Emma’s getting sick, so she’s not sure at first if she wants to come to the poetry gig. We catch a bus up to Peckham and get me some fried chicken. It’s delicious and disgusting, crunchy and dripping with fat and I eat it on the platform while we wait for the train and it’s not ever really said but when Emma passes through the barriers behind me I guess I know she’s coming to the gig. When we find our way in the suburbs, we look in the front window and I can see Susie’s face glowing under her fringe at the back of the room, behind a group of people all facing the front window. It’s already started so we creep up the path, but the front light turns on automatically and it’s clear there’s no way we can avoid making an entrance. Susie lets us in and we watch the poets one by one, lulled in a sea of words broken by cigarette breaks and I eat too many pretzels from the snack table. It’s amazing stuff and I feel lucky to be here, like this is exactly where we’re meant to be. After the poets, we dance to hip hop for a while and drink some of Susie’s gin mixed with energy drink. I feel a little bit awkward because even though everyone is really nice, they’re also very talented and close to each other so I don’t quite know what to say other than that I liked their set or Drake is the only thing I can imagine dancing to right now. We get a taxi back to Peckham and go to a bar that’s in a massive artist-run warehouse thing that Emma tells me is filled with studios. We have to choose between Mod Rock or Hawaiian at the door. We choose Hawaiian. We drink Red Stripes and strip off millions of layers and dance like idiots and talk about how great it is when you see two friends dancing like they don’t give a fuck about anyone else in the room and even though I don’t know Emma as well as I’d like to yet, I think that sometimes we are probably those two friends sliding and jiving. Emma slips on someone’s spilled drink at one point and it’s amazing and hilarious. We sit outside for a bit and talk about love and life and families and I think about how far away the person I love is but am reassured that it’s temporary and reinvigorated by it, sitting in this courtyard surrounded by drunk students like nothing can touch us. We go back up to dance and it’s almost the end. Eventually the DJ gives us a shout-out when it’s completely empty except for us, ‘thanks to the two ladies still dancing,’ so we dance even harder and spin and laugh and send Jordan a video of me dancing so it’s almost like he’s here too. We sneak in to the Mod Rock night for the last two songs and then it’s all over and done and we are back out on the street, spilling with excitement and invigorated by our accidentally excellent night. We buy prawn cocktail flavoured chips for Emma and a Lion bar (which I’ve never tasted – it’s delicious) and a Twix for me from the window at the convenience store and start to walk home. The bus isn’t for ages, so it seems like a good idea to walk. Even this walk feels like an adventure. I like Peckham. I like London. I like hanging out with Emma. After we turn off the main street, I notice a guy walking behind us. I slow us down so he can pass. Eventually he does, but then he slows so much in front of us we pass him again. As we turn down the road to the park I’m sure he’s following us, so I tell Emma we should cross the road, putting my hand in my pocket to feel around for my clunky film camera. We do, and he follows us across the road. I pull my camera out of my pocket and wrap the cord around my hand. It’s the only thing I can think of to use as a weapon. I tell Emma to call her fiancé Pat, and she’s confused but gets her phone out. I turn again to check this guy and I see that he has his dick out above his trackpants, masturbating. I grab Emma’s hand and walk us faster up the road. When we turn again, he’s disappeared, presumably into the park. I tell Emma to call the police. We wait a bit further up the road and Emma tells the operator what happened. When we hang up, we start to walk home again. Soon enough a police car pulls up to us walking and we get in to have a look around the outskirts of the park for this guy. We give them the story again, and the police officers are really nice. I don’t know why I’m so surprised they came down so quickly, or how seriously they’re treating this but it’s reassuring. They drive us home when we can’t find him. We drink tea and sit on the couch and talk. When I finally curl up on my little cushion bed on the living room floor I’m terrified the windows are breaking.
At some point in the awkward haze of my adolescence
I am standing in the living room of the family home
And my mother is giving me The Sex Talk
Mostly befuddling medical jargon and technical names
And then, as I stare carefully at the ceiling
She pauses, softens and says
‘That is the closest that two people can get to each other.’
And while most of my attention is given to trying to sink into the floor
A tiny sliver of my heart jags, and I think:
Surely there must be closer. Surely there must be more.
Surely that can’t be enough.