Josefina Huq (RMIT University, Australia)
It’s another cold night, and wet enough for the fallen orange leaves to get stuck to her boot. She slips a little, but keeps balance, walks onwards. It might rain again in a moment, but she is warm and snug in her new coat; big and orange like the leaves, and makes her look like a macaroon with legs. She fantasises about attending future events with it; taking it off clumsily to sit down for a pizza dinner, rolling up the sleeves to check her watch. She has plans and desires pizza, and in this way she is me and you.
She arrives at the corner of a park, the big flat one between her home and the city. Cutting through it will make her walk shorter, and she’s more comfortable here than the back streets that lead to her door. She comes here to pick at cake, drink café-bought cappuccinos from her chipped mugs. Sitting in the sun, desperate for it during the winter time, grass stains on jean pockets and balancing secret beers in plastic cups on her nose with the gang. Every now and then, there’s a dog she enjoys looking at, and sometimes, dogs that are too small and shriveled to waste time on. And the one time she saw one off their leash, thick and running into a group of girls at the other end of the path. But the good boy slows down, sniffs carefully around their socks, waits for pleasant pats before licking. He smiles in the way dogs do, unsure of whether it means happiness.
She is careful. Always with her headphones half-off so she can half-hear, her car and house keys looped to a whistle that she holds loosely within her big pocket.
A message lights up the inside of the pocket:
Ay come home already
Maya is waiting, having decided to cook lasagna for the first time. She hurries her walk and starts to feel sweaty in the coat. She imagines getting home, folding it onto the table, kicking her boots off, bouncing to the kitchen, wrapping arms around, catching breath, her cold face becoming animated by hot waves of tomato vapour from a pot.
When it starts raining again the drops are thin and cold. She puts her hood on and smiles at herself in her phone camera. She takes a photo of her puffy, orange crown. She sends it to Maya.
Thinking of all the times she has passed this park, without knowing it, before she moved here. Imagining Maya attending free yoga sessions on foggy mornings, unaware of the love to come. The time that was lost not knowing her, not knowing this place. The confidence she gained, being able to walk through it, through the city, between the tall buildings that could squash her, but never do.
There’s a woman singing a soft song through her headphones. She smiles down at the pavement, thinking of the last time she heard it: walking that ghostly part of the city, where everything is sticky and there are lost souls everywhere. Getting away from it, the things dwindling until there were only traces of rain scent and sounds of far-off motors. Once the buildings had fallen away she could see the moon, and she gasped quietly. Thin and yellow and floating on its side – like a cookie in a spill of black milk.
When she gets there the house is still. Maya looks at her from the couch, an embarrassed smile. She has not made lasagna, but the pizza is only twenty minutes away, and look! I got you pepperoni with barbecue sauce! She falls into the couch smiling, the coat still on and suffocating the both of them with warmth.
Josefina Huq is a creative writer and PhD candidate based in Melbourne. She is interested in crafting short stories about place, home, memory, nostalgia, and anything else that might make you upset. Her research attempts to justify this as a good thing. She is currently a member of the non/fictionLab research centre at RMIT University and was recently a 2019 Hot Desk fellow at the Wheeler Centre.