Will Gatti & Daniel Finn


Losing Heart

They lost their hearts in the eye of that storm, the one that howled round Piccadilly Circus, ripped  six hundred and seventy-two hats, nineteen umbrellas, one thousand and one mobile phones, four scarves, a newspaper, a watch, seventeen bicycles, along with their cyclists, up into the air. All of the cyclists kept madly pedalling though they no longer had a road to pedal along.  One of them was upside-down and then the right way up; and then came to a stop on the top of a quivering red bus, called Boris.

That cyclist wasn’t the one who lost his heart; it was another man and, as it happens, another woman. She was there, near the statue, when the storm arrived.

The sky in that circle above all the tall buildings was one moment blue and the next a tumbling, seething mountain of black and flickering clouds; and then the air suddenly went still, like an in-drawn breath. Then, just as suddenly, the wind whipped down and everything took flight: the hats and scarves and umbrellas, the watch and the newspaper, a pink Financial Times that peeled itself into separate sheets; and then as if racing after all these whipped-away things were the cyclists, one after another, soaring spiralling up into the crackling sky.

She saw all this through blurred eyes. She saw how the wind pinched and squashed faces, pulled away frowns and scowls and smiles and tossed them away so that all those  faces looked like puzzled puddings. Then the wind caught her and spun her around, her arms out straight, her hair shivering and electric, right there by the statue; her high heels skittering sometimes on the pavement, sometimes in the air.

And he, the other man, the one who also lost his heart, having stepped out from the underground into the gasp of in-drawn breath that was the moment before the storm, was bounced between Japanese tourists, who clung to each other as if they were on a raft; then he was ripped free. He tried to go back down the stairs into the underground, where a sea of white, frightened faces stared up at the storm, but he was yanked back and he too, just like the woman, started to spin.

He caught a hat, and a scarf and an open umbrella, which he clutched with both hands, and was scooped up, twirling and lurching through a blizzard of smart phones, past one bearded, airborne cyclist clutching a New Statesman; and then he was dropped down with a crack onto his knees, just by the statue where the spinning lady span. And he saw her poor face, pinched and pulled by the wind; and he felt a terrible pain in his chest as his heart disappeared.

The wind died. The hats and scarves and umbrellas were draped around Eros, so he looked like an old man dancing on one leg. And before anyone moved, or breathed, or realised they were still alive there was a pattering rain of mobile phones hitting the pavements and shattering one after the other, spilling their little heart batteries out across the stone. Then everyone breathed again and the cyclists, still cycling, bounced down onto the street and weaved through the stationary buses and taxis and vans; and people gingerly picked themselves up, and motors started and traffic began to move in its slow, stop-start way when the lights turned green.

But the man and the woman who had lost their hearts didn’t move. He was still on his knees, and she was facing him, her arms still outstretched because she felt if she brought them down to her side she would lose her balance and fall.

Some tourists, thinking they were street performers in a puzzling play, stopped and took pictures and then went on their way; while the man and the woman just looked at each other and both of them, at the same time, tried to speak. They wanted to say what had happened, and how if this were a film that they were in they would now smile at each other and laugh and perhaps fall in love. But because their hearts were gone, they couldn’t smile or laugh or fall in love.

She helped him to his feet and asked if he would be alright and he held on to her hand and wished he still had his heart, and he said he would be fine. But he wouldn’t, and he asked her if she would be alright and she said, very sadly, that she would be fine, once she had found her heart. He nodded and said that was the same for him; and then they turned away from each other and walked off into the crowds of people, who hurried and shopped as if nothing had happened.

And maybe they came back the next day or the day after that and found their hearts lodged somewhere in among the coats and bags still tangled up and hanging off the old statue; and maybe they even looked for each other once they had their hearts back, right there by the statue; and maybe they found each other, and maybe they didn’t. I didn’t see that part of the story so I can’t say, one way or the other.