Fucking Shithouses’s

They’re are still working on Terrace Road. It’s all blocked-off and has been for weeks now. Where are we supposed to park? he moans. There was a man I saw this morning, he continues, he was delivering to one of the pubs and he had to roll his beer barrel along the road. He couldn’t get near with his lorry. He was fuming. Fucking shithouse, he was shouting. What at the workmen? I ask. Yeh.

He’s laughing now. You know the cleaner at Morrison’s, the one from Brum? Yeh. He says that when he has to carry all the garden stuff outside. Fucking shithouses’s. That’s what he says. Fucking shithouses’s.

It was breezy yesterday morning, especially down by the harbour. The wind blew something hard against my lip as I walked. A twig, a stone, a leaf? It stung and then I tasted salt.

A silent day today. We smile about it, he and I, and bow. We’ve taken to bowing at each other, nineteenth-century style. No radio, no singing, no talking. We sign at each other or write things down. It made me anxious on the Prom. What if someone tries to talk to me? And someone did. I tried to manage it best I could by nodding and making assenting noises. Does that count? I’d walked behind him initially, trying to work out whether I should cross the road or not to avoid an encounter. I’d seen him shining a strong torch along the beach. He turned to face me. It’s my daughter, he said, walking in step with me, a large man in a t-shirt. She got really pissed, he continued, and has lost her bag. Have you seen it? A plastic bag. It’s got her phone, her shoes, the lot. My head on one side, I try to emanate empathy and then move on. There is a swan in the water by the harbour. A lone white one. Earlier, coming down St David’s Road I heard a great fluttering in one of the trees. A large bird, though I couldn’t see it. An owl?

I cried yesterday. I think I’m going to be alright and then it comes. No one bats and eyelid, which I am pleased about. I don’t want the fuss. I described it as feeling like metal, my carapace, my armour, a rigid shell across my back. I know that it helps to share such things but it is nonetheless excruciating to me. I want to be in control, held, composed. The day imploded after that. But that is OK. Then I listened to a programme about the Arvon Foundation. Is it a good thing to do? All my fears about eating in public, a lack of privacy, having to share bathrooms, cook together, read together, work together come crowding in. And all that exposure. Can I weather it?

I wonder how many will come today. Ugh, strangers, just when I’d got used to the group. How will it be not to talk? Freeing? No expectation, just a polite kindness. But how will it work? I asked him last night over supper. That’s her problem not yours, he said.