by Elizabeth Worlledge
It’s midnight and the traffic is thinning. The evening revellers are on their way home, keen to be in their beds. After all, it is work tomorrow for some.
The icy east wind fingers its way through the gap in my scarf and plays with my skin, erotically caressing and tickling its way down my spine, just the way he had once done.
Below my feet, black silky water churns in disorganised swirls, each one bursting with angry, un-replete energy, only to form more chaotic turmoil in its wake. Tiny bubbles join forces and become a barely visible white froth; snow peaks in an ever changing avalanche.
As I glance around me once again, I notice the steam escaping from my lungs in uneven bursts and the burning wet tracks on my face. I must be crying again. I hadn’t noticed and I don’t care. No-one does.
An impenetrable velvet screen fills the vista, my perception blurred and distorted; distance imperceptible. It reminds me of the black walled drama studio at college and its ‘black out’ curtains.
At night this park is a dangerous place to be, a home to muggers and rapists. No sensible girl would be here alone at this time of the evening, or any time when it was dark. However, over the past few weeks I had come to see the darkness as my friend. Instead of walking around the lit edge of the park I would march straight across the unlit area allowing myself to be swallowed by the silky blackness into oblivion.
At first, fear triggered vast surges of adrenalin, urging me to run back to the light and supposed safety. Now, emotional numbness blunts my instincts.
Initially I had rationalised my instinctive fear away by reasoning that if I could see no-one, no-one could see me. There are no hiding places for evil doers amongst the flat acres of grassland, only in the borders lined by glowing streetlights. Anyway, it’s half the distance to walk across the middle; therefore it must be half the risk.
The wooden footbridge on the edge of the park spans the river at one of its narrow points. It is barely ten feet across, yet much wilder here than in town, where the rich students punt and pose for perky breasted airheads who are much more impressed by a first class wallet than a first class degree.
Maybe if I had been cleverer, or richer, or blonder he wouldn’t have abandoned me for the girl with the red MG, swishing blond pony tail and generous allowance from Daddy. Maybe not…
I am drawn back again to the tumultuous water, whose calamitous noise blocks out the sound of the cars passing nearby, parallel to the river and pavement. Their headlights disturb me, hurting my eyes with stark reality and I look away. Just a few steps and I too could join the rest of the world, moving only forward, claiming my place amongst the pedestrians hurrying to their beds and chosen treadmills of life.
I am unusually warm, warmer than I have felt for a long while. The hypnotic power of the water has calmed and soothed my soul, making me feel something. I want to touch it, to reach out and feel the lie of its promised security, to bathe in its comfort.
I glance once more into the blackness behind me and to the lights next to me. I am sure now, just a few short steps and there will be no turning back.
Elizabeth Worlledge lives in Derbyshire