Nearly, but not quite

She takes a deep breathe as she waits. She lets the air pass through her teeth as she exhales, conjuring up a force, and a resistance.

She imagines this is why people smoke: to give form to their boredom. She has been on the corner so long she is beginning to sink into the pavement. She suspects the work of gravity.

They say 'and then boredom set in...' - well, the concrete is well and truly round her ankles. She pitches and sways in the wind like a sapling. Like a stiltwaker stuck in mud.

The stranger might never come.

She picks at fingers, scratches, turns on herself. Maybe this is why people smoke: a self doing something to a self. Finally, action - even masochism qualifies as that.

As a child she liked to listen to clocks tick, to sit very still beneath the dining room table, tapping along to the beat, as if she were lodged dead centre inside time itself, like the pin that fixs the two hands to the centre of the clockface. How seldom you hear that sound now - the ticking of a clock, except in films, on television, where more often than not it signals the imminent explosion of a bomb, the launch of a rocket.

She thinks, time has become apocalyptic, catastrophic. We are counting down. Ten, Nine, Eight ...

Cuckoo clocks - whatever happened to cuckoo clocks, to that brazen advance and retreat, on the hour, every hour? That little bird seemed happy enough, like a soldier on guard, to take a short reliable turn at measured intervals, and sink back into stolid composure inside a wooden hut.

She considers, briefly, stepping forward, wondering if it might mean progress, a way out of this tight little corner.

She read somewhere that time and space were fictions. Somewhere else that the universe respected neither categories, patching them back together as quickly as they were torn apart. That time is the field of life and space the field of death (Foucault). Distance kills no one, she read, unless they are subject to the hands of a clock, to the timer.

Anyway, the dead are a disrespectful lot, liable to turn up anywhere shaking a rattle in your face.

There is no guarantee, she concludes, coughing lightly into a handkerchief, that advancing has anything whatsoever to do with straightening your hat, lifting your chin and marching onward.

She wipes her lips, and watches the tall man walking slowly towards her on the other side of the street. He drops his paper, bends to pick it up, looks around as if there ought to be something or someone intended for his eyes - another man, a child - a woman perhaps. He is directly opposite her. He lifts an arm.

She raises her handkerchief, surges forward, tripping, catching herself on the curb as the taxi pulls up. He climbs in, subsumed by smoked glass and speed and light.

Transported away.

Nearly, she thinks.

But not quite.