The watch lay where he had left it, next to the bootleg Pogues album. Some live concert in Bristol, before it had all come apart. The face was dark, lifeless, until he ran a sentimental finger across the scuffed glass, leaving a smear of brightness that faded like fogged breath on a window.
Before the fall, the sight of a naked woman strolling through the wreckage as if on a summer beach might have startled him. He had seen many such sights since, although the shapes had often staggered and stumbled, as if half-blind. He had thought, the first time, that the fire might have returned, that the moon might once again be reflecting the sun. They had all left, in the end. His brother had died, trying to follow them. Now here she was, marching through the steel graveyard towards him, as if she knew him. She must have gotten lost, he thought, all those years ago. Only she did not walk like someone lost. When they finally stood face to face, he realized that he knew her, had known her all along.
Sorry I’m late, she said. He held up the broken watch. The way his cheeks felt, oddly stretched, he must have been smiling. I remember now, she said, how to bring it all back.