Singing Tree

A mild morning. There are lots of kids, students on the Prom. I listen to their chatter. Girls without coats, running on tippy-toe through the rain. Newly found lovers arm in arm. One couple strolls past me. The girl is speaking. Petit-pois, say. He laughs. Nearing the Pier Pressure nightclub another pair are walking towards me. The problem is the Freshers, the boy is saying, ending his half-finished sentence with ‘like’. Heading home and passing the Insurance Agent’s shop and Lilley’s café (though I think it is called something else now) I walk behind an Asian-looking boy and white girl. You’re Hungarian right? he is asking her. Yes. So what’s the Hungarian for ‘quiet’?

Walking through the Castle park there is a figure ahead of me, a hoodie obscuring his face in this semi-darkness. I feel a frisson of fear. He’s a big man. I push forward. He walks under a street lamp. There’s a dog. He has a dog on a leash. I relax. It’s OK. A boy passes me the other way. His phone lights up his face. There is Rap music coming from it and he is singing along.

Scores of taxis buzz around the streets. All white. Always white. They line the right-hand side of Great Darkgate Street. It’s warmer inside, shouts one of the drivers at a student huddled in a shop doorway. He finishes his cigarette and throws it on the ground. The cab with the Taxi sign and its missing ‘x’ is parked by the Cooper’s Arms. Still not repaired it then?

What can I say about yesterday? It was exhausting. I cried almost from the start. I felt raw, skinned. And yet, we did little. No exuberance. No deliverance. There is nothing. Nothing but ourselves. I didn’t want to share. I didn’t feel generous. But I felt compassion, so much, for all of them. Good people, gentle beings, even he with his anger. You could see it, it was palpable. It made me wary. A nice little hall. It smelt musty but it was warm. Old fashioned toilets, a little stage and a wooden roof. The Quakers are good with things like toilets, one of them said, trying to stop the silence. I wanted it. That silence. Ask the question of your heart. Let it drop down, she said. It did and I wept. So much grief. From me, from them, for me, for them.

We almost rowed. But we pulled it back. He is only trying to protect me. And I am a crocodile, snap, snap. Don’t be scared, my love. The change, if there is to be any change, will be on the inside. No more running away. For I cannot. There is nowhere to go, to run, from me. I cannot.

Shall I contact her? I am nervous of it. All she can say is no. Can I deal with no? Is that OK? To be told no.

She called me ‘love’. I was touched. She is not an effusive woman. I love her. I know her sharpness, but I understand it. There is often pain, sometimes there is awkwardness. She was the same, though her rancour was bone-deep.

I will give it a try. I will give myself to it. And find what? Nothing. That would be good. That nothing. Not a despairing, hopeless, empty nothing. No, a full, joyful, open space-full nothing.