It was the hay fever. The pollen count was exponential and my eyes itched and I couldn’t breathe. I had to speak with an open dry palate, every - breath - effort. As your brain snapped in to gear it would stop intermittently with sneezing fits turning it in to sludge.
I arrived at the bar and burst in to tears. A gin and tonic ordered straight away and they listened, carefully like teachers and molly coddled me like a newborn puppy. I cried the world was too much! My job, the work, the state of it. I couldn’t breathe! I blew my nose and had a nose bleed and drank my gin and felt better. The pair of them. Dressed in dungarees, a mustard yellow baggy sweater, crop top, bright socks, hair messed up, scrunched atop their pretty heads like bird’s nests. I loved them. And they told me tales of theatre.
Imprisoned indoors because of the grass I was sad and spoke to Susan. She listened and offered to wash my towels because of my conjunctivitis. I bought hair perming solution. Susan positioned a seat in front of the bathroom mirror, twizzling my hair, making me feel better. Her delicate fingertips massaged my head and pushed me adrift on to a swimming pool, where I lay dozing on an inflatable alligator. Not a single strand left loose, she’s a pro. I clumsily rinsed my hair out twice and woke up with curls.
Brixton Market on the hunt for a shopfront with ‘a blue hue’. It rained the night before so the air has clarity. I feel almost human again. Sunglasses acting as protective shields, vaseline smeared across nostrils to stop particles. She lets me tell my sorry tale. Encourages, coaxes, gives me fuel.
I have a sty in my eye but it doesn’t matter, I believe. Bounding my way across London to a pub at The Centre of the Universe, where all my Friends shall meet. Four friends who’s paths rarely cross between London, New York and Berlin but it happens. Get a round-in, pork scratchings and pints, gin and tonics for me (because wine and beer contain histamines). Spilling over the pavement then filling our booth. It looks like a cabin from a timeless fleet, with portholes of stained-glass windows peering out on to the street. How much time has elapsed. None at all. Ten years. We end with pizza at Pollo’s and a bottle of red to wash it down.
Now I lie on my bed. The final night. Peripeteia complete. Annina lies by my side with her asthma inhaler, I with a bloodied tissue pressed against my nose. She tells me to tilt my head back and I can’t because I’m lying on my back. ‘Do you know the story? Of the man who is standing in the middle of the square. Looking upwards. In to the sky so people start to wonder, what is he doing? One stranger stands next to him and looks up too. Then another joins the pair and begins to stare upwards. Soon whole crowds are joining the men, all wondering what can he see? Then the first man stops and looks down. The second man asks him with awe-inspired breath, ‘What did you see? What could you see?’ And he replies, ‘Nothing. I had a nosebleed.’
I smile and believe that my friends have saved me.