‘Wow,’ she said, turning. ‘Wowww,’ she exhaled, craning her head, taking it all in. ‘Wow,’ she repeated. Buildings reared. The wind breathed coldly and fresh on her skin. Traffic rumbled. Everything had changed.
The breeze tugged at her skirt, whipped her hair across her face, chilled her arms, brought out tears that ran softly down her cheeks. I’ve been in that tower so long, she told herself, that this breeze, and these sights … her thoughts became manifest as a simple exhalation, Wow.
She walked around the square, looking into windows, reading signs, reading graffiti, seeing everything anew.
‘First edition?’ a news vendor asked her from his stand, and the shock of this unbidden conversation made her jump a little; she controlled herself, told him ‘No, thankyou’ and walked on, exhilarated. She felt could have kissed him.
7.04 am. Glancing up from her watch, she saw herself reflected in the blacked out windows of a wine bar. No longer the raky nineteen year old that she remembered standing in this very street a decade or more earlier; little more than a child then, in her heels and slip dress. The person she saw reflected now was a woman, with curves and experience, and pale skin and waist length hair, and a smile that grew wider as she greeted herself.
‘Hello you,’ she said to her reflection, asking, ‘Where you been?’ and then laughing out loud as it mouthed a whispered reply; inside. Elated, she took out her phone and rang Michael. ‘I’m out.’ she told him, glancing around her as she spoke.
‘Righteous,’ he murmured, sleep and a heavy night making his voice drop an octave.
‘And it’s great,’ she confirmed.
He sat up in bed, was genuinely pleased for her, ‘Finally did it, huh? Finally beat the little demon.’ He wanted to say, ‘Take it easy, huh?’ but he held his counsel. No negatives. Not at this moment.
She felt reckless and calm and strong, asking, ‘You got someone with you?’
‘Hmmm,’ he acknowledged, straightening up in his bed, trying not to wake his partner. ‘Do you want to meet up later?’ he asked her, ‘Before I go to work, maybe?’
‘No. I want to meet other people,’ she told him, thinking, people who don’t make appointments. People who aren’t on salaries. But then she felt bad, he’d never turned her away, ‘Well, ok, maybe, yeah,’ she said, ‘Why don’t we meet for a coffee?’
‘Phone me in an hour, after I’ve showered, and when you’ve had some more fun.’
‘And you,’ she challenged, the smile clear in her voice.
‘Call me to let me know where you are,’ he said.
She laughed again, laughed out loud, looking around as she did, ‘I don’t really know where I am. Or where I’ll be.’
‘Hey, I’ve got news,’ and he chuckled softly, ‘that’s how most people are, most of the time.’ His tone smiled through the phone, echoing her happiness, ‘You’ve had it easy. Speak to you in an hour.’
‘Yeah,’ she said, and rang off, looking around the streets again.
She felt like she wanted to speak to someone new; questions of simple human interaction began to clamour for her attention: who to speak to; what to say; how to choose the right words; and sitting amongst these thoughts was a little voice; vanity. The desire to attract. That would be nice, she thought and she looked back at her reflection one more time; loose skirt and sleeveless top, running shoes. She’d worn running shoes for ten years, and never gotten anywhere.
I should work on my appearance, she told herself.
She looked at her phone again, flicking through her numbers. Who can I speak to about clothes? she thought. And about my hair. I need to cut it. Cut it short. She walked around for a while longer, until she found outside a café. Her legs were feeling heavy and tired now; her lungs were burning with exertion. Her heart beating hard and fast inside her chest, making itself felt.
I thought I’d lost you a long time ago, she told it.
She pushed the café door and went inside. Behind the counter a young man turned and she saw that he was wearing a badge that told her his name was Sam and he was a barista.
This café smells gorgeous, she thought, her heart slowing a little. ‘Hello Sam ,’ she said, studying the menu, saying, ‘I haven’t drank good coffee in ten years. What would you recommend?’
Sam smiled, ‘That long, eh? You’ve been away?’
‘All locked away.’
‘You must be thirsty;’ he said.
‘I am very thirsty.’
‘Ten years without good coffee can do that.’
‘We’ll start you easy, then,’ he said, kindly. ‘A latte.’
She thought for a moment ‘Latte?’
‘And it’s on the house,’ he told her, motioning toward the clock, ‘We’re not even open yet.’
She blushed, apologetically, ‘You’re very kind, Sam . ‘
‘Well, welcome back,’ Sam said, as though it was obvious thing; to be kind.
‘I’m glad to be here,’ she replied.
Sam switched on the radio as he prepared her drink. ‘What’s your name, by the way?’
‘Rapunzel,’ she said.
‘Aah,’ he said, understanding dawning on him. ‘The tower, right?’
‘Your hair,’ he said, ‘I should have guessed.’
‘I’m going to cut it short,’ she said, tugging at it dismissively. ‘Now that I’ve escaped.’
‘Well, that’s right. You don’t need it now, do you?’
She shook her head. ‘No. I don’t need it.’