She took my empty water bottle and waggled hers.

“Do you want to feed the trash ducks?” she asked. I didn’t know what she meant, but I followed. Of course, I followed. When you meet a girl who is perfect, not real, there is nothing to do, but follow.

We tangled ourselves into the push of high street people and were carried toward the canal. The crowd’s breath steamed the wrinkles from our clothes, and the buildings were polished shiny by our progress. She pulled me away and past constellations of broken glass.

At the canal’s concrete bank surrounded by closed factories that manufacture silence, we stared at our reflections floating on the ill water. The sky peered over our shoulders and was disappointed to see its perfect face discoloured. But I pointed out to her the oil slick rainbows that jumped between the green-black clouds.

shook out the last drops of water, screwed the lid back on and tossed one of the bottles into the canal. It skittered and pirouetted on the water’s surface chased by thin ripples. Its neck stretched forward looking for a mate.

“Trash ducks,” she said. She tossed the second bottle and they danced around each other, pushed by the breeze, like courting birds. We picked paint chips and bottle caps from the pavement cracks and tossed them into the water, but the pair was more interested in each other.

I picked up someone else’s discarded bottle but thought better of adding a third. Instead, I threw it into the bushes. Wind shook the leaves from the trees and forced our ducks to race away, as if scared, one after the other.

spread her fingers wide and showed me the scars where a surgeon fulfilled his promise to her mother to make her normal. I took off my shoe and showed her the soft pink button of flesh where a toe once lived. On her own feet was her mother’s concession. Curtains of skin hung between each toe. I showed her my filled cavities and mended promises, mine and others.

And when our ducks chased each other into a sucking drain, she stood and held out her scarred fingers. I followed, because she was real, better than perfect.