‘So,’ she said—‘a review of the year…’ On the thirty-first of December, or one’s birthday? There is only the self, so birthdays will do. It seemed premature to evaluate the year two-thirds of the way through August, but the entire day had run along unexpectedly thus far, so to do anything but go along with it could prove exhausting. In fact, our very conversation came about through a great deal of confusion, politeness and then, eventually—‘While we’re here…’
    One must look back. ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’ and so on. I carve my face into the schooldesk I sit before for years to come. I told her that, all things considered, it had not been so bad a year; for I had come to own my own flat, and started to flourish at work. ‘And, shit, I don’t like to talk so much about work, but it’s the little things, you know? My confidence has really improved… managing people… making new friends… it’s been decent. I was in “that place” for so long, getting out of it and surviving somewhere else feels like an achievement.’ I stand on the brink of my late thirties, without family, solitary and clueless.
    While I was on a school trip, my parents redecorated the spare and called it my own. I moved out from the room I shared with my brothers. My father kissed me good-night and pulled the door to. Faint trails of sunlight still made it through the thin curtains; the pattern on them was leaves and the air was warm. I was so happy to have my own room and so happy for the love of my mother and father. And then I was so sad. I was so sad that I wept. For the first time in my life, I wept because I was sad and did not know the cause. The pain of sobbing was a horrid lullaby I fell asleep to.
    The man who first entered was named Gary, and he wore his sleeves rolled up with all blurred tattoos on his forearms. He spoke friendly, somewhat camp. The other day I was walking home with lunch, red grapes, beer and wine, when Gary could be made out in the distance. He gestured towards a new pathway that had finally opened up between the buildings, taking a dramatic bow. Removing a headphone—‘Looks great, but I need the exercise,’ I said, patting my belly. And I walked round. Gary laughed as if it were the funniest thing he had ever heard. There were lengths of wire, flyers for a takeaway and shards of glass in the gutter.
    There is a family that live on the ground floor, and they lean out the window to smoke cigarettes. Extinguished butts brew in an empty cider bottle they keep on the sill. I walk past them and wish to say hello, but nerves prevent me. A burned-out building opposite is caged off; its innards black. The gym has its doors open and thumping music swells beyond from within. The path indicated by Gary is flushed with sunshine and the grass never looked so good.
    There was a gang of flies in the lift, congregating on the mirror, and they were the colour of cola-flavoured ice lollies. Putting my nose to the reflection, I hummed a little tune. One of the flies, a brave one for sure, perhaps the leader, took a shine to me and came towards my perspiration. I sang—‘O, no, you don’t!’ and blew him up into the ceiling of the elevator.
    Hours later, sat between my faithful fan and humming laptop, one of those flies had worked itself into my glass of malbec. Plucked with a middle finger from the soup, it was flicked into the sink.
    My boss, Beck, called me for a meeting before nine on Friday morning. Were it not for the RMT strikes, we would both be hungover; as it stood, only I was hungover. He criticised me for being late.
    ‘Yeah, sorry, there was an exhausted bee in my bedroom, so I had to sort that out.’
    ‘Fuckin hell, you’re worse than—’
    ‘Don’t fuckin start, Beck!’ I interrupted him—‘Bees are important!’
    ‘Whatever. You finished those mark-ups for the architect yet? Need to get ‘em out before lunch…’
    ‘If you ever need to revive a bee you gotta to mix two-parts sugar to one-part water…’
    ‘I don’t care about the fuckin bee.’
    ‘Well, you should… Cunt was massive.’
    ‘You seen they’re asking where we can put the generator?’
    ‘My brother used to use honey, but that never made sense to me…’
    ‘Hurry up, I need to speak to Hobbs, and that’ll take ages.’
    ‘So,’ she said—‘a review of the year…’ An hour passes us. When I think I have nothing to say, an hour passes. By the time I had finished speaking to her later that afternoon, Beck had began drinking at his desk—‘I’ve got a black sambuca and lemonade.’
    ‘Jesus fuck, that sounds disgusting. That’s not even a cocktail, that’s just dregs.’
    ‘It was all that’s left in the house. Sam keeps buying Pimm’s. There’s about forty bottles of it. I’ve drunk as much of it as I can. Can’t handle another drop.’
    ‘Shit tastes like squash.’
    ‘Run out of rum. This is all that’s left that isn’t Pimm’s.’
    ‘My mum drinks it in summer. Gets wasted on it.’
    ‘What do you want?’ he groaned.
    A particular window in my apartment faces northwest. One may grow accustomed to watching the sun set over the old sugar refinery, and time’s mental note as all the dragged sky falls in a cascade of colours. It is something to do when I arrive home from work and the heat off hobs pushes me away. With remarks of death, one notices the earlier and earlier descent of the sun; the fluorescent lacerations of light it bleeds out across the firmament. We are, each of us, pinched between the finger and thumb of day and night, squeezed for information and pressed for time. It is no number at all, thirty-seven. I will turn with my parents. Late summer babies are the saddest. And thirty-seven is no number at all. Not at all.