by Nadia Henderson
We gather our things, close our tabs, replenish
empty water bottles at the kitchen sink.
In the lift, our bare shoulders stick
to the cool metal wall; tote bags swing
between our knees. We pour
out of the office
onto the bleached street that waits
to be coloured in by our many possibilities.
It is 10.49am.
The men want to go to the pub. In the deserted garden,
pendulous fuchsias creep across the cracked brick wall, eager
flowers drooping in the shimmering heat.
It’s like snow days when they used to send you home from school, someone says.
We intone our agreement,
except it’s not like a snow day at all. It is forty-one degrees, mid morning, in May;
too hot to think, so we don’t.
A bottle of crisp Chardonnay stretches thin between us, and we crackle
with harmless flirtation, spill words
we won’t remember saying.
The outside world rolls on: buses shriek and hiss on the bending road, emails cascade
on our phones. We follow the shade from one corner to another
until we have soaked it all up.
In the food hall, we open the doors of the fridges and bathe
our red limbs in their manufactured coldness.
We buy smoothies and hummus and fresh arms of bread;
a tub of pitted olives, foamy cubes of watermelon. We open
the watermelon right there in the shop.
Imagine a world without watermelon!
We take our loot to the park and sit under the weeping willow. On the scorched ground,
plastic gathers in a monolithic pile.
We talk about strange colleagues and the cultural significance
of a reality TV star’s leg hair.
We are in agreement about everything, and it warms the underside of our skin
like hands held to a hot cup of coffee.
Soberness sucks at our stomachs.
The water has been disconnected from the decorative sprinklers, but
children still run through their dry trajectories, sandalled feet slapping
against the fountain’s concrete bed.
Mothers wilt under networks of repurposed umbrellas and –
there are always some –
bare-chested men lie motionless on the verges, bellies
We hop the barrier in the public toilets, hold our breath and hold our toes
under each other’s flimsy doors.
In the cool-toned light, the mirrors show flushed cheeks and glistening brows,
fringes stitched onto foreheads.
The day is heading in its only known direction and taking us with it.
The tube tunnel belches its lava breath onto our faces. Its awful weight
presses against us, but we’re drunk
on the joy of our unexpected rebate.
We want to stretch out the hours like lengths of sticky candy,
drink up the good conversation.
We want every work day to end at 10.49am on account of the difficult weather.
Something tells us
there will be more of these snow days to come.
Tools for Surviving a Storm: Eleven Tales of Nature, Love and Fear
A transporting, original collection by Nadia Henderson, examining the lines between nature and the human world.