I missed my best friend’s birthday because I was scared of the bus.
I moved into your space. We lie together night after night. We cannot touch anyone else and so we touch each other. We drink night after night to fill up the gaps not even our flesh can fill. I miss my friends so I talk to you instead, I fill the space of pre-sleep with questions and answers. Phones ring with relatives. My dreams chase through the nervous system. A tarnished earring infects my lobe. When they tell me to ‘Stay at Home’ I do not know where I am meant to go. I don’t think home is meant to rely on a heart’s permission. The Prime Minister speaks from a city I left.
My best friend moves back to London and goes unseen.
The pub shuts and we drink more to express nostalgia. We pray our favourite is able to stay alive. We have online seminars and my tutor is hit with Nerf guns. I am late. I am hungover. I no longer sleep until after you. We wait for nightfall to truly embrace. Student loan drops. We make bad coffee that trended on the internet. I spend money on clothes I do not need. The government announces lockdown restrictions will continue. Summer school in Seville is cancelled. We eat avocados for breakfast and animals for dinner. I continue having unsettling dreams, chasing through universities I do not attend. We play a video game of an ideal world, with animals left uneaten and fish to be caught. My brain hurts with the guilt of weight gain. Topshop jeans are harder to zip up. My mother rings from London and tells me that she is organising a mutual aid organisation for her church. She is more compassionate than the powerful. I see a dog and I miss my own. We binge watch cult television shows from the 2000s. I get online feedback, I submit online assignments. I cry when I run outside. My period comes and goes and I feel my insides rotting away. I get extensions on essays because every time I try to start them I burst into tears.
I turn twenty in your bed. I wake to hear you sleep-talking. I thought the words were meant for me but they were not. They were meant for some figure of your unconscious conscience but in the end, it was only me who heard them. Only I listened to your sleeping gibberish. My mother waves at me through a video screen. Later my friends do the same. Presents come in the post, gift-wrapped in fragile tape and handwritten addresses. We start drinking at four in the afternoon with the rest of my family, socially distanced. I cannot hug them hello or goodbye. I see my friends flicker onscreen, they make me laugh so hard that I want to cry. By midnight I am sober and you are drunk. We go to bed like that. It is one of the best birthdays I have ever had. We go on walks so long my toes bruise. We drink beer on benches by the bus stop. I hand in essays. Second year of university is done. I listen to John Maus. Minneapolis sets on fire. You can’t expect your citizens to react with peace when all your police force have shown them is violence. I look up books to try and educate myself. From Monday I can see six of my friends at once, but I do not have any near me.
Fires burn near the White House. I am nominated for an award. Lockdown has turned me so anxious that I fear it is a joke. You buy me a peace lily. I drink pink wine barely visible for ice and I ask you if you think I’m worthy. We have sex on a sofa. When I am coming I see the flower merges with BBC News. I rebuild bridges. I make a spreadsheet for paying bills, and watch three seasons of the Kardashians. We buy tickets for a festival in Barcelona. I get assignments back, hate the results save for one. I make brownies and an artichoke tart, moulding and kneading with my bare hands. My friends return, making long haul car journeys with their fathers. I see them for the first time in three months and on the way I get terrified they will no longer like me. I see others for the first time in a year. I come forward about my abuser on Twitter. For a moment I feel like I’ve changed the world. After twenty allegations come and go, I realise it is impossible to change anything. The tart goes mouldy. When I stay away from you I have instant noodles and wine for dinner. The doorbell rings at three in the morning and I am so rigid from anxiety that I don’t sleep until the early morning. Arguments happen over nothing. Rooms are picked for my new house. Everything is opening but nothing is the same as before.