Lying on the dirt I looked up and saw shooting stars for the first time. We’d had dinner at the market. Bowls full of noodles, dumplings in a hot broth and the usual plate of peanuts we had honed our chopsticks skills on. We got our bikes and cycled down Airport Road beside the sunflower fields, crossed the train tracks and settled down with our rucksacks of frozen beer bottles to watch an endless inky sky with more stars than I’d ever seen at home.
Laughter can make you notice someone in a cramped Withington living room. I heard her laugh almost before I saw her. I could say I saw her smile first, but it was actually her legs. She was talking with some people I didn’t know; listening intently and then she threw back her head and really, unselfconsciously, laughed. She took my breath away; it was like seeing the Angel of the North for the first time.
I was sitting on the front pew until I walked up to give the reading. I stared at the tiny words in the bible and was terrified that I’d read the same line twice like I had that time at the school advent service. I faltered near the start as a sob rose up in my throat. I returned to my seat on shaking legs. I looked up to bring the coffin into my eye line but I couldn’t look at anyone else for the whole service.
I’m lying on a blanket. My eyes are closed and the book I only managed two pages of is dangling out of my hand. It’s glorious; I feel my body bathed in the warm sunshine. I can hear kids playing cricket in the park, and ice cubes knocking softly together in my sparkling water. Opening my eyes I realise that even in this small city park there are three different colours of blossom; creamy white, marshmallow pink and deep, beetroot red.