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By the hour

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It’s been a year. No, it’s been more than a year, because Matt has been living with Nate for over a year, and the other was over some time before that.

Time.

Time is the catchphrase of the percentage who are winning. Or maybe of the majority who have lost.

Matt hasn’t had a watch in years, but she can’t escape her phone’s bright face.

*

No-one tells you about the months of crying. Or they do, but you don’t believe them. Matt never did.

Big tears, and noisy, the kind you hide away or someone will ask if you’re dying; maybe you are; maybe it’s slow, and it’s weaselling, and it’s pulling out your insides with blunt objects and misery. There’s the numbness, but it doesn’t numb the pain. There’s the remembering how to breathe. There’s the trying to forget to.

Blonde hair, in the corner of her vision; imagined. Scarred skin in her hands, fading; never there at all.

*

Time, and it continues.

Matt puts her face to the glass and exhales. Out, in, puff-puff. The chill and pale of the pane. Matt doesn’t smoke anymore, but the blue-grey of human is familiar, when the weather is as cold out as now.

Winter.

Winter in England.

Neat street beyond the window, tiny townhouses, sharp drop to the footpath, car lights of people driving home.

Matt likes winter. Matt has always liked winter, with its gloves and its coats and its scarves to warm her nose and tickle her lashes. Not the goggles, though. The goggles are in a drawer, somewhere, with the maps of Essex and Wales and the British Museum, with the keys to a car long left behind, with the chargers of phones not much used before upgraded.

The glass of the window stings Matt’s cheek and she kisses it, a moue, a whim, lips chapped into clear lines between condensation. Matt writes a word. Matt writes another. Matt is a writer, in her head; numbers and letters and < and / and >. Matt is a writer, of things, and of no things at all, and these are her sounds and these are her voices, up here in her ribcage; smudged there, upon the window.

The bells in town chime six.

*

Matt was in Anonymous, of course, for a while. It was what was going. Nate would have covered, if she’d stuffed up, but Matt doesn’t stuff up, hasn’t stuffed up, not with data, not in years. How many years. Nate would know, if Matt would ask, but Matt won’t ask. There’s a reason she doesn’t remember.

Blonde hair, in the corner of her dreams.

*

Life catches Matt, and life pulls her, like Minecraft blocks in creative mode (it’s always creative mode, with Nate, when he’ll play, if he’ll play). It’s a tug. It’s a string. It’s somewhere in the middle of Matt’s forehead. Or her stomach. Or her womb? She doesn’t know. But it’s been months, and months, and months, and it’s been normal, and it’s been brutal, and it’s been forgiving, and it’s been wonderful.

(Nate’s body against hers, his boy-shaped parts fitting as well, if differently; fitting with an almost humility, with an almost please-keep-me.)

*

Time passes, and London is a balm. London is loud and London is pulsing and London is new and London is ancient. London curls against Matt, kisses her, lets her wrap herself in its Underground and in her phone, with its angry birds and tiny wings.

London calls the hour, on the hour.

London lets Matt find her reflection. Lets her remember how she looks without the shadow of lenses or the obscurity of mug shots.

*

The clock on Matt’s phone flicks forwards, and the words twist around her.

The weather tucks in closer, and the nights whisper her to sleep; whisper the sounds of Nate’s breath against the bare of Matt’s neck.

The masks falls away, and Matt begins to code for real.

*

Nate sits on his feet while they watch American television, and he picks holes in the plot lines.

Paler hair, in the corners of Matt's dreams.

*

Five oh seven, says the face of Matt’s phone. Blinding, in the evening dark. Warm, in the dance of street lamps through the falling snow beyond the window. Time.

Time to write her out. Time to write her out of the code in Matt’s head, out of the code in Matt’s heart.

Time.