Cat Food

She seems to keep herself to herself mostly, or so it appears whenever I am in the studio at work. She is self-contained, a tall, long, sylph-like figure who is made enigmatic in her muteness. Then, all of sudden yesterday she spoke. She was on her way out, coat on handbag in hand and I looked up to say goodbye when she stood at the door and turned round. She spoke in English, probably because she could see I was looking. There was one other person in the room and she directed her narration to both of us, though she is used to speaking Welsh to the other person. It was about cat food. She was popping out she said to get cat food. I use mountains of the stuff, she said. I think she has three cats. My mother bought some cheap stuff from Tesco’s, she said, so I thought I’d try it but it made Hank, who’s the fat, greedy one, throw up. Then I realised that the other cats weren’t eating the Tesco stuff and that Hank was eating theirs too. So he was throwing up from overeating. She laughed. So I now have to go and get their usual stuff.

I like these small insights into other people’s lives. I watch them all steadily, making up stories as I do. Do they do the same with me? I don’t know what they think of me. Some are friendly others are not. I don’t socialise with them. I say no to the Christmas Party. It is too much all that, I’ve always find it hard to be in groups. All that forced jollity. All out of context. I listened to Proust as I walked writing about how our social personas are formed by other people’s opinions of us. We have no control over this, prejudices are believed, acted on. We must bear it and try to change them, soften them by gentle degrees. Or not. For what in the end does it matter?

I watched a pale apricot-coloured food carton dancing in the wind, sliding, pirouetting across the road. On the roundabout before the station a gritter truck span round the circle twice, the sand and grit gushing out behind. A taxi joined him in the dance.

She texted me to say she may not be able to make it – though later she said she was determined. Floods and snow. Poor loves. All those mourning the loss of their safe houses. A house behind the Alexandra Hall has flashing lights in its window. First Yuletide comfort I’ve seen. More please, I need to lift this gloom.

Fingers crossed, I wrote back to her. Fingers crossed.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.