The little things have been going just right for me lately. Every time I’ve waited for the tube, the train has stopped with its doors in front of me, just for me, welcoming me. Every time it’s rained I’ve remembered my umbrella - the bright yellow one Chloe brought me from Paris, the ironic one, that says Shit It’s Raining on it. Every time I’ve wanted to, I’ve seen you.
I was thinking about this the other day, too, at Sayed’s party. We were on the green grass of Regent’s Park and it would have just erred on the side of too cold, except we were all together, so it didn’t. It’s that sort of weather now, where the sun is shining but not doing much else. And it was like that too on the grass, which was just being green and not much else. We were all wearing our coats, but t-shirts underneath and no jumpers at all. Chloe and Tom and Ben and Chike were there, and a bunch of Sayed’s friends from his course who we didn’t know, but that was okay, because actually they didn’t talk about Geography all that much in the end. They talked about music, about Bjork, who we like. Chike had started doing her impression then, and we’d joined in, and then they joined in, and then we were all singing about sensuality.
You know I actually like Tom, even though he studies non-Newtonian fluids. He’s not as cold-blooded as the other scientists. I will never forget how he blushed when you put flowers in his hair. You didn’t even know each other that well, then - you certainly weren’t on an adorn-with-garlands basis. But there was something there, in the pink on his cheeks and the blush in the petals, that made him soften I think. I think you’ve always been like that, you’ve always sort of circum-skipped the absurd. And I reckon it was that first day that meant he could be sitting with us then, wearing that lovely new dress, blue as the sky and pleated. I got the sense we were meant to be cool and modern and unfazed, because no one said anything about how wonderful he looked, so I just smiled when I saw him. But I remember thinking that you wouldn’t have cared, you would have been effusive anyway, and that I wished I could have boiled over like that, from joy, too.
Sayed was doing something funny, something reckless to start his twentieth birthday, like popping a hole in the bottom of a can of K-Cider and then slurping from the fount, like a desert nomad in National Geographic magazine. You said to me once that people who do Dry January actually binge more in February, and I remembered that then, because I wondered what would happen if you were dry for eighteen years, like Sayed was. I think it’s sad that he strictly filters all uploads of himself to Facebook so that his parents can’t see. You think it’s funny. And it was funny, then, because it was dribbling down his chin, golden rivulets on black hair. He has the best hair of anyone we know - he’s somewhere like the top twenty if we're including celebrities.
Sayed was cheering too loudly, and the runners were turning their heads as they went past, because they could hear him over their headphones. Audacity, more audacity, always more audacity, he said. And he kept saying it, as if any moment the French Revolution would begin. And I was sitting there, watching him and laughing at him with Chloe and Tom and Ben and Chike, and wishing very hard that you’d turn up.
And so you did.
With two netted sacks of oranges - or maybe they were tangerines, I can’t really tell the difference. But I remember how glad I was that the criss-cross of the sacks and the skin of the oranges weren’t quite the same colour, that the way they sat on one another was like a sample of a small pattern that could potentially repeat forever like wallpaper.
Remember when Ben came back to his room after his semester abroad in Tokyo and we picked him up from the airport together, took the train back together, Gatwick all the way to Kentish Town? He’d never felt so loved, he said, and we felt a bit bad then, because we knew what was coming. We just wanted to see your face, you said, and I knew then you were being clever, so I shot you a look. And when we got home we carried his bags up the stairs and Chloe got her phone out to record it all. I would love to have that instinct, to bottle those moments, but I don’t, so I shot her a look too, a jealous one. And when Ben opened the door and saw how we’d embalmed his room with Hello Kitty, and collapsed and cursed us all in Japanese, I thought if you’d done it to me, it wouldn’t be so bad. He didn’t have the full picture. He didn’t have the chance to see the glint in your eye when you suggested it in WHSmiths that Thursday after lectures. I think if you’d done it, in that orange-criss-cross pattern, I’d thank you.
