There is a side of the city you will not be able to see until you have done this job. There is a whole separate world mapped alongside the one you occupied before; the city and its double, revealed to you only gradually as you wind your way down another heavy-carpeted hallway in a luxury hotel. This other city moves in a different way to the normal one. It throbs with immediacy and abandon. In this new city, you will drink and talk for hours, but it will seem only a blink. When you take your clothes off, and stand naked before another, time will stand still for a beat. When you fuck, you’ll wish to remain in that moment of delicious surrender forever. In the harsh light of day, you will walk past places you never noticed before, or had never been allowed into, and think of the memory you made there with a relative stranger. No-one else will know. You’ll smile to yourself at the memory of this other geography.

Sometimes, unable to sleep, you will rise from a new bed and look down on your city from a penthouse vantage point. It will appear almost unrecognisably still. This cannot be the place that you have so often battled through and been relentlessly buffeted by. When you first came here it felt almost crushingly big, and now it is silently spread out for you behind glass. Yours to be devoured. In this other city the rules are different. Here, you can take what you want and refuse to apologise for it. Here, you have come to understand what power can feel like. You are a wolf, and every night you feel yourself awaken below a moon that is full and bright.

This world is made and remade each night, after dark. The night knows you by the name you gave yourself, the name which suits your penchant for wilderness. It’s this name that lovers mutter in reverie, that you wear like lingerie underneath a sensible dress. This name is your calling card now, it opens doors. Not that it really matters: people remember faces, not names, and from the occasional wink that the bell boys and maitre d’s give you, you know they remember yours. They are your silent co-conspirators.

You will rarely see your flatmate, but she will provide the faint metronome of the world you left behind. She’s asleep when you get home at night, so you slip off your heels and try to be quiet. She will make a large pot of coffee each morning, and leave you enough for a cup when you emerge. That cup is almost cold, but the remnants of her 9-5 leave you colder. That place seems unfamiliar now, and you struggle to remember how to speak the language. The tongue of this new city is brazen and honest. People have different names but they tell you deeply personal truths.

This other city exists in the space between your gaze and a lover’s, in the dwindling gap between your bodies as they draw closer together in the back of a car. Its trace is in the scuffed-up red soles of your favourite stilettos. You catch it in a sudden wisp of certain perfumes, or when you wrap yourself up against the cold air in that beautiful coat someone gave you. You think of him, of the warmth of bodies, as you pull it around you and stride out into the night, and realise that this hidden city was your home all along.

2023 — Louisa Knight