For my lover’s lockdown birthday, we devise carnival costumes to cheer ourselves up. My mask will be the sun, to represent my fiery temperament. Hers will be the moon: calm, cool, reflective. We live in different households, so there’s no chance of holding hands. Instead we FaceTime when the moon has risen. I show off my golden disguise, frilled by ruby tendrils that mirror my port wine birthmark. She isn’t wearing her mask. When I ask her why not, she tells me she ran out of silver foil, and points instead to the window behind her. “Pretend that’s my face,” she says, angling the phone so the moon fills my view. “See, we’re meeting 384,398 km further apart than the sanctioned minimum.” She asks after my sleep. “I dreamt small children were stepping stones, but only some survived my weight. Some grew teeth with instant cavities. Some fell in holes. Whenever I thought I’d escaped, I turned to find them clinging on.” “The children represent the you you’re afraid for,” she says. “I’m not scared of myself,” I protest. Instead of correcting me, she enfolds me in her light. It’s cold compared to the warmth of her arms, but I allow her to usher me into the bed we’ve shared. Together we talk of whirling dervishes, spinning plates, the ebb and flow of tides, carnival parades. Her voice surges through me, silvery and bright.
Judy Darley can't stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her work has been published in the UK, New Zealand, India, US and Canada. Judy’s short story collection Sky Light Rain is out now from Valley Press. Find Judy at skylightrain.com; twitter.com/JudyDarley.