'Constitutional' by Joanne Key

Everything aches. I push ahead aiming for the pain of the slope. I ready myself to watch the world, to observe it closely and somehow find a way back in. Today, I’ll force myself to take notice of the colours of the leaves; to concentrate hard and look beyond red, yellow, green to find the point of change, but at the moment my view is obscured by grey vans and a row of scrawled pleas to clean me, and now I’m too wrapped-up in the fact that no one ever does.

I carry on past the dead shops where I check my reflection against fifty per cent off nothing and half price darkness before taking the short cut across the park. I find our bench beneath the moth eaten trees. I sit down and look around for a picture to occupy my mind. There are too many lovers, children, memories of you. All I can do is look up, try to find, at the very least, one small, clean patch of sky. All that catches my eye is a pair of worn out trainers hanging from the overhead cable and now I’m hung-up on the man who removed his shoes, strung them together, spun them like a sling-shot and slung them at heaven.

 I get up. Move on. Imagine what happened next: I see a barefoot sprint across shattered glass, the trail of blood leading to the exit beyond wrought iron gates and in the distance, a man running so fast he can’t feel the pain, or see himself bleeding-out. By the end of the road, he’s dead on his feet and shortly after, I’m talking to a headstone and laying flowers.

Further down the line, I stumble across a body laid-out by the cemetery gates: drunken bum, shoeless, passed-out, numb. How easily he could be that man. I kneel to his rambling sermon, listen for the loss that fly-tipped him on the side of the road and left him with old news lapping his face like a rescue dog. I stuff a tenner in his hand.

The end is the end, no need for shoes, he commands. Words bought and paid for. Now I have to carry them away with me and to do that I have to get up and keep walking these same small journeys, until everything wears through and the road ahead touches my skin.

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