‘I regret to inform you’

In that moment, the words are animals; they’re deer, standing right in front of you, two, three, four, all of you awkward creatures surprising each other, and then they’re bounding away so fast you find yourself wondering later in the day if they were ever there, and how many, and how long they were frozen like that, or if all you heard was a heartbeat in your ears, a rustle of leaves, the crunch of consonants against the soles of your boots.

You wish there was somebody else: instead of you perhaps, or there with you at least, facing the other way, their back strong like a wall, but soft, becoming a giant hand to cradle you as you fall, creased, becoming a pile of taken-off clothes in a changing room, a scrunched up tissue from a palm fallen onto the pavement, rolling into the street, and when nothing more should happen, into the holes of a drain and the airless underground.