When the swallows have run, the sky is darker, tender in the chugging glow of clouds under sodium. Our embers tinge the hug of night, tinge the fat drops of autumn rain, tinge the grunt of buses, and the queues of names waiting to find a home. The doorways from the bus shelters, the corner offices, the trains, are dripping with acceptance, with anxious contentments, with weary stresses carried in holdalls and briefcases, laptops and purses. There is a street; a figure scurries in slow motion; there is a flicker before a window, the window of a terrace. A celestial angel sits faceless inside, white glowed by a television. I am on the street; I look in; you are home.
I was not able to decide if you are an alien or an angel. I ask you sometimes when we grapple in the dark. You say you are both, and then I sleep, deeply, forgetting what words mean.
London is a drug and should be banned. In its red buses, sweeping past corner shops and high streets are trapped the heavens, hell, and earth. We cannot escape the bricks, the parks, the pubs, and the stations; under bridges are trolls. In my kitchen is an angel, over there a flower girl, there an elf made old. We age as London grows immortal.
Inside: “I am becoming invisible.”
I look at her; she has been shedding invisible tears. “I can still hold you.”
have been putting on more makeup.”
Where she has been crying, there are translucent streaks; she is a crystal in the dark.
“You are always beautiful.”
“Even when you cannot see me?”
She wraps me in her wings. She is warm. I bathe in the glow of the television. She nuzzles my neck.
“Do you know how gentle it is to be with a man who does not care if I have fallen?”
She only asks me ridiculous questions sometimes.
“Have we got any food?” This is a rhetorical question.
“It is really great; you are really great; I have baked beans. I know English people like baked beans.”
I sigh. One day I will ban her from the kitchen; first I am trying to get her to understand what food is.
Angela is not here because she is in love with me, although she is. She is here because she once went to a careers’ advisor; before she could get an appointment, she was told she had to do a test on the computer and print off the results. It said she should consider being a hair dresser, so she did. She told the advisor that he had to become a priest. He perspired slightly and was polite. It seemed like a fair exchange.
I do not like to criticise a machine that had a particular view of what having zero GCSEs, good communications skills, and an eye for presentation meant. Happiness is what you make it. Being an angel can’t have been that great if baked beans are quite that exciting. Her attitude to sex is also very encouraging; but obviously you have to look after someone that innocent.
I draw the curtains. This is not about sex; it is about peace, eating it with my baked beans.
I do the baked beans on toast. She watches the toast click in the old stainless steel toaster with a held breath. Respectfully, I open the beans, pour them into a bowl. I warm the sacrament in the microwave.
“What happens to the baked bean cans?”
“You can rinse them and put them in the recycling.”
She looks unconvinced. I carry out the task. It is funny, the things she doubts.
“What happens to them then?”
“They are supposed to be melted down and reused.”
“You don’t refill them?”
I remember the time I went for drinks after work, stayed a bit late, ended up smelling of tequila. I said, sorry I am late, I was practicing my shots. She said I looked tired after such a long game. She looked much less convinced when I tried to explain in the morning that I wasn’t ill.
I look at her; I love her. The magnolia walls are poised under the strip bulb; her white jeans, pale skin and white top all look grey. The microwave pings.
“The washing machine gave me a new outfit.”
“I can see.”
“Do you like it?”
“Normally we wash whites and colours separately.”
“Do I have to?”
“No, you don’t have to.”
I look at her beans on toast. I wonder if I should cut it up.
We sit down at the Ikea pine table. I eat. She examines it.
“I am not sure about your cooking.”
“I could have used a pan?”
“Can’t you steam the toast. Steaming is supposed to be more healthy.”
“You don’t steam bread, babe.”
We sit in silence for a while and then she begins to gently sing. She does it beautifully, mixing songs and tunes. After a while I get up and do the dishes.
She has not eaten half. Perhaps she is singing a ballad in Latin.
She drifts into the other room and the singing subsides.
I turn to see her reading a book on the sofa. She looks calm and happy. She looks up and smiles. I stand there grinning. I am now also calm and happy. Keep calm and carry on I think, keep calm and carry on.
The sofa cuddles; I sit with the Evening Standard. I casually read the paper while stroking her right wing; she gently prods me with her foot when she thinks I am taking liberties. After a while, she kisses me. It is time for bed.
clean my teeth, I look in the mirror. It is another grey hair. “I have another grey hair.”
“It makes you look distinguished.”
“I have another grey hair.”
“I only know how to dye womens’ hair.”
“Will that stop you going invisible?”
“Do you want me to have a fake tan?”
“No – translucent is special.”
“Yes – it means I love you the way you are.”
“So it is okay if I become invisible.”
“I still think it would be good if you tried eating more.”
“I didn’t used to eat at all.”
“I know, but eating is good.”
“It smells nice, but swallowing is weird – I can’t get used to that going inside you sensation. You eat so much, I am not sure you would be able to fly.”
“I don’t have any wings.”
“I keep forgetting that.”
“You keep forgetting that I don’t have wings.”
“I don’t think of you as someone missing anything.”
“I suppose I don’t really need wings. We have aeroplanes nowadays.”
“Yes, I like you as you are without wings. You are special too.”
“Are you laughing at me?”
“No, I just want to kiss you.”
“I like that.”
Sleeping with an angel is a private affair, but afterwards, if I am lucky, I will dream that we are together, sleeping in each other’s arms. It is all I wish for.
2 thoughts on “The Angel of London by 2011”
“she is a crystal in the dark.”
2011, I totally have a crush on your writing and I’ve missed it. This story is soft, sad and as light as it is told, is like a crushing weight with the last words “It is all I wish for.”
Willy Nelson had this story in mind — whether he knew it or not — when he wrote An Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground. Gave one of those, feelin’ the blues, but feelin’ good too, moods for an evening. Thanks.