I never want to go out, not at that time, not in that dark. I’ve always been afraid of it. I told you about the night lights. I had to have one in my bedroom. A sweet, warm light keeping away the ghouls. But when I do, when I do go out into the still night I am glad that I do. It is not only the facing of fears, but it makes me feel alive. It is an animal thing being out in the dark, especially when it is stormy. The wind animates me. And the smell of the night time air is gorgeous. I drink it in. Walking out of my door I drink it in.
I see bodies in the gloom. Dark shapes. My hackles rise. I am a cat. On the Prom the streetlights illuminate them. I see three students. Two boys and a girl. She has long blonde hair and wears a Parka. They do not see me. Passing the shelter I can see two other students, they sit huddled on the bench.
Walking up Loveden Road a security light comes on. The whole side of a house is suddenly illuminated. A shock of white. A white wall. Someone is there. Someone set off the light. Heat-seeking. A click. I stay on the road, walking up the hill by the side of the cars. Hello, calls a voice. It is soft, polite. How are you? it asks. Fine, I say, relaxing now. We reach the top of Loveden Road and join North Road. Which way is he going to go? I move to cross the road and then change my mind. He seems to want to talk. I see he has no coat. The rain is but a mist, but the wind is strong. He wears a short sleeved shirt, it is brown, a reddy-brown with stripes. It’s late for you to be out at night, he says. I am cocooned in waterproofs, a caterpillar-shape in the dark, how can he know me, know what I am? It’s morning for me, I answer. I am touched, touched that he wishes to make contact. He is clearly disposed to talk, but I move on. I want to go home. Take care, he whispers. Sleep well, I reply.
I am low. I am laid low by the dark, by the season, by tiredness. And yet. And yet there is still such a capacity for joy. I turn onto the Prom and at that moment a flock of seagulls take to the sky. How can I describe it? It is a flashing of white against the black. They float lazily in the wind. Their underbellies are illuminated by the streetlights. Flash, flash as they curve into the current. The black is almost blue, like Quink ink. (You could only tell the difference when pen met paper, in the bottle the blue was black and vice versa. I felt so important, so grown up with my bottle of ink. Don’t spill it, my mother’s voice would chime in my head. Be careful. It stained the little padded bit of the third finger on my right hand.) Can I come back as a bird? I love to watch their flight. Such grace. On land not so but in the air, there they sail like marvellous ships.
Even in the lowness I see the love. I see the love that surrounds me. I am so blessed. He calls to me. Holds me. He knows me. I need nothing else.
My printer died. Kaput, like the car. Mercury must be retrograde, I said. And it was. We bought a refurbished one, the same as the last. Surely it would be simpler that way. Just plug it in and away you go. Not so. My laptop now thinks there are two. No, no, I want to say. It’s like an amputee whose body remembers the leg it has lost, thinking it’s still there, itching. So I have to humour it. Acknowledge the ghost.
The Morlan Centre are holding a vigil today in memory of the Holocaust. The vicar announced it at church. You can go and light a candle. I will. It’s seventy-one years since Auschwitz was liberated. Is that the word? Seventy-one years. The illustrator Mervyn Peake was one the artists that went in to record it’s atrocity. He was never the same. How can you be? How can a sensitive soul like him hold such horror?
Outside the milky sky is broken by a scattering of rooks.