when i drive through country roads
in the dark or in the daylight
sometimes i see a glimmer
in the rear-view mirror
and i think it is you
other times i see you unexpectedly
in the menswear department
or in the meat aisle picking
over the bones of what used to be
selecting a steak to take and devour
rare. i see you at work, in the bubbles
of the water tank, but when i turn round
nobody is there. i miss the stolen moments
in the stationery cupboard; watching your face
in the half-dark, i thought i could see something else.
when i stare too long at my own face
in the bathroom mirror, it begins to morph
into yours, and i must put down the razor
before i do something silly, or worse,
earlier that day, i had been to the doctors.
swung my legs on the wipe-clean chair
bare thighs sticking to the vinyl. had to peel
myself off when she called my name. she
told me the news, and i had to decide what
to do. no rush she said. i scoffed. it was the
heatwave then, britain’s hottest summer
since records began. the world was all beige
and brown and orange then. earth tones.
she smiled at me, mirthless, that well-oiled bedside
manner seeping through. i said i’d need time
i walked through the half-empty high street
everyone was at the beach, or the lido. i tried
to buy an ice-lolly, but raj’s was clean out, and
so was the co-op. i sat on the green bench
in the middle of the shopping centre, sweltering
under the skylights. watched the women wade
the men were all in beer gardens or the dank
there was a half-life swimming in me. i imagined
myself swelling, my belly distended and never mine
again. i retched, quietly. ran. to just behind the cinema
my hands on cool rough stone, and gagged up
my cheese and ham sandwiches. i knew
this was the silver cross
i’d chosen to die on.
that night, i went back to my dressing room. flicked the
mirrorlight through day, office, evening. coated myself
in greasepaint, beige and brown and orange.
linoleum corridor, through to the stage. sat on the same
chair and went through the same lines. stood behind
the red velour curtains, cut-off and connected, and waited
for the lights to blind me. couldn’t let this baby bind me
i was selfish. i know. still, the world’s full of grey areas.
i tuck my grandchildren into bed
in the recent rainbow heatwave
and thank god i waited.