The people in the botanical gardens made him nervous. The casual ease with
which they reclined smiling on the grass or walked the meandering lazy
pathways – Like the landscape had be sculpted just for them and their
hand-crafted sandals, their wicker baskets and designer sunglasses.

You needed something to protect your retinas. To keep on the cruel
radiation. All he could do was strip away clothing to the bare minimum and
move with half-closed eyes; hope he didn’t bump into one of these smiling
horrors or walk carelessness in front of a car.

The light made the streets heave and vibrate, bodies and metal, cacophony
of internal combustion and chatter. The things you overheard in the westend
would stricken you if you let them. The breeze was a small mercy, too
small, the din and ease made his nauseated but he couldn’t bring himself to
go back to the hotel they’d stuck him in. The room too much like an
oversized coffin, The acute angle of the ceiling and suffocating agony.

Holding his breath he ducked into the gardens.

Exotic pollens bombarded his eyes, making them water and itch. He fought
the urge to rub them as he wound his way along the tarmac. People
everywhere. The wrong kind of people. Leisure people. Tourists and students
with well to do parents. Young professional couples on waitrose picnics. A
sense of privilege so foreign in these days that he could barely comprehend
it. When had he become so limited in faculty?

Press onwards. Away from the hotspots. Sound of children playing. Find the
recesses. The unkempt shades.

Finally, some distance, among the hanging leaves. Despite the pollen he
breathed deep. Not even the plants and flowers wanted him there. He didn’t
give a fuck. Needed this bad. To hide amongst the trunks of trees. To
pretend. He pushed his fingers into the soil, took it to his lips, into his
mouth. Just a taste, feel its texture. He smeared it over his face,
dragged his stained hands down over his neck, beneath the hem of his ragged
t-shirt.

He fell back gasping, breathing in the soil.

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