A Roadbed in London


London Shadows by Eva Von Pelt

Photo by Eva Von Pelt


G. smokes these brightly colored cigarettes

from a stiff paper case remindful of small cigar boxes

Except hers have tissue paper between cigarette layers

and a gold colored, pressed aluminum seal on top

It’s evening, midsummer, and about 8:30, judging shadow angles

All day we’ve walked the shops, aimlessly; our hunger growing

For G. it’s smokes. For me it’s G. All day all night, it’s G.

We head into a tobacconist near the edge of Leicester Square

Soot smeared lions-o-stone guard its shadowy entranceway

and there’s a Union Jack painted on the slope leading us inside

We’re heavily engulfed by the shop’s warm, spicy aromas

G. buys two red cases and a sleek, expensive titanium lighter

Outside, she rips open the golden seal and lights one up

But the spicy smoke never touches her; repulsed by the

smooth, translucent skin that turns it away harmlessly

while everything else—everything outside G.’s atmosphere

burns to balance the dark nature of her skin’s magic trick

Together we walk upstream; American fish out of water

All around us, rippled faces peeking and quickly disengaging

telling of themselves in segmented whispers soon silenced

by G.’s forward momentum and my need to stay close

Charing Cross Road is a fluid collection of human muscle movements

tearing and mending in cycles along the imperceptible concrete curvature

Skin to skin or cloth to cloth, it’s a migration of Us in every direction

Every passing touch for me is a jolt of heat, discomfort, and confusion

If this story could be told from within G.’s head, how different the line

breaks and beats might be; how different the tone and content

I’m all disassembled into numerals non-compliant, negative, or imaginary

thinking she’s not thinking of me; that I’d be only a distant shadow to her

My heartbeat – allotment nearly up – looks beyond its shelf life prediction

fully unaware its neighbor, the brain, is too fixated on external conflict

and on the polarizing gravities of bodily urges to regulate its healthy beat

Up the road there’s a shout from G. and a metal clicking exclaims that

her new titanium lighter is on the fritz: click, click, click, and shout

Now, only a pale swoosh on the canvas of our night, lively Charing Cross

is merely a tertiary character in this Cigarette Won’t Burn melodrama

Starring G. as herself, and queueing our fast approaching antagonists

Their leader is shorter than me, but looks stony tuff and mean from habit

You know, like he’d eat a puppy’s face if need and survival were behind it

Me, I’m the kind who’d not eat a little puppy’s face, not even for survival

Really, only G. could ever get me to eat the face of said, sad puppy

Only by her command, or for her protection, not that she’d ever ask me

When I look up from my curbside rant, G. is in the square opposite

with a raised pink cigarette, inquisitive eyes, and a smile setting her

pouty amber lips aglow; the stony-tuff puppy face eater flips and flicks

his metal lighter into a burst of responsive flame as G. leans in acceptingly

My eyes rip themselves out as he kisses her with a rough compulsion

He has a pile driver’s aim and a prisoner’s need—without moving

I’m in the square, just inches away from the puppy killer’s warm body

Smokey; muscular; unyielding; but what shocks me is the look I catch

along my periphery in G.’s huge eyes

Clearly, I’ve slapped her face and insulted her honor by stepping up

Her eyes scream that she doesn’t think it necessary for me to defend her

Well, too late, the Man-Lock is in place and its combination scrambled

I couldn’t step away now, even if I wanted that sort of quick resolution

Leave your home country, travel in the new; eat bread, peas and coffee

and then you’re breath to breath with a stranger who feels more familiar

than the woman who brought you to this point of puffed-out-feather tangle

I can sense myself in his eyes, starring back at me, except there’s no respect visible

just lustful cravings and the red river of bored aggression pounding every shore

If one second equals one year, and two men see a sinking boat from different places

their answers for righting the situation will only buffet the wreck with confusion

My eyes refocus momentarily on the three mean-faced guys backing up puppy killer

Are they active or inactive variables? I recognize the “pile-on” gene in their eye sparkles

Four little Londoners leering up at me like coyotes, and my biggest concern is G.

There’s anger in her giant cartoon eyes, and her full lips are now a single thin line

The line I had just crossed within her, which I didn’t even know existed; separating us now

Why? How to right this? I sense an opening: just slowly step back, casual and confident

while effortlessly changing my expression from natural born killer to whimsical whatever

And then we’re hand in hand walking away but G. is still angry, and The Pack is at our heels

The smallest of the four is clearly the weasel character that taunts and provokes the fleeing prey

He’s at my ear; he’s saying I’m smart to run away; his friends are mad dogs; puppy killers, I think

Man, they’ll tear your limbs and curb-stomp you; walk faster and get gone before hammer drops

But G. and I are walking intently; not fast, not scared—I, mainly confused; G., mainly resentful

Up the road to Romilly Street, we leave the crowds as the puppy killers disengage their pursuit

Now the conflict is between G. and I alone; yelling fistful-tears of resentment and confusion that

roll back and forth over our choppy seas, buffeting the stone buildings and recessed storefronts

as we auto-pilot toward our room in the Bonham-Carter House of forgotten peace and privacy



4 thoughts on “A Roadbed in London

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve had the heart to stroll by “Pull of the Sun.” I’ve missed it. This is my favorite of the more recent things you’ve done. I love the feeling of laughing and being sickly nervous at the same time. How have you been?


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