Hearing The Streets: A Short Story

Headphones in, shuffling through weak-lit streets on a Friday night. Chinese take-out dangling from my left hand, half gripped half slacked, gently swaying as I stride.

Even through the music buzzing in my ears, I hear the click-clack of thirty-somethings in heels they can’t walk in, attempting to relive their twenties, but with more money and kids at home.

As I nip through an alley way, I am invaded by the sight of fourteen year olds, lurking in their bright-white Nike trainers and slogan-printed sweatpants.

One girl still has her school uniform on; black pleated skirt hitched up on her hips, her fake tanned thighs exposed. Her face glows in the iPhone light with a pasty-pale cheap foundation, probably bought with her pocket money. I can see her false eyelashes from here, and the resist the urge to peel them from her make-up caked face.

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I carry on, forking right at the end of the street, eyes on the uneven paving slabs. The echo of lads-night-out is already abusing my music selection: taking over David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The guys seem to sway in time to some invisible beat, somehow in rhythm with the chorus in my ears. Smart shoes ruined by vomit and spilled beer, they saunter off past me, taking their garish comments with them.

It starts to rain, so I pull my sweater hood up and I feel the preluded baby raindrops trickle down the back of my neck. I ignore them, but now I’m cold and eager to be home in my overpriced-underused flat.

The vibrations from a neighbouring night club make my shoes feel loose; my strides get longer and my breath gets quicker. The vodka flavoured cloud of breath exuding from my move hits me in waves. There are two boys on bikes crossing my path, about thirty feet or so away from me. I don’t exist to them, and I pretend I’m not intimidated as they wheelie and stand on the pedals, laughing and shouting to each other. The ignorance keeps up appearance and we all go our silent, separate waves.

The older of the two looks over to me; I recognise his face – but not enough to bother saying hello. He smirks at me through thin cigarette-stained lips, but his eyes looked daunted. I realise I work with his mother and make a mental note to forget this scene.

I can finally see my flat, my bedside lamp left on for safety, solitarily glowing purple in the dark. My playlist runs out just as I reach my building but before I can remove my headphones, they are wrenched from my head, knocking my hood down. My hair snags in the metal adjustments and I feel blood ooze over a piercing.

The last thing I hear is a faraway owl, hooting at the moonlight and then the crunch of my nose breaking as I face-plant the concrete that once glistened underneath my feet. Then, just like that, the world wasn’t full of drunk mothers and teenagers and bikers. It wasn’t full of melody and noise and vibrations. It was silent and dark and completely unapparent to the blackened sockets that once held my eyes: windows to the soul.

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