When she was scared she disappeared. Not quite invisibility or a cute aversion to being scolded, this was like being cookie-cuttered out of the world.
There had been that town square in Germany with British and Australian travellers. Like a threatened guppy in front of the sleazy local she had sunk into her surroundings. Her companions had been vaguely aware of her dimming silhouette in the lamplight before she wasn't even there in memory. They may have wondered at the half-drunk beer spilled on the table beside them. Her hand still cradling an absent skein she awoke in the hostel bed, the distant and disappearing rush of waves in her ears.

Standing on the prow of the Wayfarer, she inspected the skyline. The squall up ahead almost looked like a tsunami if she squinted. She squinted some more just to be sure, and slowly it came into view. The wave's gaping mouth was huge, cavernous above the glassy ocean surface. As the quickly-impending reality hit her she stumbled and slid to the other end of the craft, colliding painfully with the rudder. There was no way she'd be able to escape the drag, already inverting her sails as she was pulled forward. As she groped for a steady surface the dinghy lurched and rolled, throwing her headfirst into a solid blue wall.

There was that night her friends had encountered a mugger on their way home from a bar. She found herself on the last train home feeling seasick. How lucky she'd left early, they told her. She wasn't even in the photos when they later appeared online; The Night We Were Robbed! minus lucky Karen!!
She had learned to play along with this quirk of her own reality, taking the relocations in her stride and even relying on it occasionally. But there seemed to be no logic to it; karaoke was off limits entirely. Her driver's license had been a nightmare. Every time she'd flicker out of the car and back to the driveway, shaking salt from her hair, wondering how she'd find yet another instructor.

Suddenly she was aware of everything once more. Her open eyes stung with salt, her open mouth choking and trying not to swallow more. She scooped handfuls of water out of her way, seeking the surface until her fingertips hit something solid. She kicked frantically, following the curved hull up and into oxygen. Her breath caught in her chest, heaving brine out of her airways as she pulled herself free of the water.

In Cairo

Her parents filled her youth with books. Stories about courageous girls, brave and clever girls, strong and funny girls. Girls Who Would Not Let The Wool Be Pulled Over Their Eyes. And they told her not to listen when the world told her she was not good enough.
There was one book she read when she was six or eight or eleven about a girl who lived in Egypt. This girl wore a white tunic and had dark long hair and eyes the colour of sweet toffee. She was beautiful and her face was purposeful, this was how she remembered the girl to be. In Cairo all the houses were all painted white for the Heat, though at the time she couldn't imagine why, and all the houses had flat rooftops. In the desert night and the absence of clouds the family would bring their beds out onto roof and the girl would look up at the stars. She would dream of their lives and their troubles and their conversations in the arid, bustling night.

Years later she lies in bed in her parents house and imagines the desert heat is what makes the room so warm. She imagines the study in which she sleeps has no roof, no walls, no ceiling or barrier between her and the naked, enigmatic stars. She sees the strange white city full of little girls watching the sky for sparks of life.
She pushes the sheets away with her feet and dreams of the limitless night, stretching away in every direction.


Liquid boundary between timeless sleep and sharp reality. She seeps sleeps slips in through the cracks. Couples seek out the dark, deserted corners of her memories where they kiss unseen.

Sky painted heavy with lead and gunmetal, solid cloud eddying the breeze which passes across them. Leaving her is strange and reluctant. As the distance grows the connection pulls at my bones, vertebrae popping out from under taut skin.


"Whichever is the hardest path to take, that is usually the right path."


Short breaths caught in her lungs as the bus pulled away from the station. She'd missed it. With a curse she dropped her heavy suitcase to the floor, and seemingly in slow motion watched the latch hit the kerb and catapult across the road. A hairdryer, underwear, lipstick, European currency spilled onto the hot tarmac of the forecourt. She sat on the case and let herself cry a little, tears mingling with sweat on her face.

Passers-by watched as she collected her belongings and hauled them to the plastic benches by the ticket booth. She took out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. As smoke congealed in the still air and dust she sighed, and it seemed to deflate her. Hair hung over her face, the glow of the cigarette end barely visible. Her high heels dangled from her feet showing the blisters underneath. She sat there for a time and then slowly, as if she had melted to the chair, she pulled herself upright.


Obfuscate: make communication intentionally vague, unclear, ambiguous.


In Geology episodic refers to events that occur or have occurred periodically. Length of the period may be even thousands or millions of years.


Less a guest overstaying its visit.
More of a poltergeist.


Of course, he was a wonderful man. Then, I suppose they all were. It was a very long time I ago that I last had a man about, you know. They never stuck around, or I never put up with them. Either way, either way the papers had their fun, didn't they? I was a serial man-breaker, leaving them all behind.

Why didn't you marry any of them?

Oh, I didn't really have time. Not then, anyway, not with matches and publicity and everything. And later I didn't have the time, I was doing all those ad campaigns, you know? The ones for watches, wearing things I'd never buy. I think I was expected to marry them, everybody asked. But they would be just as keen to see me divorce them, too. No, I wouldn't do all that. My bloody manager said weddings were good for publicity, get me doing interviews and Hello shoots, no thanks. I would have thought sportsmen had different rules.