When you got to Sayed’s party you hugged everyone and gave us an orange each. I don’t let very many people hug me. I think it’s awkward, because there will always be space between us. Down to an atomic level. But when you hugged me, I didn’t feel that way. When you hugged me I felt like I was wearing your clothes. (And you’ve never even let me borrow your socks.)
An orange is like a plum or a planet. They are all just lumps. So an orange is like a football, is like a grenade, is like a heart. Imagine the biggest orange-heart in the world, so big the pits in its skin are like little carved hammocks. Rest your head on the wax there. Put your weight on the orange of the Venus of my shoulder.
Chike is looking at us.
Good. And so it was. We became a you-and-I, then. And to the others, on the outside, it was like we’d sprouted fruit from all the flowers. Our outlines got a bit blurred, from the cider. And we made so much mess, so much rind everywhere, not just us, but everyone too, little orange mounds like shed hair.
Then Chike made a joke about Sappho, but I didn’t know who that was. And then I asked her to explain it to me, which was a mistake, because you know how she gets when you let her talk about the Ancient Greeks. Well, actually, it wasn’t so bad, because when I looked at you for help you closed your eyes and pretended to have fallen asleep, and I got to see that for the first time. And actually, Sappho is quite good, isn’t she?
Ever since Sayed's party I've been sending you pictures of all the orange peel I find. There is so much of it in London, if you decide to look, if you know where to look. I do wonder, sometimes, what the digital archaeologists of the future will make of us. When they pour over our archive, will they see the meanings there? Will they see the grass in Regent’s Park? The huddled empty tins? The You splayed next to the Me? Your fingernail, with the orange varnish chipped, resting on my lip?
And what about all the after, all the this ? What will they see in my Stacked Oranges Under Yellow Light on Kingsland Road and your Oranges Lean on Tesco Fruity Red in Student Flat Kitchen? A Sticker that Says Szechuan Glorious Orange ( All the way from China! ). This Orange Matches Tom’s Jumper (Tom’s Jumper Matches this Orange). A Volcano of Easy-Peel, Ready to Erupt. Preserved Paper Sociedade Laranjeira de Exportação Wrapper. (I was showing off with this one but you didn’t seem to mind, even though I know how much you hate air travel, even though you stayed home while we went to Lisbon for the long weekend. Did you really plant trees in all our names? For karmic balance?)
Did you know Portugal is named after oranges?
I do, now.
And it was that now that confirmed it, that you loved me, too. I know it was.
The little things have been going just right for me lately. That’s what I was thinking as I stared at the little orange flecks on the floor of the overground train I took to come see you. I know you prefer to read on trains, you’ve got two books on you at all times, but I like to be on the journey. I like to memorise the maps on the train, or the patterns of the seats and floors. I like to drink in the view from the carriage window. I like to notice how many houses are so close to the platform. In a rush, you could dive from the bedroom window, hair still wet from a two minute shower, and roll onto the platform below. Or you could just be late, you'd say.
You live in a quiet corner of Canonbury. I have walked from the train station, every single step. It is so amazing how journeys work. How you can be or not be in every road between A (my house) and B (yours). I wish my eyes were better, so I could see all the way back to where I came from, see round the corners and down the slopes and through the alleyways, see through my front door, see all the way to my bed, which I got out of specifically to come here. Together. To get her. Look at that: I took the train to get here to get her (you) A and B together. I am here and it is very good.
You let me in. I am in your corridor, then I am up your stairs, then I am in your room, then I am in your bed. I memorise the sound your door makes as it shuts behind you. I make a vow to remember the half-peeled sticker on your mirror, the one that says “od is good” with most of a triceratops surviving underneath. There are two glasses of orange juice on the table beside. I take one and then I watch you take one too. I take a sip of the drink you've poured me.
There are bits in this, I say.
That's how I like it, you say. And now that's how I like it, too.