it’s easy to die in the city

by Charlotte Amelia

it’s easy to die in the city
if the smog of a thousand
exhaled hopes and dreams doesn’t
suffocate you first
then maybe you’ll be blindsided
waking up one day at forty
with nothing to show for it all
(all of it, the chewed up nails
the mornings you woke up and couldn’t remember
how you got home
the boys the girls the hope that someone
somewhere would love you)
and you’ll look in the mirror
and realise that
well, shit
it wasn’t supposed to end like this
with cigarette stains on your fingers
and the nosebleeds from too much too much
(not enough, never enough to numb not completely)
the city flaunted itself like a teenage dream
wrapped itself around you like a lover
built itself around you like a home
stripped you of your colour
dried you out, a husk of who you were
(your lips pale and dry, you keep buying more chapstick
but you’ve never finished a tube, does anyone ever finish a
tube of chapstick, you wonder, as you pluck another tube off
the shelf under fluorescent lighting that makes your skin
yellow and corpselike)
you love this city, this beating breathing rabid beast
it takes twenty years
twenty years and the sweet whisper of a reminder
that it stood before you toddled
it shivered before you stepped off the platform at liverpool street
everything you owned in a suitcase you had to half-drag behind you
renting a flat with four other people
each so sure that the city was theirs, when you knew
that it was yours, it was, it was, it bled for you this city
and you’d marvelled that it was never truly dark and you’d
marvelled and you’d marvelled
it takes twenty years, i tell you
before you start to miss the green, the yellow, the blue
before you start to hate glass and steel and walking slightly too fast always
before you start to miss the stars
you’ve loved this city
you’ve given it everything, every last drop
and when you exhale
and you don’t quite recognise your face any more
it was worth it, right?
for the briefest moment
for the nights when you were young and danced and kissed and sang
it takes twenty years to fall out of love
and even then –
when you break apart your flatpack furniture and pack your books
(coffee table editions bright photography you’ve never actually read them but they look like the sort of thing you might read if you had more time)
you’ll look around
exhale
inhale
exhale
it’s not goodbye, not really
just –
it’s not giving up
it’s –
it’s –
it’s a train ride
and then a breath of salt sea air
it’s the sand between your toes
it’s nowhere to go and no need to
it’s the sun on your skin and the waves lapping at the shore
sure, it’s easy to die in the city
i told you that, didn’t i?
right at the start
i told you you’d be blindsided
so here’s your carcrash, real time, no bullshit
your bones creak when you walk, your eyes strain and ache and itch against contact lenses
your forehead is smooth, your hair is dyed, your suits are tailored, you put your hours in at the gym
are you happy?
are you – are you really
is this what you wanted

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