The clouds rolled around the sky, raining only dust. Nobody looked up anymore.
It was a crisp spring day and I had forced myself, wheezing and blinking, from the dimness of the flat into the pale sunshine. I stopped in the park to sit down, I’m not sure which creaked louder, me or the bench. I eased myself back to enjoy the dappled light through the trees. A few moments later a young woman joined me. She had a complicated appearance, coloured string decorated her hair, bangles brightened her wrists and wires hung either side of her head. Metal glinted across her face, but her expression was empty. She sat back on the bench, it didn’t creak for her; and she stared vacantly at the sky. We sat side by side for six minutes before someone new entered the park, a gaunt, hunted man. He might only have been in his early twenties, but he had the desperate, wary hunch of someone much older. His face lit up eagerly when he saw the woman.
“Hey, hey!” he said “I know you, didn’t we meet clubbing last week?”
“Oh yeah, maybe,” replied the woman vaguely.
He sat down, a man so bony and skittish I doubt the bench even noticed his presence.
“So how are you doing? How’s tricks?” he asked.
“Oh you know, fine. Enjoying the sunshine.”
“Yeah, beautiful day, right?”
“Hmm,” she said, trying to end the conversation.
“So did you have a good night last night?” he asked, trying it keep it going.
“Yeah, alright, you know?”
“Yeah.” The banality of the conversation was starting to weigh heavily and I began the slow process of gathering my wits and thoughts, so that I could leave the bench. Suddenly, with his eyes flicking left to right and a twitch jumping at the corner of his mouth, he leaned over and whispered something into her ear. She sat back, shocked, and said,
“You’ve seen through time?”
“Shh, don’t shout it.”
I stopped gathering myself and pretended to be engrossed in the song of a robin. He carried on, he was attempting to whisper, but in his urgency to get the words out, he made them loud.
“I don’t know how it happened, I mean I took some acid, but not enough, you know? It definitely wasn’t that. This was something else, like somebody just stepped into my head to show me this, like I needed to see it. A portal just opened up.”
“In the room?”
“No, in my mind. I could feel it, like a door, it just opened. And I could see everything, past and future. And I understood it all, it all made sense. I can still see it now, ask me anything. I’ll tell you. I’ve seen it all.”
“Right. You know, it might have been the acid.” she said, gently. Even with my eyes on the robin, I could sense his demeanour shift, he pulled back. His eager, frantic expression changed to one of cold indifference. She didn’t get it; she wasn’t capable of understanding the enormity of his revelation. She was useless.
“Yeah.” he said.
Shout all you want,
But it’s not the truth, it’s just your truth.
I’m hanging on to my own. Because in mine
With Henry she didn’t need to be polite or keep up a veneer of niceness. She could share her secret hobbies: her collection of card games and her love of medical complaints with bizarre names. At work she kept her legs crossed, her lipstick from her teeth and her facial expressions neutral. Her personality toned down to shades of beige. At home with Henry she slouched into sarcasm and stink. She curled up around her laptop and burrowed through the Internet like a rabbit, her nose twitching as she searched for another obscur illness to add to her collection.
“Rotator cuff impingement syndrome!” she shouted with glee, scanning the webpage for symptoms and cures, picking through personal accounts, while Henry fiddled with the workings of a Furby.
“Haemochromotosis!” she called out, as he got up to make them a coffee, she rolled the word around her mouth like a boiled sweet.
“I love how you get such joy from the suffering of others,” he had replied, kissing the top of her head as he passed and she smiled, knowing it was true.