There were no clouds that day. No way to remember it. Alone in the sky, the winter sun had melted ice from the treetops and everywhere was dripping. Snow had become slush. Walking home for the last time, I’d seen a waiter slip over with a bottle of wine. The snow had turned pink, which made a change from grey, and I’d helped him up while people around, people still with jobs, had stacked their skis and ignored him. Then I’d swept the glass into a prickly heap while he fetched another.
It was warm as well, too warm. Children were complaining, throwing hats on the ground and losing their gloves. Their parents, padded jackets over chairs, tried to ignore them but the kids were winning: there was more ice cream around than I’d seen for weeks. And more early beer. The bars were crowded, which meant the runs would be quiet and I’d wondered earlier about putting my own skis on. But in the end I couldn’t be bothered. I just went home.
The sun, low and hard, reached everywhere. Alone now in my room, with the buzz of the street below, I watched dust dance in the gap between the curtains I’d drawn and wondered where it went. Did it all reach the floor to be swept up, or did some float forever on the currents of air?
I wished I could float on air. It was cramped under the table and if I sat up I bumped my head. If I lay down, propped up on one elbow, I couldn’t see my photographs. But I was safe here. The table stood in a corner of my room and I’d put all the broken furniture against the sides, leaving only a gap at one corner. Then I’d switched off the light and crawled in with my torn-up pictures.
I wriggled round. There was some dust on the floor, heaped up where the table legs met the ground like tiny, grey snowdrifts. I ran my finger along one and wondered how I had missed it. I’d been paid to see the dust. Slowly, I pushed it into a corner, watching how the fluff held it all together and then wiped my finger on my hankerchief. It was already spoilt: I’d used it to clean some of the photographs before joining the pieces and the colour had peeled off at the corners. Bits of my twelfth birthday were just a smear on my hankie now.
I remembered that day well. It had rained too hard to go outside so I had photographed the clouds from my window. Black and aimless, they had matched my mood and I’d taken so many it was difficult now to fit the pieces. But they were important so I lined them all up between the table legs, not minding how long the jigsaw would take. I had nothing else to do.
And then I would wipe round the table legs; the room went with the job and when I was kicked out on Saturday it should at least be clean. But I knew now that it hadn’t just been a burglary: my room had been smashed up deliberately. So I sat under the table with the shreds of my life and wondered what I’d done wrong. Like I was twelve years old again.
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