I didn’t know anything could be so perfect. The lights of the mirrorball, a thousand swirling eyes.
I dream of relaxing nights. There were loads of people in my flat when I got home. I’m not really one for big crowds. It makes me want to retreat into my shell. I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
This is a reconstruction: I can’t tell how it happened, there are too many angles, too many reflections. The harder I look at another, the more I see myself. It feels like I’m here alone, in this crowd, myself projected around the room, the mirrorball a beam splitter. When contentment comes upon me, I have to find ways to destroy it. I slide the hairs in the coffee cup up its wall, click the kettle on. While it rushes and hisses, I dance with spiders. One of those spindly ones, all legs and angles, made up of lines, is feasting on its prey, caught up in a mesh. The kettle clicks off, my skin creeps and my head hurts. I need to suffer more. I was feeling too comfortable, for a second there, I guess.
He was there to save me, alone in a freezing wooden-floored flat, which I couldn’t heat. He sent me this ball, ordered on the Internet. He came later. I had had no money for a few days, and was desperate for a cigarette. I remembered that when I was younger, I had hid some in a tin full of movie stubs and limited-edition chocolate bar wrappers. I found the tin, and inside was one single cigarette. Throwing the stuff aside, I placed the cigarette carefully on my dry lips, and pat-a-caked my pockets in a panic, located lighter and flicked the flame into existence. I drew deeply, tobacco and paper crackling, my alveoli filled, my blood vessels roared, my scalp tingled and stomach turned. The hairs on my arms stood up, and so did I, lunging head first for the window, flung open in one motion, drinking down the black cool air, as my mind shrieked “I can’t feel my arms!”
Now I’m here.
I’ve always been a happy person. I work hard, and try not to let people down. If they would not be there, there would be no-one to let down. Things have to be a certain way, there is a beauty in order. I’ve cleaned this flat today, before leaving for work. There, I cleaned the storeroom, arranged items in the window, smiled at the customers, chose appropriate music, wrapped gifts, gave change, smiled at the staff, told them stories of my past, smoked a cigarette by the bins, ordered sage-coloured vases from the Parlane catalogue, lay down on the four-poster bed with no mattress, glanced out the window, cleaned the windows, warmed some soup, dusted the lamps, waited for the sun to set, counted, listened, locked. And then it was time to walk home.
This is not my town, but then again, where is? These are not my people, but is anyone, really? He is here again. Windmilling around the rooms, knocking ashtrays over, bellowing to be heard, desperation in his eyes. I know how he feels, but he does something about it. He gets out of his face, waits for a gap in the conversation, and gabbers his philosophy without solicitation. Our eyes meet across the room, and I feel a little like the spider. I gather the spent cans in a blue plastic off-licence bag, and smile as I stoop.
“How has your week been?”
“Well, work was quite good, sold the chiminea, at last, and…”