Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Bridge Too Far

The sky is clear and icy blue as we walk across Waterloo Bridge on New Year's Day. It is so, so cold we hurry along, heads down, unable to feel our fingers, ears and toes. A comfortable, deeply hungover silence sits between us and is broken only by a silver MG parked by the side of the road. We both stop, turn, and stare at the car as it emits the most peculiar noise; a loud, shrill keening, unlike any car alarm known to man. It shrieks again, but this time, looking up, we see the real source of the noise, a large, plump seagull sitting atop a lampost, immune to the cold and full of the spoils of low tide. Independently yet simultaneously, we both start to laugh at our mistake, then laugh harder as we realise the error is two-fold.


The smell has bothered me for months. It's very unpleasant - some days worse than others - but I can't place it. True, lots of people smell bad, but it's none of the usual suspects; not body odour, halitosis or Athlete's Foot. When he stands near me I want to cover my nose and mouth but politeness forbids that, so I bear it, try not to breathe too deeply. I had assumed it was just incompatible pheremones but as walk along puzzling, I suddenly think 'stale'. Yes, he smells stale. The word flowers in my head and resonates, a faint pleasure at having defined the stink wells up beneath renewed disgust.