Long locks of auburn curls dance by the side of a harbour. Could be autumn, but most likely it’s winter. There are mouths with spirals of wispy mist escaping them, and steam slipping off the skin of those drinking hot cups of coffee staring into the choppy waters beneath their feet. There’s a pusher, who pushes. Into the freezing harbour, kids go flailing, but all I can muster is nostalgia. Old newspapers kept under my bed tell me it’s been years, and yet despite the passage of time, the gaze between two pairs of searching eyes is as potent as it was the very first time. Bouncing like flicked cigarettes, the curls of her hair reach down to her nipples. The water’s still. The water’s steady. Oily. Always choppy. In thin air, feathers circle her hips like spiders circling the plughole. A church spire. Perhaps a mosque. Belper Street at dawn and the rotting window frames that have been the same ever since I was a kid. Red ants. Crisp packets. Statues of dead people more alive than their living counterparts. Sniffle. Drip. Pidgeon. ‘80s cigarette for ‘80s haircut, but ‘90s daddy is never far behind. There are doors. To Friday nights down a lovers’ lane dreaming of playground kisses and a boat on a canal covered in moss and dead flies and the distorted reflections of a child without a father. Glass of wine. Adult male. The tube between Saturday night hedonism and Sunday morning cafes where no amount of black coffee can ease a weekend’s worth of shame. The tube is thin. The tube is thick. It bends to the movement of her hips. These streets, they come and go. These moments, they return. Like the soundtrack to the first Hellraiser movie, or the curious mind of a teenage painter prone to crawling through the woods behind his house searching for a way out. Doorways. Bottles. Sometimes neither. Sometimes both.

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon UK

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon US

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