Leaving the music, we drift across the road with the first light. The street lamps are still oozing their sodium glow but the sky is already a fragile shade of blue. The hazy world seems freshly constructed – soft, sharp and new. Our bodies operate remotely as we move over the tarmac towards where our bicycles should be – now hidden behind a muscular vehicle. Mine and Melanie’s cycles are locked either side of a lamppost – in our warm confusion Melanie unlocks her chain and a bicycle falls away from the lamppost against the gleaming paintwork of the car. All three of us stand still, looking at the bicycle as if it has acted on its own accord – grumpy at being left for so long.
Out of the corner of my eye I see an enormous man bouncing across the road – his arms so large that they are lifted away from his body by the layers of sinew and muscle. He rounds the car and the world collapses. Suddenly there is no air coming down my throat, flexing ripples of muscle are squeezing into my neck from all sides and everything in the world has shifted through 45 degrees – I can see Melanie’s shocked face sideways against the sky.
“what are you going to do about that… eh… eh… what are you going to do about that… eh…” – shaking my neck as he says this like a dog playing with a rabbit.
Panicking, I try to speak but only a small hiss squeezes through the pipes in my neck. Like an air hostess in a crisis, I can hear Melanie calmly beginning to reason with the man. The more she speaks the more the muscles slacken. I can feel the warmth of his armpit and smell the maleness of his sweat and aftershave. My head is gradually released and air flows back into my lungs.
“It wasn’t me” I gasp, like a fish pleading with a sushi chef. Characters from the night have silently appeared and a small crowd forms around the car. Mini cab drivers offer escalating estimates for the cost of repair to a scratch that we can barely see. Melanie’s voice has siphoned the adrenalin from the early morning air – the doorman is unarmed by the logic of her eyes. The bear slouches back across the road and the crowd disperses.