• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 01
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Ursula and Tom live out of town, in the god-damned middle of nowhere – though they don’t ever say ‘god-damned’. The view from Ursula’s kitchen window is all fields and far-off lumpy hills and sky. She hangs her washing on a line strung between two poles and she says the air is clean and real and the clothes smell of outdoors when they are dry. She tells me to breathe so I can taste it like she does.

If I’m honest, the air smells as if something’s missing.

And the quiet, Ursula makes a wonder of that too. She holds her breath so I can hear it, and that’s like something’s missing also.

We sit on the back step sometimes and I offer Ursula a cigarette. She says she shouldn’t, she’s given up, but she takes one anyway. I turn the kitchen radio up so loud the music is a little distorted and like that it feels like we are somewhere.

I visit Ursula and Tom once a month, though it’s really Ursula I go to see. She’s always pleased when I call and she shrieks when she opens the door and throws her arms about my neck and holds on tight as though we’re not just friends but survivors of some natural disaster.

She says she doesn’t miss the city – how could she, she says and she gestures to the fields with nothing in them. She says she doesn’t miss the city, but she always asks me to tell her how it is and when I do tell her she interrupts and adds to the things I say, adding from her own memories so it’s like she’s still a part of the cut-up city carnival.



I tell her about talking to strangers at bus stops and queuing in the post office for stamps, and the night-time pubs all lit up like the sun has crept in there, and the air all thump and crash, and blood on the pavement outside, and the press of people everywhere, the smell of their sweat both sweet and sour at the same time, and a girl with a broken strap on her shoe and she’s crying and she doesn’t know whether to keep going or turn back, and an old women who takes so long to cross the street that she stops traffic, and school playgrounds filled up with children, and shops selling discount dresses and the smell of detergent and wet wool leaking from the open door of the laundromat.

I sleep over at Tom and Ursula’s once a month. With the lights out, the night is as dark as shut cupboards or deep pockets and everything so heartbeat-quiet I can hear them through the wall: the springs in their mattress shifting and Tom sucking and blowing air like a horse taken at a gallop, and Ursula the same, and no other sound, like they are fucking in a library; and I wonder if there’s more noise when I’m not there.