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Paper Bodies: Paper Bodies

by carme about a year ago in Short Story · updated about a year ago
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First of a four story collection: “Thinking back, this was never a love story.”

Paper Bodies: Paper Bodies
Photo by Richard Dykes on Unsplash


Every year, around one hundred and fifty people commit suicide on the London Underground. One hundred and fifty, just as many as the number of rainy days in this country. On average, a person every three days takes a one-way train. Do you ever think about death, darling? Do you ever think about one-way trains? I think about them constantly. I’m thinking about them now, as I talk to you. Even now that you’re on a platform, too, that you're looking for me, and looking for me, and looking for me. Thinking back, darling, this was never a love story.


I wrote LOOK on one hundred and fifty pieces of paper, both sides of them, and I dropped them in the busiest London underground stations, in the dirt and dust left by strange shoes: fifty in King’s Cross, thirty in Waterloo, thirty in Holborn, twenty in Paddington, ten in Knightsbridge, the last handful in Green Park. I let them slip through the crowds: they soared, flying ballerinas, before they dipped elegantly, crouching to the ground. I kept telling myself: Wait, just wait, someone will see them.

I waited for a time that seemed as long as a century and short as the blink of an eye. LOOK, LOOK, LOOK, the floor kept screaming, as I waited, and waited, and waited, and cried for each of these small, insignificant pieces of paper asking to be picked up and read by someone, anyone at all, at least to be looked up, under the red stilettos and mocassins and sneakers leaving dirt in their wake. The papers got dirtier with each passing step, as I kept thinking about the one hundred and fifty people who had to have been trampled in the same way. Had they yelled to look, as they got stepped on? Had they screamed, in a thousand different ways, to be picked up? Outside, I’d passed a homeless man with dirty curly hair and an uneven beard, leaving him with the little spare change I had with me (I am sorry, am so sorry, on my minimum wage salary, I’m so sorry I can’t give you anything more) as he shivered, an autumn leaf crumpled on the ground, huddled in a foul-smelling duvet under the curtain of a shop, fading, melting like wet waste paper. So many people, lying on the floor, limp, dying. I cried because I was one of them.

Then, like a miracle, a hand reached out to me: I saw the fingers first, pink with cold, then the black edge of a coat, finally the rest of the arm, the body it belonged to, the person - the man - holding a piece of paper. Your hair was unkempt and was soaking wet. Do you remember, darling? It was one of those one hundred and fifty days of rain. Isn’t it such a weird coincidence, darling, that we could have met by chance in those other two hundred and fifteen days of powdery skies or beaming sun, among a flock of tourists in front of the golden gates of Buckingham Palace, that we could have have been sharing a table in a busy cafe, or that I could have bumped to you in Hyde Park, and yet that we met where people pass without seeing and being seen?

I remember you saying: I’m looking.

I hid my face in my hands. If it is true that it’s in the eyes that you read a person, I wish I could have been known for the first time as a good story and not as a heap of torn pages.

Thank you, I whispered, and thought: One hundred and forty-nine, for now one of those people had been picked up and looked at, for I had just been, finally, finally, finally - had you not looked, would I have been one of the other dozens, one of those jumping into the void, perhaps pushed by others, perhaps cast aside, perhaps torn apart by remorse, by regrets, one of those bodies damaged, destroyed, melting, wet, crumpled paper under a shoe?

To this day, I still wonder. Is it enough to be perceived once to grasp onto life?

Later that day, at a cafe, you asked why.

I thought: because I don’t know what else to do. Because one day I followed the crowd into a tube station and the sound of our rhythmic footsteps, small, orderly soldiers, was the sound of death. Because when I was ten I told my mother I hated her. Because I was twelve when I hurt myself for the first time. Because at fourteen I made love to the wrong guy.

Making love. That’s not right, is it? Such a peculiar expression. Not like its Italian counterpart, fare l’amore, where fare can just mean doing something. No, making, as if we made something with kisses and bites, as if we were powerful enough to create love itself, make it alive, build it and destroy it like a house. Tell me, is it not poetic enough to be heartbreaking? It was to me. It was the exact reason why I couldn’t do it anymore. For I had made many things - petty mistakes, friends whose heart I had broken, promises I had forgotten - and I had built even more, from castles in the air to paths I’d abandoned, and for I had done a lot of things, hurt and disappoint and deceive, but for I had never, ever, ever made love.

I said, and I remember that clearly: Because I am made of paper. Did you think I was crazy? Perhaps. But you nodded slowly, and asked me if I wanted anything.

