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I’ll Meet You at the Boat


She generally spent her evenings serving soup and trying to remember the way; she knew the route needed her protection. The disintegrating pages of his guide, the light, the lost map: it was hard to resist, it was how he needed her. He moved to the tune, that there was a time, when maps blew against the dark suggestion of the traffic. The city contained barely enough to exist anymore. The citizens clutched small, worn-out bowls of sunlight; fingering the ancient fabric of the soup kitchen.

He would like her to come to the boat in the garden. Before he went she asked him to lend her the books. He declined politely saying that he’d not yet got used to the city. She wasn’t too bothered about the books, but felt herself slipping into another place. He hurried away, leaving behind him a thin trail of sand. She knew what she needed to do. Telephone the angels; they have left their stories to be repeated in whispers. The wires were crossed.Night was drawing in and it was hard to decipher the messages. Against his will she read one, trying to remember the way to his journey. There were patches; people were murmuring directions; their grey halos hung full and familiar. The streets were mostly empty. People ran between the shadows. The patches were growing larger, though there were less people looking at them. It felt insane to start out now. But she knew that he would be waiting at the boat.

It really was the hill to the chippy. Shaking small things from her pockets she tried to swap them. The hill was a mountain and she was too tired to carry on without eating something. She was looking for answers and found only empty eggs. The night was full of maps he had drawn her. Why did it feel like a rough woollen blanket? Pulling it up around her shoulders she heard the stars hissing and feared the noise. She ducked, helpless to the effect it had on the fine balance of the evening, and wished for morning.

Now she was late. He seemed to know the route for what felt like eternity. If only she would come to the boat in the garden. His feet traced a map, that lit up the darkest centre. He knew she had protected the route, but there were patches. He took to walking around, waiting; his head told him stories, his left arm was full of books. Then he saw her jacket and suddenly his journey had a destination. She was the pattern he laid his head on. She was a place where he could go. She rolled a cigarette and sat on his jacket. It was a nice little garden, unkempt and full of interesting household items. She noticed a cup, half buried in the earth. On excavation, she was surprised to find it not only intact, but unchipped, and with a picture of a lion on it. He held strong views she couldn’t hear. Only after he had put away all the stories about the past, did the angels appear.

The sky saw the angels and wished it could join in. He drew a rough sketch of the way on his jacket; his guide to articles, written by students, on Buddhism. The newspaper ran a whole series on his subject, but he was not yet used to the city, to the homeless in the city wrapping each other up. Somewhere the newspaper ran a series only he could hear; he probably blamed strict copyright laws. The wind they had fondled in their stories was being repeated in whispers. The angels were rare. Their haloes weren’t often seen here anymore. They lit up the darkness when they bumped into him and one slipped out from the centre; a delirious tangle of wings and told stories.

She was pretty sure he had drawn her a map and written her a postcard stating the basic principles of Marxist theory. It hurt her to read them, she clutched them for at least an hour, hoping the world would change. She was the woman he held, and she wasn’t there against her will. She enquired as to whether old men dancing in the street, had caused others to direct him into it? He found her strange. She told him, once, walking home from the factory, she saw a tourist. He said: Imagine each one of us learning enough, that we knew the way back to our journey? Her eyes wouldn’t look at him. He felt like a worn-out copy of the people. The homeless were a pattern, he was the centre.

She was fat with the threat of rain stories; she could barely hold them. She was sick of listening to old men, wanted to find a new narrative and someone to share her love of fog. She was spilling herself into the street; she was a stain that spread across the city. The wind knew. She was grey really, and hung, full and right. He had always asked a lot of questions of the homeless. Now every road he took and everywhere he went was stained with stories of rain. He made her a rough sketch of cinnamon and oranges and looked for the usual narrative. She just wanted to count the angels. Sure enough, they were sat on his jacket, sharing their vast, iron keys with him.

He liked to come to the boat in the garden. She had said she would look him in the eye today. The angels lit up the darkness and told them what was what. She felt a strong desire to read him into an alleyway and steal his phone.  In the end she just wrote him a comprehensive and comprehensible text on rage.

