It is a hot, swollen, summer night. She stands on a bridge high above this seaside town and watches the sky, waiting.
Below, down on the pier, strings of coloured bulbs sag and sigh. There are tinkles, wheezy organ noises, pings and bangs reaching upwards. Screams sail from the Big Wheel into the night.
We might smell the toffee-apples, the fresh fish and chips, the roasting nuts, but she is too far away, too far gone, a woman on a high bridge waiting for the sky to move.
Once she walked like a dancer, floating into a room, golden, light, lifting others. Once she thought of love and of stages and spotlights.
Her room belonged for a while to a man called Travers. He had a dark face, dark eyes and a pain inside him that nothing would ever remove. He left behind some string, a boy's pocketknife, something from his short flannel trousers, a remnant, something that was his, from his "before", something still innocent. And he left his note.
The teacher has written on the board, "If a sparrow flies in, if... Does it matter where it was before? Does it matter where it goes? It was here, wasn't it, alive, alive."
Someone said April is the cruellest month. August is cruel too. This heat is cruel, the tinkling, singing pier is cruel, the fish and chips are cruel and the circling gulls are vicious and cruel. It is all cruelty.
What kind of people stand on bridges? What kind of people don't have mirrors? What kind of woman thought about going to Mars, but didn't apply and ended up on a train from somewhere and then in a room, in a bed where a man called Travers once lay stiffly?
What kind of woman, once so full of light, now looks for a shift, a sign in the purple, darkening sky, the almost black sky? Who thinks of her birth town as a canker, a dirty place that has spread like a germ grown in a dish?
Her note just says, "This is not about you, not about you." She wanted to write about fruit, how it is wholesome but only for a few days. Taken too early the apple brings pain, too late and it is rotten. It was about her, really, but she didn't quite have the words.
Travers would have said, "When you leave, the air will close behind you and nothing will matter."
He would also have said, "Tread softly," and been right.