by Zoe Turner
Through a gap in the condensation, I watch a toddler as it’s pushed past the window in its pushchair wearing a pale pink snowsuit, one of those padded one-pieces that make children look like stars, having been dressed in an elevation of their own existence. The point of life with its limbs swaddled. Its arms are splayed to the sides and slack, hanging away from its little torso with the blameless assumption that it will be held afloat.
The child disappears again behind the fog of dispensed breath, and it occurs to me that my jumper has started to soak up the wet evidence of other people’s chests having settled during the time that they’ve stolen for conversation or turning pages, or shared links and voice messages. I look around at the array of wooden chairs, some with tall backs, others with wide cushioned seats, as they push a whole room of us through the hours of a Sunday afternoon, patiently catching any coffee spills and noticing the slightest of shifts. I spit efficiently into a napkin I’ve pulled from the table, brush with vigorous love at my damp sleeve then get up to pay.
At home my trusted network assists me in opening the bank app to see where I’m at for the month, what I can still manage before the year’s first paycheque. The TV is on, and while I’m scrolling through a list of transactions and symbols – an apple for everything in the fridge, an M for the Metrolink – a bombardment of blues and yellows and an abrasive voiceover draws my eye across to the bigger screen. A man with a wide smile descends a water ride sat in the middle of a rubber ring, his sun-browned arms spread apart to lie across either side of the tube. He has been instructed to keep a loose hold on the handles and his wrists are just limp enough to succeed, but as he turns a sharp corner on the slide and the ring flies almost vertical, I watch the moment when his fingers grip the plastic.
“We swap notes on what the week ahead entails, the steps we’ll take to move through it.”
The delighted screams of children follow on behind him, their arms held high above their heads, and they remind me of a rumour my friend told me in school. How her brother’s friend once came off a raft at our local waterpark and the vent in the slide underneath sliced his whole back. I remember telling my teacher that I’d been sick in the toilet, just to hear her tone change – how it felt to invent the things that might go wrong. I look back down at my phone to find that I’ve been logged out and press my thumb to the home button until its edges turn white.
When you call me that evening the dark is seeping through a single glaze and I have muted the news. My shirts are hanging damp off the door handles. With the blanket pulled up to my chin and the remotes at my toes, we swap notes on what the week ahead entails, the steps we’ll take to move through it. I don’t tell you about the crispbread already packed in my bag like rusks, and you don’t mention the bubbles you are growing up the sides of the bath, how you will wear them on your shoulders like horns, giggling alone until you tire and accidentally wait to be lifted out. We hold our whimpers and dribbles to our chests, hushing them.
I see you when another week is done, find some boxes ticked and thrown out, others still cluttering up the living room. We pile all those remaining into one corner and walk with our breath ahead of us like ghosts to buy milk and oranges for the morning. When we get into bed, we talk as if the sheet beneath us is a field that has been warmed by a long day rather than the hot water bottle that’s squeezed between us, and we kiss each other with cold noses like we’re taking turns being the sea. And when the morning light tiptoes in around a crack in the curtain like it wants breakfast made, like it’s come to ask what we’re doing today, my arms stretch upwards, my rusty muscles springing with the mattress and I reach out for the both of you, tell you to dig out that old lilo from the back of the wardrobe, start blowing it up.
Zoe Turner | @zoelizturner
Zoe is 24 years old and works in publishing in Manchester. She’s co-host of the award-winning spoken-word night Verbose, and co-editor of The Book of Newcastle. She likes Hera Lindsay Bird a lot.