Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Betty20
She walked to sit by the wharf once every week. She did not single out a particular day as Wharf Day, in that she liked to be spontaneous but in the weekly sojourns, she was consistent. She punched her feet into her scuffed boots; stamping one foot then the next till they were seated perfectly; then set out, letting the front door bang shut behind her. She usually listened to music, more often than not. Because she wanted to be alone in her head.
She would have her iPod to the loudest she could manage to keep out the chatter of strangers and the honks of cars in the distance. But some days, she liked to let the noise in- it wasn’t noise then. It was stolen conversations drifting to her on the wind- a girlfriend complaining to her girlfriends about her boyfriend; a child pleading for a gift, an old couple chatting about the weather- snippets of other people’s lives, floating around her, merging with hers, and in those very moments, she felt a light bond- they weren’t strangers. On these nights, she heard the call of birds, the folk music from the bar down the street mixed with the sirens- sounds of approaching salvation. The mix of it all added a roll to her steps, a mellowness about her and sometimes, a curl to her lips.
But this night, the music was so loud passers-by tsk-ed and predicted poor hearing for her future. She fell unto her favourite bench and stared moodily out to the waters. Letting the sounds of her music swirl through her head, she relaxed and settled in to watch the swans act so cool while paddling furiously beneath the surface. She chuckled.
The night darkened further; the tourists moved on to the clubs and the odd couple wandered further down the wharf- she was almost alone. She let her thoughts drift- to her loneliness and the effect it was having on her attitude. Her flatmate had just acquired a boyfriend; leaving her open for these non-alien feelings to attack. Every high-pitched giggle had her grinding her teeth; every sight of them nuzzling in the kitchen had her stomach in a row- but when they were just sitting, talking, with her right there in the room!- that was when the tears gathered to her eyes. The knowing side glances, the depth behind every casual brushing of hands, the intensity behind every look- they were her undoing.
The tap on her shoulder jarred her and she twisted her neck with a cutting remark on the ready. Seeing her friend, she swallowed it and turned her back to him. “You scared me.”
“Wasn’t sure it was you… Been squinting from down there.” He hesitated, but when she showed no reaction- being either pleased or irritated by his presence- he settled in beside her. Stretching out his legs, he pulled off his gloves and began to fiddle with them- saying nothing.
She wasn’t displeased by his intrusion but she wasn’t pleased either; but the latter was because everyone in a happy relationship had her wanting to walk in the opposite direction. To her, their happiness was like a green poisonous fog oozing out of their pores- contaminating her insides and leaving her a grouchy person.
She pulled out her iPod to skip a song and looked up when he reached for her hand. When her breath caught, she first justified it to be the startling warmth of human contact as opposed to the brisk cold of the night; or his green fog getting to her lungs. But when she saw him peering at the Celtic ring on her middle finger, the resulting disappointment in the pit of her stomach assured her that was no vindication.
“You have nice nails.” He said simply, but did not let go of her hand. She watched her hand in his, his slightly darker complexion against the pale skin of her hand. She whispered a thank you. But he did not stop there. Noticing how cold her fingertips were, he began to massage warmth back in. She looked back towards her swans. Afraid of what her face could be saying.
She did not know what form of unthinking gravity had worked on her but there she was with her head resting on his shoulder; his right arm wrapped around her.
They fit. Her head was the perfect shape for the crook of his shoulder. His arm came round just at the right angle to give warmth but not confine.
Did the lights reflecting on the water look softer? Were the swans gliding more elegantly? She felt like a 1960s movie screen had taken over her vision. She made an effort to snap out of it; to move; but the hand now moving up and down the length of her arm felt so.. warm.
He wasn’t hers but she decided to seize the moment. Taking it all in, she closed her eyes- focusing all of her senses on every single micro-point their bodies touched. Hand to arm, head to shoulder; the slight weight of his chin on her head. She felt.
And she knew then that she would never quite enjoy her wharf sojourns any more. Now she knew what it was like to be held at her favourite spot, to feel the way she felt at that point- not alone; whenever she returned- the loneliness would be more acute, more pronounced- she would see lovers everywhere she looked; the lights would be harsher; the night colder- because of one borrowed moment.
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