I can do more than five.

They are ahead of me on North Parade. A girl and a boy. She is barely dressed for the rain, jeans and a tiny red boob tube. He is broad, she is tiny. Every now and again she squats down and bounces up again.

I can do more than five, she is saying. Can we go home now? he replies, his voice betraying his frustration and tiredness. Only if you agree that I can do more than five, she says. There is a trace of something foreign in her voice, is she Polish? She looks like a dancer, I think to myself. Her movements are lithe, light, springy. Her voice wheedles, it is a child’s. You can do more than five, he replies, bored now. Now can we go home? She lets him take her hand and she swings it as they walk. I can do nine, she mutters.

She was clearly inebriated. I see more and more young girls in the same state. There was another one on the Prom. A beautiful girl who could hardly walk. She too had a gentle man propping her up. She looked at me as I walked by. She reminded me of someone. Three boys loitered under the canopy of the bandstand, out of the rain, hoods over their heads. I saw them later walking towards the castle away from The Angel. It’s shit in there, one of them said.

I walked home along Llanbadarn Road on the road, avoiding the now slimy pavement. A cyclist was suddenly beside me, cycling slowly. I felt a frisson of disquiet but he meant no harm, and I let him go ahead. Turning into St David’s Road I heard a man call out to him. There were two of them across the road. Hey, the man called, do you know where we are?

She is so much more confident on the phone these days. She chats away. She talked of her daughter who is due to go to a wedding today. Is she looking forward to it? I ask. Yes and no, she replies. We talk of her outfit, the navy blue dress and the pink fascinator and pink shoes. She worries about the little things, she tells me. Not the big things. She used to be rake thin, you know 10 to 12. Now since taking the pills she went up to a 14 and a 16. It makes her unhappy. And the food is an issue. I tell her to take something in her bag, a rice cake or that almond cheese.

I love her chattiness. Thank you for calling, she says. I want to know she is OK, that she is cared for, safe. The handyman came today, she said. He looked tired, I made him tea. He has his problems with his marriage. He is a friend.

I’m glad. Yes, I’m glad.

I woke from a potent dream. It doesn’t make sense when I write it but when I lived it, dreamt it it was. There were three goddesses and I was one of them. And at one point I stole the scalp, a long head of hair, from a dead one. I pulled it from her, out of the water that was keeping her fresh, embalmed, I suppose. The crowd let out a shocked cry at my audacity. Then I was reading from a manuscript, a list of rules, spells even. Then I wanted to go on my way but it was blocked by a bridge, a kind of checkpoint (perhaps it is sparked the police cordon on the Prom), I had to go the long way round. I was outside. My dreams have been out in nature recently, a new development. There were too many details. A Simon Callow character featured. He was a friend whom another wanted to me to invite to dinner. I can’t, I said, he lives in Sweden. Where do such details come from?

I lay in bed trying to remember it and promptly slept beyond my alarm. I was sanguine. It is OK. The sleep was a gift.

Outside it pours. Flat has been cleaned. Work now. A bientot.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.