I laughed as you frowned, confused. Had you said something funny? Something wrong?

I want to be heard I want to be seen I want to be beautiful I want to be visible I want to be free I want to be happy I want to feel something I want to make love I want to feel I want to feel alive I want to be happy I want to be real I want -

No, thank you, I said. I don’t want anything.


They call it the butterfly effect - a butterfly flapping its tiny, colourful wings in the United Kingdom causing a tornado miles and miles away, months and years later, somewhere in the United States. You loved these anecdotes.

You spoke to me about it one day, as we lay on my bedroom floor, in the uni halls, my books abandoned on the desk, your head lying on my stomach. I remember it clearly. You would usually ask me to talk about these small, interesting bits of knowledge -- because, you said, slender shoulders hunched, you didn’t understand fuck all about maths, physics, and biology. One day, you asked me about string theory. Another day, about antimatter. Sometimes even I didn’t know the answers, and when that happened you’d sense it, change the subject: Let’s talk about Cummings and Palahniuk and Tolstoj, because that you understood well enough, literature is easy.

When I read, you told me that day, I don’t feel alone, and you winked, And anyway I know all about the peculiarities of unhappy families.

You felt alone? My mind went back to December 31st, three months earlier, and I felt betrayed, mocked, belittled. I don’t know what had gotten into me that day - why I’d picked up one of your notes and approached you - why I felt compelled to show you that I was there and I was looking. That I had always been somewhere, even before I met you, so you had no reason to feel lonely. Your notes. Your handwriting, childish, made of round, cursive as (the shape of my old teachers’ plump beer bellies), yet ferocious, rage pouring in the push of the pen against the paper.

Do you know how much it weighs to have another person’s life in your hands? Do you know how much bravery it takes not to drop it?

Breathing deeply, I asked you: And you feel alone now? I don’t get it. I’m here. I’ve always been here.

You slowly got up and looked outside. Oh, look, you whispered, it’s raining.

I touched you, a gentle hand on your shoulder, and you jerked away. So I got up, too: I couldn’t stand to look at you, I needed to do something, anything, tidy my desk, yes, line my textbooks against the wall, throw away an old carton pizza box, move your coffee mug away from my sight. God, I hated these moments, when you wandered somewhere I couldn’t reach. Fucking hate distances, don’t I? I’d have preferred to have you miles away than unreachable and untouchable next to me. I’d rather not have you, than have you halfway.

You know, I said, shoving my calculator in the top drawer and slamming it shut, I hate it when you avoid my questions. No one makes me feel as much of a jerk as you do, d’you know that?

Why are you angry now?

Are you serious? Should I not be pissed off that you make me feel like a jerk?

What are you angry for? Are you angry because I make you feel like a jerk?, you asked, a little, derisive laugh, Or is it because you think I shouldn’t feel alone when you’re here?

The circles under your eyes were smeared ink on white canvas, the sweater you wore an unnecessary blanket. I still looked at you, and for what? You kept your red hair down. I wondered if you’d finally feel me if I ran a hand through it, if I got a good grip on it, if I just...

You looked out the window again, and that’s when you told me about the butterfly effect.

Do you ever think about the fact that we exist in other people’s lives?, you said. Do you ever think about all the tornadoes that we have caused, and that we continue to cause? Do you ever think about the words and lies that we speak, the texts we leave unread, the appointments we miss? Look, David. Do you ever think about how we can destroy another human being with a passing word, with some angry screaming, with a movement of atoms we barely noticed? Tell me, David. Because I think about it all the time. Every day. About the hurricanes I’ve caused. Don’t you?

I wondered, leaning against my desk, if you'd ever tell me where all that sadness came from. All that sadness I couldn’t chase away.

I love you, I said. I really do.

You smiled at me, a small, pitiful thing. I know you think that.

But I did. And your sadness destroyed me, too. Did you not think about that tornado, right there? If I could see you now, I would tell you this: I wouldn’t want you to think that I'm in love with you because trying to save you made me feel better. I loved you for your beautiful parts - the feeling of your fingertips brushing my arm, the excitement in your voice when you talked about your favourite movies, the beauty of your eyes, when they’re not drowned in sadness. I loved you when you told me about Lolita, and for the chocolate stains on your pyjamas, for the way you looked at me when you smiled, and the coffee smell you carried with you after a shift and left on my sheets, too. I loved you at that concert we went to, when you shouted an empty I love you to a singer who would never see you. My God, I was in love with you for so many things, and despite your many dark days. Even though I knew I was going to get hurt.

