Mayday in 1980? heat sealing my fingers together. Why is it the most ordinary images that fall out, when I shuffle the memories? Two girls in a secondhand bookshop, hands sticky with sampled perfumes from an afternoon's Dublin.
Up these four storeys of shelves, time moves more slowly than outside on the quays of the dirty river. One window cuts a slab of sunlight; dust motes twitch through it. I shut my eyes and breathe in. 'Which did I put on my thumb, Cara, do you remember?'
No answer. I stretch my hand towards her over the Irish poetry shelf, as if hitching a lift. 'All I can smell is old books; you have a go. Was it sandalwood?"
Cam emerges from a cartoon, and dips to my hand She wrinkles her nose, which has always reminded me of an 'is less than' sign in algebra.
'Not nice?' I ask.
'Dunno, Pen. Something liquorishy.' Her eyes drift back to the page.
'1 hate liquorice.' All I can make out now is vile strawberry on the wrist. I offer my thumb for Cara to smell again, but she has edged down a shelf to Theology. My arm moves in her wake and topples a pyramid of Surprising Summer Salads.
I'm sure to have torn one. I have only ninety-two pence in my drawstring purse, and my belly is cramping. It occurs to me to simply shift my weight on to the ball of my foot and take off like a crazed rhinoceros through the door, Then, being a responsible citizen, even at seventeen, I put my mother's spare handbag down beside the sprawl of books, and kneel. The princess who sorted seeds from sand at least had eloquent ants to help her. All I get are Cara's eyes rolling from the safe distance of the Marxism shelf, and a snigger from some art student over by the window. Luckily the black-lipsticked Goth at the till is engrossed in finding a paper bag for an old atlas; in any other bookshop a saleswoman would be pursing her lips and planting her stiletto heels six inches from my fingers. The tomb of Surprising Summer Salads I build is better ventilated than the original, almost Japanese. I have been neat, no one can make me buy a copy. If it were Astonishing Autumn Appetizers, now, I might consider it
I'm blithering, amn't I?
Cara is over by Aviation pretending not to know me, so I set off downstairs; tr