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Guardian Angel of the River (A Story)

It is night and the river cuts a dark path through the orange sodium lamp glow, east of the city. Its unusual blackness swallows the reflections tonight and it pulls at my soul.  I am drawn closer as I fight the alcohol fuzz in my head. The blur tells me the water is flat and I feel like I am looking deep into the pupil of a cold eye. The sense I have is of the blackness being a thing yet nothing you can touch.  A black hole whose secrets elude until you step in.  I move my scuffed leather boot forward and feel the damp from the concrete soak through a hole and into my sock.  As I go deeper the ice cold is apparent and I become aware of tidal sounds that belie the flatness.

Eight hours before it was the usual Friday after work lock-in.  Out came the wine and spirits in plastic tumblers, off came the work clothes, almost all the clothes in Gabby’s case, as she unashamedly peeled her tights off, singing raucously, in the middle of the office floor like a child.   All with the blinds up and visible from the street and all before she had touched a drop of booze.  Dan came back from the bathroom, in an even tighter outfit than his work suit and more make-up on than the girls.  I have never changed for a night out.  Sandy emerged a goddess, seeming not to notice my stare.

Later, at the club, once carnage had descended to replace inhibition, it struck me how alone I felt, yet posing for a photo with Gabby perched on my left thigh, Sandy on my right, both with arms draped round me, the three of us toasting with our shots.

My right foot is soaking.  I shiver as the world spins.  My body isn’t cold on the outside.

I remember drinking and dancing and having fun.  I remember feeling hopeless, and despairing.  I don’t remember anything between.  I looked around and wanted to leave the club. On my own. I am thirty-five and don’t tell people things.  There is no point.  Everyone loses their loved ones.  Everything will be OK. We are all alone.  I’m not unhappy but I can swim and keep going until everything stops. Just swim. Not stop.

“Hello?”

A woman’s voice a distance behind.

“Are you all right?” She sounds concerned.

I lift and turn my head.  There is grass and an empty square with trees bathed in orange.  A block of flats behind.  Quiet, lights off. Still. No one there.

I climb the steps back onto the path. All quiet.

“Hello?” I shout.

No reply. No one.

And I walk. Just walk. Not stop.

Picture courtesy of www.thetelegraph.co.uk

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