It was exactly four years ago.
I was stuffed from having a huge bowl of bulgogi at your favourite Korean restaurant. You told me you took all the girls you liked here, and the waiters always mistook them for your girlfriends. That made me a little sad, but I didn’t want to spoil the night.
We walked through the back alleys of Chinatown and the dingy parts of Soho, where bright, neon lights beckoned to patrons, promising pleasures of the flesh at its strip clubs and gay bars. The autumn wind was freezing. We had ice-cream at an Italian gelato shop.
I was fascinated by the clock tower outside MnMs World, when it started playing music and the noises of the city’s hustle and bustle fell away. It was just me and you, and the rotating cows and milkmaids of the Swiss clock tower. I can still hear the chimes in my head when I closed my eyes and your grabbed my hand.
And then we were at the Piccadilly Circus tube station, waiting for the train to go home.
You told me to look over the platform ledge, where you pointed out tiny black fur balls scurrying across the track. Little baby mice, making their way through a world of scraps, of breadcrumbs and dropped chips, steel and dark tunnels. I imagined their beady eyes staring up at us, wondering about the giants gawking down at them from the world of light above.
The station guard yelled at us to step back as the train came. I had a sudden urge to jump on the track: join the rats and revel in the darkness. You must have seen me leaning forward, because you pulled me back by the collar of my hoodie. I felt that whoosh of hot air as the train approached.
I wondered if the rats would be squashed if they got under the wheels.
I hugged you goodbye at Victoria Street. And that was the last time I spoke to you.
It’s been awhile. It’s getting harder to remember your face, or recall the feelings when I hugged you goodbye.
But I’ll always remember the mice.