Recently I have been having a dream that my thin naked body is tied to train tracks in the snow, and soundless trains run over me one by one until I am a bloodied mess. The trains don’t cause me any physical pain, but they wreck my pointless porcelain body until I look like an extra in a Tarantino film, and no one comes when I yell and struggle. Some metaphor bullshit maybe. Some unconscious need to not be in the way of something that will silently mess me up.
I was walking home last night on a quiet residential street in south east London, thinking about how to arrange the words in the above paragraph so that it tells the truth of the original thought. Often I think about the way the words are ordered, the rhythm of the sentences and whether they convey what I want to say, whether the shocking parts are actually just dull, overwrought confession, whether the imagery functions.
As I was walking in the dark, my high heels picking their way through patchwork snow, I became aware of another mind rumbling gently alongside mine. An urban fox was on the opposite side of the road, daintily avoiding ice and distracted by thought. She kept pace with me without noticing. We trotted along in silence for a while.
It is not unusual to see foxes on this street at night: in fact, it is common this close to Brockley where there are parks and green places for them to hide after scavenging. I usually leave them to their work. Sometimes they resemble cats nosing in bushes from far off. But this one had a coat that was distinguished through use – scruffy, matured. She had a gentle fluffy tail with more grey in it than the burnt ochre of other foxes. Her legs were slender and strong. She had ears with notches in.
We suddenly stopped and stared at each other.
It is at this point that you want me to say that our minds intertwined and I saw her babies in a foxhole by the train tracks, and that I saw her whole day in litter, scratches, sharp smells and damp leaves. You want me to have a peyotesque hallucination in which I am running through forests and wrestling with the man-foxes and snarling at intrusions. You want me to say that she saw my day in endless cups of coffee and ink from a leaking pen and tapping on a keyboard and email arguments and train rides and complimentary buffet snacks and glasses of pale gold Pinot Grigio and sighs.
Instead we just looked at each other. She had eyes that were dull with depth. We were both hungry.
We both started back on our journey home. I thought nothing of it until this morning when I put on the scruffy old jacket I always wear. It has fake grey fur on the hood and smells of damp leaves. She’s probably somewhere, looking at an old abandoned paper coffee cup and recoiling, wrinkle-nosed.