Stockholm Syndrome

The year comes to its close as it always does but it’s been unlike any other, as we’re so tired of hearing. I sit outside on the black iron steps that lead up to my flat, chewing the sleeves of my big jumper in the dark. The cold pinches at me where a person could be. If I think hard enough, I could be on a fire escape of a New York town house. I wonder if it’s this quiet there too. I see stars behind tendrils of thin cloud; a barren, unlit rooftop bar awkwardly exposed, like an overgrown teen ahead of his peers; and a static crane – a protruding beacon of gentrifying grotesqueness – looming over rubble and flattened land. All new and abandoned places look the same to me; indirect signs of life without the warmth of a beating heart. The Peckham Palms sign glows like a surrogate moon in its green neon buzz; the colour that tastes like a Toxic Waste. There’s no skyline but it’s the place I start each day if I choose to leave the house within my limited means. Everything I need is in those four walls. Who’d have thought it. There is uncollected rubbish spilling on the pavement that I feel a collective shame for but I guess like most places these days this backstreet has no audience and the bin men are taking it easy. I hear them at night when I'm in bed. What were we performing for? A pipe beside my head exhales in a rush and then a gentle whisper and a single plane glides northeast overhead. A motorcycle – Deliveroo, says the reflective glint of the silver and blue jacket – haunts up the street and fades away as quickly as it came, as the red light disappears into the darkness it blinked from. I picture the happy recipients it’s on its way to. A fox appears from the silence of a dustbin’s shadow. It picks at a stray chicken bone out of hunger – or boredom – and briefly clocks me. It looks at me like I’m something that needs nothing. Then it disappears again to the city’s corners. In a lit window of a high-rise building I see a couple looking in different directions over dinner, not speaking. I wonder if it’s silent, or perhaps a radio or TV is playing in the background, muted by the glass and out of reach. I listen to a playlist a friend made and sent to me and I add the songs to my monthly playlist. One of them is a song I haven’t heard for a long time, but it fits the moment perfectly. It reminds me of someone old and new. A simple satisfaction, like the recognition of a friend in a street. I miss my friends and I ache to hear my family again. It’s not the same over the phone. It’s a good day for housework, I had thought to myself at the sink. The kind of day that you only need what’s in front of you and for what’s not there you don’t look up to ask. Clean the house so you don’t have to clean the house. Do the thing so you don’t have to. I wonder at what point I became a person who thinks these things. This is how time passes. I fantasise about the places I’ll go after all this, or the things I might do and the people I want to meet, but the fabric frays at a seam I have stitched to oblivion and I remember that I would – still – be me. I’m afraid of what my fears are now, in case I’ve forgotten them. Maybe to feel so impossibly small in a world that can feel so incomprehensible, to find peace in the moment of being still and safe and to hold this delightful cup of tea, is all quite enough.