In dreams, I see a white city bathed in yellow light and surrounded by lavender cloud. The gypsy’s crystal ball shows the same. ‘The Tin Man wished for a heart,’ she said. ‘You?’ I shrug. She was supposed to know. The dreams continue: there’s deep snow, rows of identical concrete tower blocks, kiosks, people with fur hats and long coats. With nothing better to do and no one else to ask, I set off–a small stirring in my chest; my red shoes leading the way.
I find the snow, tower blocks, kiosks and people. An old woman in a battered coat sweeps the street with a bundle of twigs. She looks like the gypsy. It is 3pm and nearly dark. People stare at my feet. A small band of young men approach. They see me and stop. I do what I have seen others do: put on a stern face and stomp my feet, but they are not fooled. My shoes give me away. I resist the inexplicable urge to click my heels.
‘What are you looking for?’ the tallest one asks. I
ponder his question. ‘Come for a drink. We stay just here. My name is Vladimir.Friends call me Vlad.’ He extends a burly hand. I look up to where he has pointed. I see a yellow light in the window. He is a big man, but gentle. I do not feel afraid. I shake his hand.The flat is not warm. We keep our coats and shapkas on and sit around the kitchen table. I shiver. ‘A radiator does not supply heat simply because we expect it to,’ Vlad says. ‘But we want to believe it will,’ he adds.
As they prepare the table and clear liquid is poured, I anticipate the warmth that begins in the belly and spreads outward. We drink to our health, sing melancholy tunes about lavender fog and eat dark-brown bread with gherkins. Coming back from the WC, I notice their beds are made of straw.
‘We make use of people’s need to believe,’ Vlad says. He goes to the cupboard, opens it. I see a bear suit, a fox costume, other unidentifiable creatures. Then an accordion and more musical instruments. ‘This is
our artistry, our livelihood,’ he says. I think I understand.
Later I say, ‘Which costume will I wear?’
‘The suits are not for you,’ Vlad says.
‘I cannot play an instrument,’ I say.
‘They also are not for you.’
‘What will I do?’ I ask.
‘Wear your shoes.’
‘That will be enough?’
‘Yes. That will show them. Help them. Everyone wants to believe.’
We clink our glasses together over the table and underneath I click my heels. There is a feeling in my chest again, strong this time. I wonder what it is. Then it comes to me: I am home.
Sherry Morris is from a small Missouri town, but has lived in London since 2000. She is a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society and grows elephant garlic at her local community garden. Her stories have appeared with Gemini, Molotov Cocktail and London Liars’ League.
Visit her website: uksherka.com
Illustration by Thodoris Tibilis