You finally admitted: I don’t feel alone, when I’m with you. Your voice was so small, I barely heard it: I don’t know how I feel with you at all. And that scares me.

You don't have to be afraid of me.

It's us I’m scared of, though. It’s different.

Tell me something, I said that day. I took your hands in mine. Please.


When we met, what did you mean when you said you are made of paper?

Oh, you said, it’s a stupid metaphor. You looked down, and for a moment I was thankful your bangs covered your beautiful, sad eyes. I couldn’t bear to see them. Really, just a metaphor. I read too many books.

So tell me the metaphor.

You sighed and said: We are bodies made of paper. We let others write names, dates, memories, promises on us. And, like paper, we let others throw us away. This is the stupid metaphor.

In my head, I traced all the lines of the stories people had left in writing on your body, on your hips, on your slender shoulders, small wrists. I wondered how deeply and how often others had written their stories on you: how many times they had covered you in letters and then erased you completely, covered and erased you, again and again, leaving you wrinkled, dirty, worn, paper in the hands of a fussy child.

I won’t write anything, I promised. But you scare me too. You’re beautiful and you scare me to death.

Another little laugh. Then you kissed me on the corner of my mouth, standing on your tiptoes. I know you think that, you conceded. But I can already see some of the words. And you laughed: You think I’m beautiful?

Frighteningly so.

How so?

Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll never find anything beautiful after you.

After that afternoon, you were careful. No tears. No nostalgic sighing, no angry sobbing, no screaming, and you kissed me, and kissed me, and kissed me, and I touched you, I touched you, I touched you. You were radiant, in the mornings, with your tangled hair, you were radiant under the moonlight, another precious star. After that day, I convinced myself you’d gotten better. That I had, finally, fixed you.


You taught me how to make love. Not its mechanic movements, because I’d learnt those the hard way: no, the joy of what came - ha! - after, the small sound of your rhythmic breathing, the sheets twisted around our legs, the silence of your empty flat and the silence, finally, inside me, too. You taught me to enjoy your mouth on my ear, the dirty, sweet things you said to me: that the universe began and ended with me, your fingertips pressed against my lips and your forehead against mine.

The first time we made love I sobbed against the pillow, biting it until it hurt, for how good it felt to belong to someone, even for just a few hours, for one night. I cried for the feeling of your sheets against my bare skin and the beauty of the rain against the window glass, and I cried because in this world where one loses themselves and everything else, perhaps a part of me would remain in that bed, perhaps even with you. I remember thinking how good it felt to cry of happiness for once - what a miracle it is to cry for the good things in a life where the bad wastes your tears day after day. As if you knew, you never stopped to ask me if I was okay.

One night, after, you were lying next to me, a mop of disheveled hair on your head, and you asked me - after a moment of hesitation I noticed, a sharp intake of breath - when and whom I’d lost my virginity too.

I watched you for a long moment, propped up on my elbows, before asking: Does it matter?

I just wonder… You trailed off, humming. It’s as if all your past experiences have been horrible. Have they? You cried the first time and I know it wasn’t a bad kind of crying. But I don’t understand.

I moved away. I don't want to talk about it, I said. It was all good until thirty seconds ago. Congrats on ruining it, I guess.

I just want to understand, you repeated. The first time, you were crying and then you asked me to…

Wow, I said. Wow. If untimeliness had a sort of magnitude on the Richter scale, yours could rattle the whole of California.

Why do you have to be so melodramatic all the time?

What do you care at all, David? Why does it matter? I had sex with the wrong people and for all the wrong reasons.

I care about all those who came before me, if this is how they hurt you. I need to know which scars I need to press my lips on.

The worst thing is, I believed you. I truly did, David. I had never believed that people could say such beautiful words in real life. I thought that this kind of romance - a love strong enough to hurt - only existed in books, in the words of people who could let them roll out of their tongue, out of their pen, instead of leaving them to rot in the pits of their guts.

God, I was so accustomed to pain that it was hard to believe the world could hide such small beauty, so many small, wonderful things hiding enormous happiness, and that these wonderful things could happen to me, too: the rhythmic sound of your breathing, the methodical order of your vinyls, the disgusting coffee you made in the mornings, your deep laugh, muffled in the small of my neck. I was so accustomed to being abandoned I couldn’t believe someone would ever keep me. How bad would I suffer loneliness, I wondered, once you left me?

