A Moonlit Embrace

Andrés Gómez

In darkness, they move, cloaked by pale moonlight, surveiled by a cat who’s eyes glow with the yellow of a passing taxi’s lights. You wouldn’t see it for the night, but there’s shame on their faces. Androgynously dressed in black Helly Hensen’s, hoods up, and with matching jeans and trainers, one might mistake the other for themself, especially under these bleak streetlights. The cat’s eyes lose their piercing glint as the taxi recedes into inky black, wiping red strains across the wet asphalt as it goes.

They turn down an alleyway, hugging the wall, leaving behind the glistening asphalt and motionless cat, their feet grasping through the dark. Out of the tepid, urine yellow of the streetlights, the deepend darkness feels like a friend. One of their hands brushes against the other’s. Both figures wear gloves. They carry on without a sideways glance. The pale, pervasive moonlight dimly reveals a corner up ahead. Their anxious strides slow, giving their breath a chance to catch up. Heads bowed slightly, they approach the dark corner, alert for the sound of feet scuffling behind them, or worse.

Urban silence holds, the quiet amplifying their visual sense, allowing them to make out more hooded figures huddled together in the milky darkness. Five, six, seven of them, coalesced just around the corner, shielded from stifling streetlights and prying eyes. You wouldn’t know it for the shadows, but they all wear the same Helly Hensen’s, the same jeans and trainers, the same look of head-bowed shame. Wordlessly, the latecomers join, shuffling inwards until they become not two, but one with all of them.

And then, it begins — their arms rise up, out to their sides, like black swans finding their wings. Invisibly, the shame on their faces grows hotter, more frantic. Arms come down onto backs of necks, hands clasp around shoulders, hands all wrapped in identically thin khaki green gloves. The barely perceptible aroma of armpit sweat permeates the silence. Enwrapped in a shameful circle of arms and bodies and sweat, they again fall motionless. A tear falls to the ground. In the pale blackness, they can make out the vague contours of each other’s faces, if they dare lift their gaze from the ground. It’s Better not for them to know what each other looks like. It makes things easier, more practical. Safer. More tears come, these ones clinging to faces, hiding in the shadows of their hoods, afraid of the long drop.

A loud clattering of metal against concrete shatters the wet silence. Resisting the urge to disband, the figures hold tight, bowing their heads more steeply. All tears freeze. Some long seconds pass. Whisps of cloud swipe lazily across the moon’s face. Another noise, again metal against concrete. It came from back round the corner.

A tremor grips the hooded mass. They bite their tongues, but for all the silence you’d know fear was dripping from them, like tears of ice. One of the latecomers begins to peel from the mass, bound by duty to defy their fear. Alone, they press themselves against the corner, preparing to poke their head out, filled with dread and images of armed men waiting in the alley, pouring in from the bleak, yellow street.

Praying for darkness to hold, the figure emerges, hood poking into the open. An eye waits for the alleyway to reveal itself under the pale moonlight. A strange, sterile calm descends on the figure. The pupil relaxes, inviting in the low light. There are no armed men. And yet, what the figure sees ruptures their sterile calm, imposing upon it a frozen terror — the edge of a skip, lined with aluminium cans. And perched upon it, the sharp silhoutte of a cat.

Sai Charan P

Unlisted

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Gem Bay

Gem Bay

Cultivating Black mental health, sociocultural awareness and self-knowledge. All praises to Yah.