Wait a Little Longer
The mercury soars.
Heat bounces off faded wallpaper, traps itself beneath the ceiling, fills the room from above.
The scene beneath the window plays tricks. The sky was blue, but the evening's turned it saffron-terracotta; the light blaring white, bleaching the roads, footpaths; stark shadows cast against the facade of terraced old houses. Alternating sulphur with hot-coals-black. Windows catch the last of the light, stream it and distort it like glowing ribbons. The blur of heatwaves, the haze that sets over it all. Becoming unreal.
She runs her fingers through her hair, catching on tangles, bulldozing through them. She blows the lock of hair that falls over her forehead out of the way. It billows, flutters, comes down again where it started.
She can't help herself, can she?
A clock reads 7:09.
And she can't help it. She doesn't even know she's doing it. Sometimes. These figures whose shadows make them seem black-skinned, charred; whose shadows melt and spread against the concrete; whose skin seems sometimes lemony, sometimes baked like new bricks. She can imagine them like sticks, brought to life, bundled up into narrow, bipedal shapes, ordered to go shuffling up this hill. Tired and generic; shopping bags hang from elongated arms. Heat from the footpaths drawing them towards the ground like magnets.
She shakes her head at herself. She thinks: stop it. But her eyes keep scanning the street. She's looking for him. Each stick-figure, hung with colour, topped with lank, sweat-tamed hair – a cap or two, a straw hat circled with a creamy, lacy scarf. She checks them for his shape, for his size, for his walk. Distant silhouettes fade onto the cityscape – she squints at them, trying to see him, wanting to see him.
His text just said: I'm sorry Jenny. I don't think I can do this anymore.
Minimalist. That'd always been his style.
She's saved it - though it's printed on her memory, and she knows it won't fade.
Just yesterday: he would have been coming home now, hiking this urban street; cooking in its reflections of sunlight. Just yesterday she might have seen him, might have been able to lean on the windowsill, chin rested on knuckles, tracing his slow path - smilingly, knowingly. Just yesterday he'd have been almost home by now.
She closes her eyes. She'll just wait here a little bit longer.
A clock reads 7:15.