That day I told you about the butterfly effect and asked you if you realised the magnitude of our every gesture, of the fact that everything we are and do, sooner or later, pours into others, I couldn’t help but think about what you were pouring in me - hope, compassion, kindness, future, humanity, warmth - and how much it would hurt later, when it would inevitably be over, when I would be emptied.

Love had never been a fair exchange for me: love had never been free and everything I had gotten, I had paid for dearly - every caress, every moment of honesty, every moment of vulnerability. I had taught myself to account for everything that could go wrong, to anticipate the pain that it would cause me. It was basic survival. Do you remember how much we fought over this, David? No dinner out was disinterested, no touch gentle and open. Everything was a trap, a way to set me up, get something out of me later on: to me, affection meant voluntarily serving your carcass to jackals.

I'll buy you a drink, you told me on our first date, So you can have sex with me later?, I replied, viciously, but you rolled your eyes and waved me off. On the second date, too, though we did have sex after -- not because you paid, I said as I pushed you on the bed, but because I want to, and you moaned and said: Yes, yes, yes, of course.

The more time we spent together, the more I felt I was falling in many more pieces that I could ever hope to pick up. A thousand times I held tears back, a thousand more I struggled not to leave myself hope. Why is he not going? I wondered. Why is he not leaving? I couldn’t believe a person could decide to stay with me.

We should go see that new horror movie, you said one day in May.

Isn’t it shit?

You shrugged. Does it matter? Let's go anyway. We’ll be together.

I know what you’re doing, I whispered. Do you want to touch me in the dark?

Jaw clenched, you ran a hand through his hair. You told me to fuck right off and added, spitefully: Sometimes I think you want to be unhappy because you’re too much of a coward to be well.

Then fucking go.

I will.

Please, go away.

Arms crossed, voice raised, you kept repeating that you were going to leave, but you never did. You never left. I was looking for the rip-off, the joke, the pain at every corner, ready as a boxer to parry every blow, yet the shots did not arrive. You stayed, with your silly photographs and your train tickets and our late night corner shop receipts. I began to hope that in a world where everything is lost, lighters and people and toys and time and chances, perhaps I would be lucky enough not to lose you.

I tried, my love, I swear, I really tried. You saw that, right? You saw how wide I smiled. You heard how genuine my giggling was when we were heading to the central line in Tottenham Court Road and you complained about the bloody tourists standing on the left. You noticed how relaxed I was when we rented two bikes in Hyde Park. You knew I didn’t cry anymore when we had sex, didn’t you? I was almost a different person, a new, healed one, so far away from the distraught body that had left paper notes on the tube. It was different. You saw it. You did. Didn't you?


The city was full of light, but it truly shone in your eyes. It shone in your glazed, drunk eyes tired after a night out, standing in a forest of city lights in Soho, and it shone in your eyes under the artificial, psychedelic lights of a nightclub in Shoreditch, and at sunset, when we crossed London Bridge and you almost shed a tear at the way London looked in that moment: at the dots of blue, green, yellow and orange lights along the river bank, bathed in golden sunlight.

You, who never saw beauty in yourself, were able to see it in everything else, and that gave you no peace. I struggled to follow your moods: how you could be the picture of happiness in the morning, then a hollow shell in the early afternoon, how you could let me make love to you one moment and then hate the sight of me the next. How stupid I had been to think I’d fixed you like a broken toy. That I had really done it, that I had succeeded.

We were in my room and you were reading a book, as you often would. Your red hair scattered on my pillow, your legs crossed, only covered by a hoodie you’d stolen from me, cuffed up to the elbows, shorts underneath, a pair of heavy, winter-fit socks. I remember thinking: she should see herself with my eyes, to understand how beautiful she is.

For whatever reason, my eyes fell on your hands. Isn’t it curious? I’d usually look at the curve of your neck, at your green eyes, your lips, but this time I look at your hands. Their dry skin, bitten nails, your knuckles…

What did you do to your knuckles?

You drew back immediately. Nothing, you said quickly. I haven't done anything.

Let me see, then. It doesn’t look like nothing.

I fell.

Do you think I’m dumb?

I managed to get a hold on your wrists as you flailed and kicked at me, a wild animal, yelling to let you go. I touched your scratched, bruised knuckles, truth hitting me fully, a punch in the guts.

Is that what I think it is?

It’s none of your business, is it?

None of my business? I shouted. You are my business! You’ve been my business ever since I met you, and I didn’t bring flowers to my sister’s grave because I decided to save you. On the anniversary of her death.

