HAYLEY STOCKALL #3: Highgate Hill

Art by Frances Cannon
Art by Frances Cannon

Step 1.

Meet in a bar. Smile, shake hands, learn his name. Tell him yours. Have him remember it for the rest of the night. Remember his. Feel reluctant to leave.
 
Go home with him. Tell him you’ve run out of money for drinks and pretend you believe he has a bottle of gin at home. Buy tonic water from the 24-hour convenience store to keep up the pretense—then kiss, on a traffic island, on the top of the hill.
 
Go home with him and don’t regret it, not at all.
 
Have breakfast the next morning. Realise you remember his name and he remembers yours, and the world right now seems a little more kind.

 

Step 2.

Leave personal belongings in his bedroom, his bathroom. Shoes on his front porch. Learn that he likes to sleep on his side, back firmly against yours. Learn that he never locks his front door.
 
Wake up in his bed, alone, while he boards airplanes to other cities where he sleeps on other people’s couches. Some couches belonging to people he once slept in beds with. Go home to your own bed, where the ghosts of your own past lovers linger.

 

Step 3.

Walk across bridges that criss-cross the river. Ride in cars up and down the hill, searching for the best position to watch the dusk settle on the horizon. As sun flares blind you, and fruit bats wheel overhead, ask if this will be his home for much longer. The house on the top of the hill, or at least the city it’s nestled within.
 
He likes it here, he wants to stay.
 
For now. For the next few years. While the going’s good, anyway.

 

Step 4.

Watch a movie, on his couch, where the couple stays together for eight years too long, too afraid of hurting the other. Smile, or don’t smile, in the lounge room darkness.
 
Make this promise to yourself: if you ever find yourself in that situation squeeze his heart so tightly it bursts. Squeeze until chunks of muscle and rivers of blood ooze from your clenched fingers. Smash his heart into a trillion fucking pieces before you let yourself be pitied instead of loved.

 

Step 5.

The top of the hill, the best spot to see the sun settle over the city, dripping golden like an egg yolk in the pink, pastel sky. The top of the hill where he breaks your heart.
 
Walk down the hill and make plans to find a new home.
 
 

About Hayley Stockall 5 Articles
HAYLEY STOCKALL is the managing editor of literary collective Stilts. She tweets @hayleystockall.