Plastic, metal, wood and glass
I remember at primary school there was an activity where we had to find examples of different materials. We were divided into four groups; plastic, metal, wood and glass. My group searched for wood. But inside I was not wood.
I was plastic; flimsy, light, airy; able to run and jump and fall without breaking. Able to re-use myself again and again — whenever a quarrel were a day old, it would vanish and we could start anew. Most of us were plastic in those days. Some were slightly more fragile: ceramics maybe, or even beeswax.
But we all made it, more or less intact, to the metal days. People think all metals are strong and tough, but metals can be solid or liquid, reactive or stable, shiny or subtle. Some are dull on the outside, but peel off a layer and they glitter and gleam. I knew many metals like that as I danced through the springtime of my life.
This happy time was rudely interrupted by the wood years. These arrived unexpectedly but we accepted them faster than we had anticipated. I guess we were more mature; steadier and more reliable. Wood is the basis for life; for homes, cooking, children's toys. We found ourselves immersed in these things, whether we were mahogany or pine, holly or birch. We learnt to build from ourselves a shelter, so we could watch our new saplings grow and blossom. By the time they bore fruit we were entering our glass phase.
Glass is beautiful. Glass never ages, will never be out of fashion. It is timeless, eternal. It is also fragile. You have to take care, but without the sun shining on glass, you can't get rainbows. You sparkle. You reflect beauty but also emit your own, powerful and quiet and unique. Light can't get through metal or wood. Plastic and glass let it shine. Those are the ages of innocence and wisdom and clarity.
I passed through all four stages and now I am waiting for the inevitable time when I cease to be any solid material and instead blow with the wind, float on the sea and burn in the sunshine, part of the elements. Don't cry for me. Ultimately we belong to the stars, they will claim us back. When we're gone, something else will come and it can start over again.
The sun should be setting in Perpignan but it has decided not to tonight. It has decided to forgo fading from blue to gold to red in favour of going from grey to grey to grey. I don't mind. I envisaged this, once upon a time. When I was innocent.
We trek along the river, staring ahead — well, I am and I'm guessing you are too, or maybe you're looking up. There's nothing there, I should know, but it never stopped you looking. I could say I liked that about you but I just liked you. Your dreaminess was part of the package. You. One little life. Well, not that little. Twenty... what, now? It doesn't matter. I don't remember how old I am, sometimes. Here, nothing matters, and yet everything does. Poetic but true. Rare, that.
I sat at the piano and played for you, in the station. I wanted to do Thunder Road — it was my song, before, and I knew it would be ours, whoever you would be. But then you were you and it wasn't. I played The Police, Tea in the Sahara, and then Avalon by Roxy Music. It seemed fitting. I saw you struggling not to cry, or perhaps it was just the chill of the evening.
I pull you into Espi. I remember giving up on you getting something I liked so we could half-and-half. You like the fruity things and I like the chocolate. I tried once to meet you halfway on lemon mousse, but you just smiled and I gave up. That was the night of the massive harvest moon; I remember how it hung over the old cinema and the castle. Our castle. I swallow.
We have our final dessert, and I pick the first thing I see that's half decent and soon forget its fancy French name. I'm meant to remember this, I know, the last supper, but all I can remember is you. And here.
The fountains are next. I take your hand, properly, and swing it. It's cool. You look at me and I study the smooth curve of your face, your nose, your lashes. Your smile. I could analyse it but I don't need to really. I know. I smile back, my heart squeezing through my hand.
The fountain isn't lit, of course, it never is when we're here. I only saw it lit that once and took so many pictures on my crap phone camera. When I'd bring my proper camera it wouldn't light; it seemed fairly deliberate on the fountain's part. It's mischievous. I shouldn't expect this time to be any different. But why would it hate you? You've done nothing wrong except love me.
We listen to the water for a bit, and you walk through it, along the little path. The spray falls on your hair and I worry you'll catch cold in our rubbishy room, then I remember you won't be there tonight. And my body tries to weep, and I restrain it.
We drift back to the castle and enter our old town. Our stronghold. One last night, hours, before it's relinquished. We hover outside Columbus before choosing French Coffee. Yes, it's really called that, I told you, when I dragged you there for the first time. It's self-aware. We sit on the squishy couches in the doorway; you start to shiver and I pull you close. You relax and I hold you. It feels natural, for a moment. It feels right.
Our drinks come, a Kinder Bueno milkshake for me, coffee for you. I could never understand your love of coffee but I liked how it made your kisses taste. I didn't like how it made you slump an hour later — I wanted to stop you hurting yourself. I didn't know how you could take something that would do you harm, why you would relinquish control of your body. Well, I won't be dealing with that tonight, or tomorrow, or ever.
I drink, and so do you, and I snuggle into your hair and remember the days dancing in the turquoise shallows at Canet, the wet feet in trainers squelching onto the bus. The sun burning scarlet behind the mountain. Tea in the Sahara.
I kiss your temple. This was our kingdom. We had a good reign. Now it's time to go. Simple. You begin to fade, I can feel it, and I loosen my grip, let you rest. You feel so warm now, blood pounding, chest rising and falling, eyes liquid. You look without seeing, out in the alley, up at the sky. I follow your gaze.
A silver European sky, a narrow slice between two old, beautiful, high buildings. Voices echoing, laughing. The warm-cool. Birds singing somewhere in the distance.
This is what I dreamed of, when I was innocent. Paradise. Avalon. I always just assumed I would be the one to ascend, to claim it; not you, who didn't exist yet. Now I hand it to you on a shaking plate, all that is mine. Take it. Go. I'll stay, and try to stem the blood.
studies French and Spanish at the University of Manchester, UK. Her work has been published in The Cadaverine, London Journal of Fiction, The Mancunion, Severine, Octavius, Halo
and Ink, Sweat and Tears
. Since 2012 she has been a Digital Reporter for Manchester Literature Festival. She tweets at @Grizonne.