A Mistake A Year On


I knew he was looking,

Since class.

Since going into class.

(And yes,

I know, I know, I know,

Him, again.

But I want to let this out.)

Sitting in Purdie before the lecture.

Did I know he was on the stairs?

I hadn’t seen him.

But I’d heard,

Snippets of his voice.

So I wasn’t surprised.

When I was getting up –

I met his eye.

A single eye,

The top corner of his face,

The rest cut off

By the handrail,

The glass,

The mechanics of the building

By which we were framed.

Everyone about us,

Us included,

Got up, left,

Migrated in a jumbled,

Incoherent mass,

Towards the doors,

Funnelling through,

Into the lecture hall.

A girl –

Dark brunette, Scarlett coat – 

Said hello to a girl I was with,

(Exchange student, dark curly hair,

I forget her name, yet talk to her

Four days out of five in a week)

Stood, to my right,

Just ahead,

As if to go in.

But she turned, 

Back, and said

“Why are you being so slow?”

To the boy,

In the grey jumper.

And that’s when I realised,

He was there,

Hesitating behind me.

Because of me.

We’re always aware,


Of our moves,

Each step constructed, 

Artificial around each other.

He had chosen,

To wait behind,

Safe, where he was,

Behind me.

Until she called him out,

Pulled him forward,

An “I just can’t be arsed…”

Pulled from his lips,

As an excuse.

And he slid forward,

Conscious, I somehow knew,

Of me,

And passing me,

And going in ahead of me,

In a certain way relieved,



The consciousness receding with distance,

As they took their seats,

At the back, to the left,

And I mine, 

In the centre of the last row,

Where we always sit.

I caught him look again,

And watch,

From his seat at safe distance,

(The same distance as the morning,

Though a different hall,

With different people)

When Al came in,

And sat in front of me,

And we chatted.

And I wondered what he wondered,

As I leaned forward to chat,

To another man.

Today when we left that lecture, 

He was behind,

I ahead.

Kitty caught me for a chat,

And I obliged,

And so we walked.

But I forgot,


That it was Thursday, 

When he and Darren go to Tesco after class.

And so they ended up behind us, 

Right behind us,

Across the park, the tennis courts,

Both roads and onto Market.

Kitty left at the Union,

I waved goodbye,

Carefully snapping my head back,

To avoid meeting his eyes,

In case they were looking

(As I suspected they might).

And on we walked,

On and on,

I now solo, defenceless, 

He, hot on my heels.

But as we crossed the road,

He said,

“Tescos? Oh I thought you wanted Sainsbury’s,”

And after a brief flurry of conversation,

I stopped listening,

Or hearing,

Just knowing,

That still behind me,

He had chosen

To walk on.

On and on. 

To the other end of the street,

Following me,

As I once did he,

A split second decision, 

Losing my friends,

And walking the wrong direction,

Only briefly,

Only artlessly.

I held my ground and walked on,

And then away,

Somehow aware

Of the exact moment,

They entered the shop.

And I cannot help but think,

That his decision,

Was deliberate,

Made in recognition,

Somewhere between half and full knowing,

That he’d be following me,

A little further.

And I cannot help but wonder,


Surely neither of us care.

I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t.

I no longer like his face,

Nor his thick Scottish accent,

Not a single thing,

Except maybe

The grey of his hoodie.

And he, I don’t hope,

Does either. 

We do nothing, 

Aim nowhere,

Go nowhere.

All WE are is this:

Two foolish fucking kids,

Just making each other uncomfortable.


But unsure how,

Other than with time,

To stop. 

Photography by Jade Fagersten

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