It was my one-year anniversary. My mother messaged me a happy one-year anniversary first thing in the morning; I did not really care or respond but put the phone back down on the bedside table and sighed. It was going to be a day of some sort, inasmuch as it would not be unremarkable or easy.
    The curtain had been pulled back slightly, away from the recovering fronds of a pale spider plant (née Chlorophytum comosum) that pronounced buoyantly in a line of sunshine. My body had come to spoon a pillow during the night. There was an episode of The Simpsons playing on my phone; it was the one where Homer places bets on all Lisa’s football predictions. There was a warmth about, except on my naked shoulders, for I had left the window open all night; could hear the trains and freight lumber past, could hear the cars and motorcycles, the leisure centre swimclub. I did not have a good feeling about what sort of day it would be.
    Many miles away, my family were having their annual weekend in London to welcome in the festive season.
    When I lived in London, I would meet my parents for dinner in Covent Garden on their first night, struggling somewhat with the crowds, but they were happy; my mother was all dazzled with the lights, the pine needles, fanfare and candles. Truly, the crowds agitated me so much that I found it difficult to maintain any composure, sensing that it was perhaps impairing my parents’ enjoyment. Then one year my brother and his wife were invited. And I joined them, but struggled still. My nieces were there, and I became conscious of them; every unpleasantness I found in the city was, in my mind, inflicted upon their delicacy so that I wished to take them in my arms and hurry out of there, out of Westminster, out of the city, escaping the M25 into the foggy undulations of Middlesex or Surrey.
    ‘Why not?’
    ‘I can’t enjoy it. I can’t handle it, for some reason. You go… with R— and J—. I just sit there with a face like a smacked arse anyway.’
    ‘Don’t even wanna join us for a drink?’
    ‘Nah. Thanks anyway.’

    Then my other brother met someone two years ago. Now my mother takes the two other women out for shopping and afternoon tea. Entrances and tablecloths of fine eateries in the gold-dappled west end. They dress bundled up in black, drawn about the waist. It seems to work that there are three of them; my mother, my brother’s wife, my brother’s partner; a trinity, a gang, a coven. There are photographs, short paragraphs of footage too, there is a ballerina and coordinated glances in front of a grand bathroom mirror. Now all of them, my father and brothers too, are in London, familial, like a unit, together. I am here, or, when someone reads this I may be somewhere else, but I will not be there.
    In a Mexican restaurant round the back of the Piccadilly Lights, seven men sat around a spacious table, sipping mezcal from heavybottomed glasses and sharing spit, fishbones like piano keys, a forage of arms flying here & there for another tortilla or splinter of beef. A seven-foot-tall architect arose and rose a toast to the other, somewhat younger—‘I want to say something,’ he said—‘Reed has worked for me – with me – No, Reed and I have worked together for eighteen years… He joined me just after finishing university…’ and Red was leaving the company for the Scottish wilderness with his partner. I had, in quite a short time, only a couple of months, developed a fondness for him. I slapped my hand softly on his shoulder. He did not flinch nor did he know what he would do in the highlands, what practice he would join, when he would see his family, just that he would begin a new life with his love. It made me at once happy for him and envious. He was sure, yes, very certain of what he was doing and he was excited for what lay before him and his love, with whom he held hands many miles away as he declared to the wonderful client, glass aloft—‘I will still be looking after the project until then, of course!’ He took a good sip of mezcal and washed it down with beer, chased by clamato. I laughed, we laughed! A few hours and many glasses of mezcal later, I blacked out along Regent St, unsure of how I got home, how conscious I was during any of it, how much I may have longed for someone to move to Scotland with.
    But if I do not write for so long, then memories tend to dull, to fade and atrophy. I buried my heart at Chapelle Saint-Roch.
    For a long time, I anticipated the meal to celebrate our completion of a project I had led. I believed that the team should be rewarded for their hard work with a meal and an afternoon out of the office, and my many complaints, comments and campaigns to management were eventually heeded. However, at the final moment, an unpleasant man who did not work on the project – or indeed any project – invited himself along. He is an awful man, a creep, a glutton and a renowned harasser! ‘Who the fuck invited that cunt?’ I asked one of the directors. He had invited himself and no one else objected. The rest of the group, ten or so, waited in the restaurant, and the unpleasant man was at the front, uninvited. My neck throbbed and I became angry! ‘Let’s go some place else!’ I suggested to my boss and an intern who worked with me. It was a popular restaurant, every table full, chatter, pricking forks, the rump of glass on tabletops. The food smelled good. They refused! The maître d’ guided our party to the bar and gave everyone a complimentary glass of champagne while they waited. I watched the unpleasant man seize two flutes. I stood in the middle of restaurant as the servers rushed about me, somewhat awkwardly between four tables. My mind throbbed. I became short of breath. The plump arteries in my throat pulsed. My boss called my name; it was only four letters but it took up a lot of airspace. People were staring at me. I stared at the door. I dreamed of the cold air outside. As I left the restaurant, I heard my name being called—
    ‘… Where are you going?!’
    First I wished for a cigarette, then I wished for my headphones. Liberation! glorious liberation! I was only walking down a street I had walked a hundred times before. Pulled the collar of my coat up and charged headfirst into the Cheapside wind, the fray. It was lunchtime, of course, and I was terribly agitated. The calmest place I could think of was a bookshop (Daunt), so I went there. It contained a man in on his phone, talking loudly. I was quite enraged and began to ask the Poetry section—‘Can someone please stab this cunt in his throat and let him gurgle the rest of his business meeting?’ When he did not quieten, I took my leave, bookless. My phone was vibrating endlessly. After a half hour of walking aimlessly about the eastern portion of London city, I had three missed calls from my boss and two from a colleague. I kept walking. Much of life had ganged up on me by that point and I sensed that I was running away from it. My cheeks hurt from withholding tears. It started to rain so I hid into a café. I asked for a toasted sandwich and the young man burned it. I stared at him. A lady floated to my side, asked me if I was okay, asked what I was waiting for. She told him he had burned the sandwich, that she would take over. She shooed him away. ‘I’ll take care of it, sir,’ she told me. My cheeks hurt, cheeks hurt. She did not see to any other task – for she had been hurrying about, cleaning the café – but stood still watching the griddle where my sandwich sat. It was done. She asked me—‘Would you like it cut in half?’ O, maternal, so soothing, so angel! My cheeks hurt, cheeks hurt! ‘Yes, please,’ I replied. I watched between the bodies and the bodies her cut the toasted sandwich into two and I thought of my colleagues enjoying the lunch and my loneliness. It had been a long time and I no longer knew how I felt about anything, only that I was going slightly mad and they all told me to resume smoking. We wished each other a good day, this lady and me. At my desk, there was no one else about but for the project lunch. It was a joy that the project was finished, that was all; it may have been satisfaction enough. My toasted Rueben sandwich would suffice. I watched chess games online for a while as my boss continued to call me. The phone vibrated on a stack of napkins. Then I went home at a reasonable hour, sober, miserable and happy.