Standing in front of him like that, she couldn't keep herself straight.
She was slipping, down through the
foam inlays of her shoes. Her spine was turning to mercury and seeking out
earth. No-one really noticed.
Today, he had a depth to him she
had not seen before. With every inhale
his muscles, his skin, his bones all appeared to widen and grow. His sudden height and her awareness of it was
a stinging surprise.
She could feel the world behind
her like sea off a deep cliff edge. All
too aware of air and wide, gaping space, her legs were barely holding.
She wobbled when she thought of falling. He didn’t notice a thing.
How could he not notice? The
sinking, the growing, the shifting of ground.
How could he not see?
He kept on talking.
The careful regulation of his
speech made it easier to register each phrase precisely. Her brain packed them away mechanically in
boxes. Words slid in, got labelled,
wrapped in newspaper. The glassy,
literal content of his words was obvious.
She knew, knew it all, but wrapping them like that made it easier. No sharp edges.
For the best, it's for the best. Still sinking.
Curling into the pit of her
stomach, she rolled out on to the pavement just in time for the end of his
rehearsed and sparsely toned speech. (Later,
she’d find that the majority of it was a lie said to make an ending feel like a
beginning, or at least a middle).
An awkward farewell pretended not
to be a goodbye, though it really was and as they turned to leave, she kicked
herself. They both watched as she rolled
away, an old tennis ball on grey paving slabs.