Barefoot

Poets always notice the details, he said. Nina Bougin’s hens scratching circles in the white dust.

Always the details.

The homeless man was sleeping under the castle this morning. That cavernous space where I’ve sometimes seen the dancing boys. He was curled up on the one bench, his rucksack at his feet and his trainers placed on the ground before him. Self-contained, neat even in such dire circumstances. I remember the same. The same need to clean and order. How is it to sleep rough? How is it to hear the sea, feel the wind throughout the long live night without cover? His head was pulled inside the sleeping bag. A snail withdrawn. Closed in. I hope he is safe. Does he sleep? They say that life expectancy on the street is only a couple of years. It is hard. We are not designed to eschew warmth and comfort. Does he choose this?

I expected revellers. I had heard the fireworks through my open window and clocked that it was probably nearly twelve. I thought about J and her family attending the New Year’s Eve party at The Marine. Her and her family go every year, she told me, without fail. I’ve only been in once. It was one Christmas and nothing else was open. We sneaked a look in at the ballroom. A huge space with a specially-made dancing floor. This morning the lights in the bar were still on. A man stood outside smoking, his bow tie undone and hanging round his neck. Teams of people spilled out of Pier Pressure. Young and old. A barefoot girl, skittering along the pavement, called out Happy New Year to me. I was, for some reason, inordinately pleased. Happy New Year to you, I called back.

My cold is making me feel crook. You should rest, he implores. I know. I know. But I need to walk. I need to continue. I may have to give in. Not yet. Not yet.

A large woman in a wide tulle skirt and bolero jacket looking like some Botero odalisque walks ahead of me, her arm linked through her partners. He has his hands in his jacket pocket. Lip Lickin’ Chicken is doing a roaring trade.

The moon is a perfect circle. White today. Pure white. I walk in its light. The street lights are on in St David’s Road. And I am momentarily thrown, expecting darkness when there is light. Is there an anticlimax after all this revelling? I can’t remember, it has been so long. I thought of being 21 and travelling down to London to be with D. Trafalgar Square was a sea of people, surging. I felt scared, out of control. And then going from strange house to strange house, D leaving me for hours on end. Or so it felt. Was it fun? I was alive to my desire, certainly. Waiting to be saved.

The starlings still chattered, the stink of their guano was the same. Nothing has changed. Another day just different numbers.

Now remember a virus can bring you down, he said at breakfast. Yes. But I don’t want to write about it. Not today. I am trying to revolutionise my way of thinking. Throwing it all out. It takes courage and stamina. Both of which are in short supply for the moment.

Just don’t look at it. It will only irritate you. It doesn’t irritate me. It unsettles me. She does. Always has. And yet, there is love and this overwhelming compassion. I won’t. I won’t look at it. Just once  a week to check for messages. That is all. I promise.

Shall I ask her today? It isn’t a concrete way of learning, she said to me. No. This is. I want this. This human one-to-one. If she’s in I will ask her. Make a start. There is power in beginning, said Goethe. Amen to that.