Where I’d finally moved to, I knew nobody. I’d been homeless for quite a while and ended up somewhere not many people wanted to be. But the quiet suited me after all that exposed street life. 

I got the internet hooked up and went back to my old ways, drinking during the day (and night), usually wine and orange juice, and spending all my time on social media and YouTube – sort of pretending I was doing valuable research. Exposing the New World Order and taking back control.

Having spent a lot of time in Glastonbury during my homeless days, I tried to convince myself I was breaking through to a fourth dimensional awareness and was in receipt of a higher vibrational download. This was the time of the Great Awakening, after all. You had to become the quiet, still centre. 

I was up most of the night – usually going to sleep on the futon on a bare concrete floor around 4 or 5am. Carpets were not a thing here yet, nor were curtains. I had Christmas paper up instead. No furniture to speak of, no fridge, cooker or washing machine. Maybe that was fine for now – it was certainly simple. But could it be sustained? I doubted it. Madness came to knock once or twice – the old dark thought patterns, the cycles of hate and venom. The comfort of aloneness, the quiet, and not being constantly observed (as I was while on the streets), had its own threat of a chosen imprisonment. The outside world grew incrementally dangerous. As soon as I put my head outdoors, I needed to be back with my wine mug and stained mouth, true crime on loop, and writing endless oversharing shit on my pages, which I’d invariably delete the next day. 

Then I saw the tweet. I didn’t recognise the name – not the whole name anyway. But the face, it was an older photograph, obviously – something about the tints, the colour palette. A real photograph. That hair style, that slightly wonky smile. It was her. Deffo. From the very early 90s. Someone I once went out with – her tweet having been randomly liked by someone I’d randomly followed for some random reason. 

I wish I could go back to 1990. I missed my chance then. Happiness. You only get one or two chances of it if you’re lucky. So don’t blow it like I did. xx

That’s what the tweet said, and it’d got a fair few likes and retweets. I was using only my first name on the Twitter, and a picture of some Van Gogh flowers on my profile, so I thought I’d nothing to lose by giving her a follow. Emma. Yes, it had to be her. We’d gone out two or three times. Went to see Dances with Wolves at the then new cinema in my old hometown. During the end credits, I’d clumsily tried to kiss her, and she’d rebuffed me. I took it badly and didn’t want to see her again, despite her trying a few times to call me – suggesting other meetups. She’d told me prior to our cinema date that she’d been hurt and was getting over a bad break up, and that anyone would need to be very patient with her. Patient I wasn’t. I was greedy, childish, grasping. I’d messed it up. Trashed it. But here was she, some thirty years later, saying she wanted to go back to 1990 – that she’d passed up on one of those rare chances of happiness in life. Did she mean us? Did she mean me? Or was I looking through wine goggles at some impossible chink of lost light?

I snapped down the lid of the laptop and crawled under my less than fresh duvet. Sleep came as it always eventually did. The futon had lost its springiness and I could feel the concrete harsh beneath my hips. She won’t follow back even, was my last thought before the thoughts stopped. 

I was wrong. Next day, around 3pm, after a milky coffee and some apricot wheaties, I fired up the ‘puter, and saw I had a few notifications on the twatter, as some people call it. One was her follow, amazingly enough. I saw I also had a DM. I checked it and saw her profile picture, then read the message. FFS, don’t be some porn bot, I thought. 

Thanks for the follow, David ( I knew a David once, very decent guy). I love Van Gogh. He suffered so much, but he still turned that suffering into art. You have to admire that. XX  Have a lovely day!

What to do?

I poured a half mug of wine and mulled over my next move. I decided to play it canny and get a sense of where Emma was in her life. I’d scanned her posts, and it was the usual stuff about loving yourself and being kind mixed with the obligatory cat and puppy videos. Now and again, she’d be revealing. 

I messaged her back:  Definitely. I’ve always like the impressionists. Mike Yarwood was probably the best, though. xx. 

Would the joke annoy her? Were two kisses one too many, or two too many? I didn’t hear anything for a couple of days, and almost deleted my account. Then I got a reply.

LOL. That made me smile, that did. And I really needed it after the day I’d had. So, don’t you have a picture? Or are you really a vase of flowers? Don’t be bashful. xx

That was more than I could’ve hoped for. I wasn’t ready to let her know what I looked like now. Would she even recognise me after all these years? I’d put on a few stone, lost some hair, but then who hadn’t? After a bottle and a half of Merlot, I thought, sod it – go for it. 

Emma. The truth is, I remember you. I recognised your photograph. Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker or anything. I just saw your picture and it was how you looked when we knew each other. I’m that David. That David from 1990. Remember Dances with Wolves? Howl! I know I was a klutz back then, but I’ve definitely improved – ask my probation officer! #joke!! I’ll DM you my pic. Here it is. Don’t be too harsh on me – plse. xx

It was about 8pm when I wrote the above and expected her either to block me or write something back pretty sharpish. Maybe she was in a relationship, or she’d started batting for the other side, no offence. Or maybe she just wouldn’t fancy me now – like she probably didn’t then. But what about that tweet – the one about missing her chance of happiness – what about that?  I started on the port as the hours wore on. Nothing, nada. Not a squeak. Even the porn bots were ignoring me. I crawled into my pit and eventually drifted into nothingness.

Same the next day, then the next. No response from Emma. That’s it, I thought, how dumb was I to think she’d be interested after all this time – some random dweeb from thirty years ago. Two or three dates, the last one probably amounting to a #metoo moment. I really did need to delete the account, or block her; if anything, I could be in trouble – even after all this time. It was only a fumbled kiss, though, and I backed off straight away. Just got the signs wrong, didn’t I? Is that such a crime? 

My finger was hovering over the red deactivate account button when the notification came in. It won’t be her, I thought. Probably somebody from Ghana asking me how my day’s going, telling me they’re honest and a Christian. Yeah, right. 

I nearly pressed deactivate, so very nearly. Why not look, though? So, I did. 

It was Emma. She’d changed her photograph, now showing the mid-fifties woman she obviously was. I could still see the younger her in that face, and it was a nice face, both softened and hardened by life. The eyes weren’t cruel though, and they twinkled. I saw those lips I once tried to kiss, those decades ago – less plump – but still attractive. I was no oil painting either. I wasn’t even a scribble in charcoal. 

Her message. As I read, my heart went into my throat. 

Dearest David, Your message has blown my mind, tbh. I’ve thought about you so many times through the years. I was silly then, just hung up on some bad boy I couldn’t have – I was stuck on self-destructive men, drunks, druggies, bikers, all that nonsense. You were a bit …square, that’s what I thought then, but you were really what I needed, and I messed that up. I’m so sorry. 

I see we’re not that far from each other, are we? Fancy a coffee sometime?  My treat. 

Meet the Author!

Mark enjoys writing stories, poems, and songs, and is a keen reader of both fiction and non-fiction. He lives in deepest Somerset with his cat, Haslett. Other hobbies include model railways, growing vegetables, and board games. 


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