In a pet store off the beaten track, I catch my breath and take in the shade. Frogs are popping on the sidewalk, their manky guts plastered all over my scuffed shoes. Dizzy and drunk, some young sort eating an ice cream gave me the eye, and as I gazed at her mouth, she purposefully stuck her tongue into the vanilla scoop and looked at me in the cruellest of ways. She knew I wanted her. Knew that I was just a man like all the others, and as easy as that, she became some vast mural painted across the landscape with colours so vivid they would’ve made Van Gogh and Rothko tremble in their graves. Letting my eyes linger on her a while longer, she gave me a shy half-smile before disappearing into a crowd waiting at a set of traffic lights. Wiping sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand, I move down the aisles looking at all the rats and rabbits and guinea pigs sitting around chomping and chewing on their carrots without a care in the world. Standing before a mound of sleeping baby rats, I tap the glass door of their container. One of them wakes up and look at me. Sniffing his nose, his tiny whiskers search the air, but finding nothing worthwhile, decides to go back to sleep again. Watching them as they do, I glimpse something from the corner of my eye. Turning to my left, I see the ghost of X skipping around, so excited at the sight of all the animals. She’s looking at me so happily, and even though I know she’s not there, I can’t help but move towards her. Pressing her face up against a container belonging to a lone chubby hamster, she’s humming to herself while subconsciously feeling the coins in her pocket to see if she’s got enough money to take him home with her. Looking up, she smiles at me so sweetly, and I find myself with tears in my eyes. I’m not sad, I rarely am, just sensitive to these moments I once so often took for granted. For a few seconds we stand there not speaking, just smiling at each other, then before she slips away, I tell her how she’s in my heart, each and every day in a million different ways. That smile, it stretches from ear to ear. I know, she says. I know.