"You're kinda beautiful, if I'm honest".
He said it as if there was nothing groundbreaking about his words. I looked at him askance, at the coarse spirals of hair that caged his otherwise neatly plaited cornrows, and the slither of moonlight on his cheek. We had been walking around South London with nothing to do, in the middle of the night, as I opened myself shamelessly. I was reeling from the exposure, retreating into myself like a snail, frightened of the light beside me, and embarrassed that I had said so much with so little a prompt. A simple "what's wrong?" broke me into frightened tears, and a story of maternal woes, daddy issues and loneliness unravelled before us both, subduing him into silence beneath the weight of it, and leaving us both to wander our city as nomadic shadows; avoiding our homes, anonymously seeping into the brick walls, the metal towers, and the concrete paving of our environment.
"Why am I beautiful?" I said. "Because I'm vulnerable?"
"Naw," he said. "There's a lot about you I like. Your eyes are nice, pretty deep, and I like how you shaved all your hair; the barber did a great job. Your arse is nice, too... but I think you're smart and it makes you beautiful, that's all."
"Do you like me?" I said.
"Not really," he said.
We were at the top of the hill in Dulwich, just beside Dawson Heights, that frightful structure of flats shaped like a ferry that loomed over the South East, threatening to capsize. An urban legend told that the architect, dismayed at their handiwork, scaled the top of the building and plummeted to their death. London was beneath us: LED streetlights glittering like falling stars, and between them were the frantic blue and red flashes of emergency services rushing to someone's aid, or destroying a family, or removing delinquents from the streets. I wanted to ask why he said what he said, only to reject me in the end, but I was strangely relieved. He was unappealing to me as well, but I was often drawn to his earnest ear and honest, open face.
"Are we best friends?" I said.
"Yeah I guess so," he said.
And I was happy to hear it.