There’s a beggar smoking a joint and she sniffs the scent and shakes her head like a cat chewing a mouse. The beggar has a cup by his feet, but it’s late in the day and looks like he’s not expecting any money. He’s sitting beneath the bridge that connects the poor side of town to the centre with its hive of shopping arcades and opulent restaurants. Fiddling in her pocket, she takes out a few coins and places them in the plastic cup with its several rings of coffee stains. The beggar thanks her, and then tells her his name. It’s Lee, he says. Lee be a naughty fella with a taste for chemicals. He says he’ll spend the cash on some food, but she knows what it’s like to chase the dragon. She understands the shit that goes with it. She leaves lee behind.
From then on, it’s a KFC and then a walk around WHSmith’s, the one on the high street. Upstairs, she browses through the aisles of books. The children’s ones first and then those in the horror section. The guy behind the counter looks at her. Kinda on the sly but not really as she notices straight away. He stares at her chest and then her hips and imagines eating her out but when she’s paying for her dusty collection of Cthulhu stories, there’s nothing but pleasantries and eye contact. She likes the attention, and yet it’s all so predictable. The fruits of the human body pale in comparison to the fruits of a warped mind, and by quite some distance, too. By no means is she averse to a bit of the in-n-out, but flesh only goes so far. There’s another level out there she’s sure of it. Some other place that holds the answers she’s looking for. There has to be. The guy places her book in a paper bag and hands it to her with a smile. She smiles back and feels sad for him.
Back to the underpass and Lee’s nowhere to be seen. His stuff’s still there, including the cup, but the coins have gone. Moving on, she walks up the hill to the pub she used to work at. It’s getting chilly now, and the sky’s changing colour. Shade by shade it dims, and as she sucks on her cigarette, things feel as if they’re closing in. The old building soon comes into view, and as she stands on the other side of the road, the memories begin to trickle back. They fill her up and weigh her down. So many ghosts. So many layers of time that won’t stay in one place like they should. Balancing herself on the edge of the kerb, she sees herself as she used to be, stood behind the bar serving, chatting to customers, dreaming of a future that has still yet to materialise. Swaying there as a light rain begins to fall, she breathes in that familiar sullen air and wonders if there’s meaning to any of this, or if the strange nature of these days will last her a lifetime.