Before she went she pushed his golden curl and while he gazed absently at the night, she stole the books he guarded so jealously. She left him there, muttering softly, looking for streets. Lending the books had been hard to resist but might have been less damaging. As always there was a time when maps never actually said anything. Now every road was the hill to the chippy.

Today she had offered to look him in the eye.

His feet had traced the smaller things from her pocket.

She had said, ‘walk me there.’

He had smelt her hands.

They had agreed to meet at the boat.

He was left trying to remember the way to the great jade canopy. Stumbling around for something familiar

Walking home for what felt like eternity he held it all under his eyes. It was a slow dance, that had been renamed, and nobody cared where he worked anymore. A light looked like other lights looked, and so he went into the vast, vacant bar to listen to the old men; he needed to be with them. They could get drunk and appear uncertain of each other; scribing an evening map, telling stories about the past. Sure enough, they took his gift and asked him a lot of questions; they were old and needed his protection. He laid his head on his jacket. Sometimes the angels appeared. He realized there was no way home from here. He was a broken gate. She had taken it all away and his hands ached for the scratch of hemp. His aloneness was one of sullied interiors; the walls were thick with other people’s names. Dark was outside, wires were crossed, and the night was old. His feet tried to remember the way in.

There is a time that maps eggs. It seemed hill was a mountain and her shoulders heard the stars. What about eating something? It felt like soup, and trying to remember. The park was a pond in the dark, it was empty space. She craved nothingness. Her jacket was a woollen blanket, she pulled it up around the city. The night was full, but she closed her eyes anyway. Sleep was an angel.

The light of the lost way was on his jacket. The streets were probably to be blamed. The cigarette in his mouth was a bad gift. He started walking around. He’d not yet got used to now. On the journey there were patches, people were the traffic. The sky saw the insane; he looked up at it, absolutely trying to traverse his guilt and fear, with slow-moving hands. He felt he might avoid electric-shock therapy for much longer periods, if only the angels would appear.

 He saw her jacket, suddenly, in the city; she was looking at the garden. He feared the noise, but he needed her as his guide. She rolled her protection and he longed for her history. She knew the route he needed head on. Did it look like a rough garden? Unkempt and full of students? She noticed a cup.

‘I’ll meet you at the boat, about the books,’ he said.

She felt herself full and familiar.

‘The angels have left. I’m not sure if I exist anymore.’

The patches were his will. Her jacket was a nice little hill. He was waiting between the shadows. She was late. Time was drawing in, it was fingering the ancient fabric of the map he had drawn her. He was politely saying to come to the boat. People were looking at them. Where are the angels? He drew a rough sketch. It was hard to decipher his messages, against views she couldn’t hear. He sat half buried in the earth, trying to pull the traffic of heaven down upon the empty floor. The city barely contained his guide; her story was being repeated in whispers. She resisted the urge to squat. Her pockets were growing larger though they were mostly empty. She would meet him at the boat in the garden.

Only after his head told him stories, did it feel like eternity. She had spent her coincidences. He wished she had said: ‘walk me there.’

His list had begun to drift out of focus. He had to find the hill to the chippy. On top of the hill was a boat in a garden. She had said she would meet him there. There was a time when maps told the way to the great city centre. The centre was jade. The city was homeless. Now looking for streets he found only alleyways. The shadows were full of people. The wind blew against their stories. The chippy, as always, was hard to resist.

Nobody cared why her head and her arms were full. It was like reading tealeaves in her life. Walking around clutching a worn-out book; it was his kind of reality. She had looked under her pillow, hoping for books. She had found all the maps he had ever drawn her and searched for the feature of her life. The route was lost, but maybe that was where they all went. He had worn out the way to the house. That’s why she had agreed to meet at the boat.

Why was the boat full of books?

Why was the garden full of students?

Why did his feet trace the wind?

This was a time when maps never actually told stories. It was dark where they caught the buses. Her hands smelt like the streets. There were laws to prohibit the lending of books. He couldn’t tell her enough to keep her; she left him there muttering softly. He had put away all the answers and found them empty.

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