Home Again

   She seems to stretch – arms around his neck, head pushed back so she’s looking to the sky, her shoulders bunch and her purpled waist appears below the edge of her jacket. Her feet trail the ground. I’d dive in. I get that urge. He leans forward instead, bends at the middle, and stops. They two hover there above the bumpy road, parallel, his feet planted, hers scraping. And he performs a bounce of some kind, from the knees, shifting her up his back and her thighs more widely around his hips. He stops again to gather himself.
   At his signal, the mean around the pair form up. With that same unsophisticated music and crooked march, the procession moves off again. I watch their slow removal. My path homeward goes in the opposite direction and when I turn around I have another one of those moments of turmoil. In this cold air the path home is a good one. That small apartment I was given is nothing much but I’ve found ways to keep warm. I even have books to read. And if I get moving quickly, this feeling of loss will pass. But what if I accepted this feeling? What if I did not impress upon myself the need for regularity? What if I listened?
   I step back closer to the water. The procession has moved on quicker than I expected. A brisk walking pace would put me back among them still.
   I step out after them.


   Ordinarily, there’d be a trail. A girl on her own like this doesn’t happen here, not usually. Maybe in the cities. Girls leave a place like this one and in the big cities they’d be prey to anyone who might act like a friend, but here she’d be tied to family. And by now, there’d be someone to haul her onto a scooter or lift her onto someone’s back. And it wouldn’t be down to me to do anything at all.
   I could just leave her. Not make the report. Skinny fucking Zhou might make trouble, but I could cut off his access to the building site, at least formally. Probably wouldn’t make any real difference to him.
   Fuck me, I can’t remember a time not being tired. There’s nothing at all to this job and yet I’ve worried over what do to ever since I started. Back then I had an enthusiasm. Now… well right now, I’m so tired I put one arm across my belly the better to hold up one arm that holds the hand that I put across my eyes.
   And just like that I turn on the other sense. That idea that blind people develop better hearing? It’s not true. They just use their hearing. You try. Put your hand over your eyes and hear what happens. I stand there with my eyes closed and realise somewhere along the water there must be birds, small and fast, chirpy in the morning air, foul though it is.
   Was a time this place would be obnoxiously loud with cranes and trucks and men calling out to one another. Up on the construction there’d be hammers against pipe. The day would literally ring. Even the night. You could wake in the earliest morning and find all that weight lifted from your ears. Then the first shout in the street would make you curse. The first truck and the sand it would billow into your house.
   Different now though, she says.
   I lurch. I might be ready to vomit. I certainly snarl.
  “No!” I say, and I point at her carcass. “No.”
   My stomach does heave just then.
   Have you ever tried to vomit into a frozen world? I mean a world with no motion. It flips you about like you’re a spaceman. Heaving and stretching out I should be stumbling into the water because I can’t hold myself upright, but my head is thrown backward instead, pushed off the tower of vomit that exits me and then doesn’t move. Dropping to my knees and pushed backward, I am propelled away from it rather than it being propelled away from me. I land hard. I’m as stunned as a child. And it’s worse because I heard that crack in my back.
   I hold onto my head like it might fall off, and sob because I’m that tired.
   Only slowly do I realise nothing actually has happened.
  “You have to learn to control that,” she says.
  “Do I?” I say, because I’m angry. “Did you?”