There are days I long for a lungful of cool, sea air. The sharp jolt of salt as you breathe in and wind that whips your hair in and out of your eyes. Tucking strays behind your ears and just about resisting the urge to run along the flat sand with your arms outstretched pretending that just for a hard, breathless minute, that’s all there is. I breathe in, close my eyes and screw my feet into the sand and realise, suddenly, that I’m waiting for a hand to take mine. Much bigger it is, and when I open my eyes I’ll look up, and the smile, the smile will fall down like a waterfall, like a furled banner. The head – small in the same way the hand is big. A laugh, loud, deep, carried away by the wind like the seaweed is. Far away. Like everything, except the hand – warm, and the air – cool, thick with salt.
There are days when I long for that.
I turned past the corner. The corner of the road. I turned past the corner of the road where I run. I turned past the corner, where they’ve just resurfaced, where the big, thick grit makes you feel unstable, I turned into the lane, and I stopped. They’d gone. There were none of them. For days, days I’d run. I’d run and the first day I ran I turned this corner where the grit stings your knees and I stopped. They were so red. And there were hundreds of them. So red that I forgot to breathe in, so red that I felt like I was squinting. The kind of red you can’t even imagine. And there were hundreds of them, like a carpet, but not, so much less mundane, like a shout, like someone shouting out and it being stolen by the wind, distorted – but brighter than that – like a ray of sun seen from below the surface of a river, warming, but you can’t feel the heat. They look fragile, poppies, moving in the wind, but every day there were more, they bent low, but never broke. I took a break. Two days and I didn’t go out. Today I turned into the lane and stopped. Nothing but a few dead heads. Gross. Black. A darkness to them, something almost sick. The field was green. It felt grey. I started to run again, the grit bouncing at my feet.
They were gone.
I touch my neck. I rest my thumb at my throat and my hand along my collar bone. It just fits. My skin feels warm, slightly rough, I can feel blemishes and my fingers brush the fabric of my vest top. I trace the collar bone towards my throat, to the point at which I can feel it end, feel the beginning of the left. If I concentrate, hold my breath, I can feel my heart beating, as though from a long way off. I miss the smell, you know? Not one person in particular, but I miss the smell – of another. I miss that place. That place where if you lie next to someone when they lay out their arm you can put your head right in the space between their shoulder and their neck. It just fits. And if you listen hard, if you hold your breath, you can hear their heart beat against their chest and you can breathe in. Breathe in that combination of hair and sweat and washing powder and hot breath and a splash of water and distant shampoo, deodorant, laughter, like a cat’s tongue, and pepper, and sticky summer air. You breathe it in. Hold it. I don’t miss anyone, not anyone in particular, but that bit- that bit between someone’s head and neck, and the smell, the smell of another, their heart beating in their chest.
I miss it.