After Dark

The night time fisherman of London Bridge.

Last night, as I sipped a glass of saké for what I thought was the first time, my tongue spun a forgotten memory. It didn’t speak of dry alcohol or smooth musk, but of the deepest shadows, of a city at night. Whispered mantras of the change that blankets us after dark, when laws bend and honesty trumps obedience.

In that taste was a lone fisherman under London bridge, a Friday hour when even the drunks are reduced to distant catcalls and the homeless have found their peace. The flash of line in Thames moonlight; whipping rod and a slice of tense air. I saw his timeless silhouette framed by a modern city, bleeding it’s history into the waves gentle laps.

No newspapers?”, he asked in broken English as I motioned towards my camera.

No newspapers”, I replied, wondering what would happen if there were.

His head tipped, a nod of approval, and a warm but wry smile glinted across his face before he turned back to the water’s darkness. I clicked off seven photos, struggling for light, but always knew that God himself could illuminate the river bank and the moment would still be unrecordable. His eyes fixed resolutely on the bobbing line as if I wasn’t there.

Retreating to a step behind him, I busied myself rolling a spliff. Papers, roach, tobacco, cannabis, grinder. I felt his ears twitch as the process reached a crescendo, craned neck curiosity at the click of my lighter, heard him anchor his rod in reply to a question I barely needed ask.

What are you fishing for?” I asked as he sat down a few feet to my left.

Carp” he replied after a long pause, deliberate pronunciation as if rehearsed in silence.

We spoke few words from there on in. I wondered where the carp would end up; who’s fork they’d find themselves on the end of, what conversations would fall on their deaf ears.

We shared the river and the silence, smoke retreating to a sepia sky. He took a flask from his backpack and we passed it between us as laughter double helixed to the bridge above, an unexplained joke lighting up a bemused city. Broad smiles betrayed the fire in our bellies.

Later, we parted ways from a slapdash hug as unspoken familiarity hung behind us on the breeze. The river’s dark abyss watched him pack up his rod, slowly turn and disappear into London’s infinity, his lingering shadow an unexpected ripple on it’s asphalt.

It wasn’t until dawn broke that I realised his line had never twitched. The light cast harsh shadows on a scene only hindsight could spoil as London regained it’s composure ready for a new day.

Bated breath waiting for another night to live, breathe and die.

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