The acrid smell of smoke from our downstairs neighbour’s cigarette had snaked its way through my open bedroom window. It was there when my alarm woke me. There is no escaping the odours generated by other people. Sometimes it is his bacon, that he, a keeper of ungodly times like me,  fries in the early hours. Or it is the sweet sticky stink of Chinese food from the family who live on the corner next to him. I don’t mind. I am used to it. And I like to been amongst, though not amidst, other people. We keep to ourselves but we are there if needed. As he was, so kindly, when he fell. Though there are more preferable smells – freshly brewed coffee or baked bread. The Hot Bread Shop is my current favourite – it never lets me down with its aromas though I have to walk out of my way to get them.

I see the woman with the ‘for life’ bag regularly these mornings. The last two she has tried to avoid passing me. I think she is shy or depressed and wants to avoid eye contact. She turns into what we call ‘the ship’, a kind of prow-like shape on the corner of the Castle end of the Prom, or the little circle-like shape further along. She pretends that she’s looking out to sea or onto the beach. I am sorry that she feels the need for this rather pathetic subterfuge, I would never force an intimacy, however small, on her. She is like a mole, a night time creature. She always wears the same clothes. Though yesterday she’d swapped her pink sweatshirt top for a burgundy one. Her hair is dark and lank and her leggings are tucked into socks and large walking boots. She rolls from side to side as she walks, a fag always in her hand and a Tesco bag in the other. Sometimes I catch her on the way to the 24hr garage, her empty bag swinging in the wind. Other times she is walking back, her bag full of provisions. What does she buy there?

The Shoreline guest house on South Marine had the ‘no vacancies’ sign up on Saturday night. Today it has been changed back to ‘vacancies’.

Some words are toxic. It wasn’t his. He was just repeating what the fisherman had said. And he related it verbatim to the policeman. No wonder he wasn’t sympathetic. I would’ve been the same. It wasn’t his word. It didn’t sit comfortably.

I struggle to like her and her. Can I love them instead? Love is different. Love can come from an inexhaustible source of humanity of compassion of care of attention. Liking is ego-driven and so often much more about how that person treats you. I can let it go. I can love them. Yes.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.