Fuck you, you bit out. I didn’t ask you to save me, I hate you, I hate…

You didn’t ask? I said, in a low voice. Look, you wrote in those papers. Look. And I looked. And for what, Claudia? Have I not been good to you?

How could I not have seen? How many times had I looked at your naked body, not seeing, not realising? How could I have been like everyone else again? Your birdlike dinners and your mood swings, camouflaged by a handful of good days, the way you bowed to my requests and said yes, yes, yes, pleasing me, pleasing me. This was a nightmare. I hated you, too, for deceiving me, for leading me on, for…

Please, you whispered, let me go. You’re hurting me.

I let go, as if burnt, and you asked: Why does it matter so much to you?

Why, Claudia? Because I’d always loved with superficiality, as if everything was given and owed me. Because I’d never been interested in other people’s lives, always focused on myself, me, me, me, my life, my studies, my ambitions, my exams. The physical laws and the certainties of science. Because I had realised too late, years ago, when my sister had swallowed one too many pills, and there was nothing left to understand except that she was dead, gone, forever, that science hadn’t helped. The books said that depression was a chemical imbalance, and if that were true, how could I have not spotted that imbalance before everything fell apart, before it became a collapsing building, rubbles and ruins? The flight of a butterfly. The flapping of wings.

You said: It’s not your fault.

I said: Then, a mere few months later, you came into my life, and gave it a meaning again. You were the person I could save from the tornado. I can’t let you do that to me, Claudia, I added. You can’t give up after all I’ve done for you. And if I go - who will stand by you? I’m all you have. Didn’t you say that? How could you do this to me too?

For a moment, I even thought: Maybe there are people who don't want to be saved. Perhaps it was useless to reach out, if you had no intention of grabbing my hand.

I thought: Maybe we simply can't heal people and we can only hope to make the pain more bearable.

I thought: Perhaps your paper body has been torn in more pieces that I can put back together on my own.

But no, no, no. Absolutely not. You were mine. You needed me. I couldn’t afford to lose hope.

You cried into my shoulder, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll get better.

It was hell afterwards. I checked your every meal, forced food down your throat if needed be, all because I loved you. Yet you kept slipping away, lost in a place inside yourself I could not reach. When we were together, all we did was shout at each other. I’d have to grab at your shoulders and shake you, hoping that would wake you up.

You’d just burst into tears. Sorry for being such a disaster, sorry, sorry, sorry. Sorry I’m sad, sorry for not understanding where this sadness comes from, I’m sorry you’re not enough, either, you deserve better, you do, David, better than me.

You don’t need a doctor. You have me, I would say into your hair, you have me. But I cannot lead a failing mission, do you get that?

I grabbed you harder, hoping that could anchor you. I grabbed you harder, and harder, and harder. It was never hard enough.


We were in bed when you said you hated me. I asked why and you said: Because you still don’t want to be okay. So we made love again, and again, and again, Until you’re better, you’d breathe into my neck, biting the soft skin hidden there, exploring all hidden corners of my body, the sharp hills of my hips and the space between my thighs, Until you’re better.

When you finally snapped: You know what I think, I think that flatmate of yours never liked me and she’s poisoning your perception of me, I looked back at our conversations - at the way she criticised the way you talked and moved and walked and touched me - and I agreed, and stopped talking to her. I listened when you told me to leave my hair down more and to cover the circles under my eyes, you’re so pretty, you said, such a pity, and when you said that my clothes didn’t suit me, I bought new ones even though I was broke. I did everything I could to make me better. You saw that, didn’t you? Didn’t you?

You brought me out to dinner and I ate a little, just a little, because you’d done so much for me and I owed you. You asked, in a restaurant: When did it start?, and I shrugged: I don’t know, a small, white lie. You’re lying, you said, gripping the edge of the table. Stop lying.

Make love to me, I whispered, leaning over the table, let’s go home and make love to me there.

Answer me first.

I want to feel you, I said, my foot searching your legs.

Claudia, just fucking eat something.

Are you angry?

No, you said. Not unlike other men in my life, the lie was betrayed by your clenched jaw, the white-knuckled grip on the cutlery. I knew it well, the fury of men. I don’t know what I am, you added, only that I love you.

I was fourteen, I said then. I said it over a bowl of pasta, of all things: I had a boyfriend who was older, and one morning I woke up and I had slut written right where my panties should have been. When I came home, my mother’s very own boyfriend found me crying. And by the end of the day, I had two boyfriends. This is how it started, David. In silence. In my experience, it is how it always starts. Silence brews violence. Tell me, I say in the end, has it helped?

