She runs with a coin—heads, go left—the outside smooth from her thumbnail filing down the reeded edge. Tails, turn right. When she gets home, she washes the city from her hands—tails, take the stairs—but the nickel clings to her palm—heads, left fork—so she goes to work smelling like money. Tails, right. She thinks money must smell like sex. Heads, take the bridge.
Last year, a man approached her, arms outstretched. She looked to the sky, thinking he was trying to catch something. He branded his fingers around her right breast. He didn’t even run away. Just walked until she could no longer tell him apart from every other man in the park.
Heads. Left fork back under the bridge.
They say the canals of Venice weren’t made by a sinking city but by the flooded footprints of mothers. Ten thousand women walking from butcher to baker to pew, the marsh compressed by scuffed shoes. The lagoon just followed, like the cyan shadow that it is. It was a combinatorial network, an account of bodies as electrons, a record of the path of least resistance. A map of weakness. The coin is the key. Uninfluenced, uncontrolled. Random. Every decision is truly her own simply because she’s taken herself out of the equation.
Tails. Through the woods.
Last month, a woman disappeared from the streetlights, jerked by her elbow off the path. Four other runners with headphones passed while he held her neck against the leafmould.
Heads. Cross the road. The coin slips through a grate. She doesn’t stop. She’ll find another form of determination. Steel webs of scaffolding, radial cracks in a stone-chipped windscreen, hairline fractures in peeling paint. She imagines the lines pressed over the city. Where they match the footpaths, she goes.
In a dead-end alley with no lights, she unknots a bin bag and shakes the sides, sifting. She’s behind a restaurant she used to eat at before she knew patterns betray life. She finds eggshells but can’t trust they weren’t broken by design. She presses her sneakers through them, overlaying the city in albumen and shell. But the pieces settle in the tread and she knows this could’ve been predicted. Elbow deep, she finds a cabbage leaf, veins faded to anaemic white. Left. Left. Right. Left. Left. She ends up in the same place. She must have made a mistake.
Last year, a woman was stopped by a policeman. She wore running tights with reflective stripes and one of her boyfriend’s t-shirts. Six different drivers remembered the AC/DC album across her chest. No one remembered seeing anything odd in the way he held her. A spaniel found her forearm fifty-seven miles away, puppy teeth between the bruises on her wrist.
She takes the cabbage, fingers bracing the decaying tissue, the rot sinking into her palm. Left. Right. Right. Right. Right.
She ends up in the same place.
She must have made a mistake.