Sportswomen, too?


But you did marry in the end, didn't you? More recently?

Oh, Lawrence. Yes, we met after I retired, after I moved here. He passed away a few years ago.

I'm sorry to hear that.

I quite like it now he's gone, actually. I'm used to being alone, see? I like it better that way. I don't find all ... [inaudible] ...


As she rounded the crest of the hill the first tentative fingers of dawn were tearing through the clouds. He was like orchestras, she decided, to her solo violin. He was like warm, fresh bread to her mouthful of sweetness.
There was a delicious pleasure in her spine, as the chill wind swept her coat aside and prickled her skin into goosebumps.
After her second helping, her mother leaned over and said "Stop". It was obviously meant with a love, and it was said with a smile.
Under the pretence of clearing pans she snuck a third plate of pasta in the kitchen.


I've never been hit in the face before. Being a short white girl I guess that's not surprising, but the fight surprised me.
It started when we cycled from the bar to the party. We stopped to let people catch up and decide our route, but some cock thought he'd call us hippies in front of the drunkest of our number. Suddenly this guy is throwing punches over my head at the guy behind me. Suddenly my head hits the tarmac and I'm watching this bizarre scene upside-down until a foot meets my thigh. But my friend is in the line of this cokehead's punches, so unwisely I rejoin the fracas.
All I can remember is thinking this guy must be high, my hands are pretty tightly wrapped in his hair and he's still going, he's hit my head a few times on the way to his perceived threat.
The police van arrives, and half a dozen people are in handcuffs. I see blood smeared on the back of my hand, and wonder where I am bleeding from. I worry about the half-bottle of wine in my bag, whether this will make things more difficult for me. I am very nearly sober, and this is not fun.
A stout policewoman tries to get my details, while I ask her questions about the man in handcuffs. She takes my phone number and hands me a tissue, but I still don't know where the blood is coming from. I suddenly hope it's mine. People are crying, people are leaving the scene for home.

Later, walking back because I'm shaking too hard to cycle, the police phone me. My friend answers and tells them where to stick it, because I'm in a complete state and she doesn't want me to give a statement. They tell me they will come to my house if I don't co-operate, take me into custody. Nobody else believes them, so neither do I.

Eventually the police hang up on me, because I am talking too much.


She decides to begin this journey nameless, and then ponders the difference between being nameless and anonymous. She sticks with nameless because she wants to be remembered.
At the moment she's occupying an aisle seat on a cross country train, impatiently. Delays, language barriers, lost tickets and thieves. It all sets her on edge. She has no suitcase but a huge handbag filled to bursting. Not necessarily easier or more convenient, she decides it's a challenge.
Besides, she likes presenting a puzzle to the other inhabitants of the carriage. Sitting on a rush-hour train with her long hair loose and messy, her long legs tucked neatly under the seat, almost hiding her bright silver sandals and tanned toes. She likes to think they will wonder where she is going, or why. She has a cocktail dress but no makeup on, wide eyes and no tinny headphones to hide between.
To pass time she flirts with a shy-looking office clerk, blowing a kiss to the girl as she leaves the train in the suburbs. A little later, a man with a guitar case sits next to her and strikes up conversation. He's a musician. He thinks she is beautiful, he wonders if he could write a song for her. Not right here, she hopes. Play me something nobody else here will recognise, she says. Play me your favourite. So he does, right there in the carriage, and she doesn't know the song. She watches his face as he sings and decides that he is beautiful.


Gradually she became obsessed. Everyone could see it, she was sure. Ten minutes before leaving the house she would take up her post: hair, makeup, tug the sleeves of her shirt into place. That 3/4 profile could kill.

Unable to Sleep and Scornful of Temazepam

Crackling, stiff. Starched still and devoid of moisture. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be burned alive, that initial crisping of the flesh. The first transition from hot to cooked. So inelastic, movements of my arms and even my legs have repercussions. I visualise the small of my back like tarmac, folding reluctantly in the waves of an earthquake.
and all the songs you didn't realise you sang to yourself in the mornings.

Every little place. Under your ear, the line of your hip, the skin between your shoulder-blades.


Unexpectedly her forehead touches the window as the train lurches sideways. A single bead of sweat remains on the glass, true to the sticky heat and apprehension.
The train must be moving at walking pace, so slow to gather speed. She wills it to gather speed. A child's face at the window of a house, a run-down play park, young mothers with cigarettes, newsagents, hedgerows, dogs, sun. Finally blurred together, the landscape is safe to watch. Unsettled without knowing why, she scratches the skin of her thighs with her fingernails. Wonders if opening a window will help in the slightest.
She tastes fresh, clean. Like the dewy air at dawn, or water melting from an ice-cube. At the crook of her neck and between her breasts her skin is warm and smooth, and sweet-smelling.