I was lovely, my older boyfriend would tell me, and all I wanted to be, after that was, beautiful: I wanted to be beautiful, because that was the only way to exist -- being beautiful, as not to be invisible, being perfect, because I had little control over anything else. I wanted to be so many things I yearned to die - so I decided to be a blank sheet, one to be filled as they pleased, to be used as they wanted. But nothing worked. I moved abroad. I no longer lived in that house. I had every reason to be happy. So why did sadness have teeth, why did it still tear me to shreds?

And how could I tell you all of this, when you told me the same? It only hit me then. How could I tell you that I wanted to be a good story, rather than the scribble of a child, a good story instead of black sharpie word almost between my legs, when you also called me beautiful? When I’d let you write me and write me and write me and make me the doomed sister you couldn’t save?

In the end, I broke it off. It doesn't work, I told you over the phone, still convinced that the only thing that didn't work between us was me. I thought it would be less painful, to say goodbye myself. But you wouldn't let me. I hadn’t known, but love is a boomerang. You always came back. In strangers. In our places. In all corners of London. On rainy days. In phone calls at night. More than one night, you shouted my name from the street and banged at my door for hours, until my flatmate called the police. You came back at all costs, always in different forms: you came back, and you came back, and you came back.

We are like two planets of the same system, I told you again.

I’d just refused to meet you, after my flatmate had convinced me. She looked straight at me from the corridor, spooked, flinching every time she heard your voice. You had been shouting over the phone and a scarf you’d bought for me lay at my feet, discarded.

I said again: We spin together, but distant enough that we’ll never touch. Don’t you understand I’d ruin your life if I touched you? That I already did? I don’t know why I ruin everything I touch, why this sadness is a disease infecting everything over and over and over, why I cannot contain it to only affect me. Believe me, I would have destroyed myself a thousand times if that could have kept you unhurt.

I don’t love you, I said finally, crying, asking myself where all this love could end, if it is true, as the physical laws say, that nothing disappears in a closed system like ours. Maybe it turns into grudges. Perhaps in hatred or indifference. I didn’t know whether I would have preferred to think of myself as hated or as forgotten. But I decided to lie to you, and tell you I felt nothing, rather than admit that I felt everything, everything, everything, and, on top of everything else, that I felt the need to get rid of the waste paper that had taken the place of my body.

Don’t do anything dumb, is the last thing you said to me. Shouted. Or, by God, I will kill you myself.

Her, him.

You’re not shouting. Your calm is chilling. Still, I say:

“Stop calling me.”

“Where are you?”

“King’s Cross.”

“I'm on my way. Don’t cry. Stop crying.”

"I'm sorry if you hate me now. "

“I don't.”

“You’d have a right to. I’m just as bad as they said.”

“No, listen. We are nothing more than stories. Like stories, we change according to who’s telling the tale. You will never be bad in mine. You are human. You made mistakes and that's okay. It’s alright. I cannot live without you.”

“I asked for professional help. I’ll get better."

“No, you only need me. Where are you?”

“I’m moving back to Italy, David. Soon.”

“No, you aren’t. Let’s meet and talk.”

The line falls. You text me: “Where are you?”

I write back: “I'm on the Northern line”

“Where on the Northern line? Which direction?”

“Northbound, but it doesn’t matter.”

“I love you.”

“The train is coming.”


I take a note out of my pocket. It still reads: LOOK.

I get other texts. I picture them flying around me, handwritten on thousands of paper notes

twirling like leaves in the wind

like dust,

and now the train is coming,

the air sends my hair flowing over my face, in front of my eyes.

I take a step forward, above the mind the gap,

above London screaming at me to pay attention to the void

clutching the note in one hand

my ringing mobile in the other

I can almost see you rush down the escalators,

cursing the tourists standing on the left

I picture you running towards the platform

searching, stalking,

looking for me,

perhaps you’re already there.

Here at Paddington,

there is a light at the end of the tunnel

a man yells at me to be careful

I look at the rails

I picture all the people on this platform

twirling like leaves

falling into a spiral

like weightless paper

bodies like mine

used and forgotten

paper bodies


moved by the

current of the train

as dirty as waste paper,

as dirty as this old note of mine,

that now lies on the rails

under this train

mere inches from my nose.

I almost hear you calling my name

but I take a step back

and decide to write


The doors slide open.

Short Story

About the author


Living in London. English is my 2nd language.

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