that this dating business would be a tedious and unappealing business, not really for me, although, in my drunkenness, I had taken out a six month membership and felt obligated to get my money’s worth.
The whole family had been looking forward to our trip to Florida for some years, where we saved, putting away money each month, becoming more excited until it was finally here at the end of March. It was the first time I had been out of the country for a long, long time and, although the flight made me nervous, I couldn’t wait to get away from the city, of which I had grown quite tired and numb. I was off work for nearly three weeks and enjoyed every minute of being with my family, particularly my parents and nieces. So much had I cherished the holiday that when it came for us to separate at the airport on a cold April morning, something inside of me snapped and I broke down crying outside the long-stay car parking booth. In the end, I went back to C—n with my family and returned to the quiet loneliness of my flat a few days later. Spring was coming with colour and cold light.

In the middle of June I started talking to a girl on the dating app who I grew very interested in; she was French-Greek and holidaying with her father’s family on the west coast of mainland Greece. She spent her days cycling around in the sunshine and lying in the heat drinking iced coffees and anticipating her return to England so that we might see if there was any connection between us, otherwise we were both wasting our time. We met at a pub on the anniversary of America’s independence. She was a strange one, but I liked her.
We started seeing more of each other and became close. I was feeling quite good about things and the way they were going until, in the middle of August, she asked me to do something I could not and would not do, despite knowing that it had the potential to end things. I refused to bend and things came to an end — in an disagreeable fashion — a month later and I have not heard from her since. (The six months of membership had expired, and I said good-bye to things, disillusioned and a bit more satisfied with my being alone.)

‘You’re welcome to stay at mine.’ H—n and I had been growing closer for a while until October when she was visiting the country and I offered to accommodate her so that she might attend a university open day. We had a wonderful time and all the feelings I’d felt for her six years previous, when we were both very different people, began to resurface. Romance is unfortunate when it is unrequited, and so I thought that that’s the way things were, luckily we had enjoyed each other’s company and nothing more; I did not want to fall for her again, but when it happened I understood that it was not so bad. Together we watched a Sunday rain-cloud pass over London Fields and it was the best of times. I returned home from work, as she sat in an aeroplane over the sea, and there, on my coffee table, was a note written in a cursive I was now very used to and quite fond of. I guess things between us were different.
Five weeks later she visited again, this time for ten days. Things between us are different now.

In the days between Christmas and New Years I took long walks by myself during ‘golden hour’. My mother would take her walks in the morning, when I was more preoccupied with drinking coffee and ignoring my bed-hair. Usually my walk would take place at half-three for an hour. I did not wrap up very warm but there were three rolled cigarettes — each used as an idiosyncratic measurement of completed walk. The promenade, strewn with sand, told tales of holiday strolls in a thousand words of footprints, dog paws and bicycle tread. The sun cast a golden light on the side of everything I walked towards; my face in shade, red gripped the tips of my ears. On the way back, I looked at all the benches with memorial plaques staring back like windows. The youngest was Benjamin, aged fifteen; his bench wrapped in pink tinsel, symmetrical, two bouquets, a note; all of it carefully arranged. Suddenly and yet so slowly, the sun disappeared, taking with it golden dust it had scraped off the sand; and all the world lying in a peaceful blue, the final cigarette pulled from my shirt pocket, vivid dreams of a warm house that stood just around the corner.