“What are you scared of?”
Outside was mayhem. I could hear the sirens of police cars wailing past my block. I always know the difference; there’s a shrill, higher-pitched urgency of police sirens that’s different from ambulances and fire engines. An obnoxious sound. A sound of trouble, and danger, almost oppressive in how it swallows up all other noise, breaks up conversations, disrupts the heavy bass in a car stereo, a house, a party. Despite this, I found comfort in it. I went to Bath for two years for my social work master’s, and the quietness engulfed me. It was like a torture; I could not hear anything because the silence was so great, and everywhere people spoke to me in white noise, and the cars whizzed past stealthily, all running on hybrid fumes and affluence. In Bath, the Ezras of this world were absent, and as I looked at mine now, with his earnest brown eyes and his full mouth, enquiring after me, I could only hear music, the clattering of drumsticks before a set, the song of mic feedback, and an excited thrumming from somewhere in my chest—it could have been a heart, or anticipation before a concert, or a bass guitar reverberating off my bones, off the walls.
“Work” I said.
“What about it?”
“That I don’t like being a social worker. That I wake up everyday basically in tears. That I have to go from one shithole to the next, and nothing ever happens. Sometimes someone’s started cutting again, or someone missed an appointment, or some girl failed her PIP test and now she’s broke and I can’t do anything, or some idiot broke their probation and now they can’t see their kids again. I don’t enjoy any of it.”
“Leave then, innit?” Ezra’s brows furrowed in confusion, because it’s always easy for Ezra. He dropped out of uni and worked in a call centre for four months doing crazy hours, and then earned enough to travel the world. In China he made a friend who hooked him up with some other guy from Malaysia, and then he got to do content design for some big company somewhere, working on their website because he used to run a few games sites back in the day as a side hobby. He was more then a diversity hire. They needed him more than he needed them. Granted, I used to tease him about his games and call him a nerd whenever he asked me to learn whatever computer language it was—I still don’t care enough—but that really isn’t the issue here. And since then, he’s had a great time back in London, with his own flat that’s much better than mine here in New Cross, but he prefers coming over here. Or so he says. I think he’s just self-conscious of what he has.
“Leave and do what?”
“That’s your problem. You ask everything all the time. Just leave and do something.”
Too late. His lips were on the base of my neck before I got to finish, and my eyes swelled hot and wet. I pressed the back of my arm against my face in embarrassment, triggering Ezra’s hand to reach up to my wrist, pull it away. He started at me. I stared back until he was a glistening mirage. His tongue ran against my cheek, drinking my tears. I felt his other hand press firmly against my hip, gripping flesh, making me gasp. He kissed me until the tears dried. He didn’t stop until I started moaning, and my hands reached for his back, retracing the grooves and lines and contours that mapped our relationship.
Outside, it went quiet again. The furore and the sirens and the pandemonium and moved indoors.