High Tides

Mum and Dad on beach

A girl, with hair the colour of straw, is talking loudly to a boy who sits on the wall opposite. It is 5.00 am and they are outside their student house on Llanbadarn Road. I catch a sentence. They’re actually trying to teach people, she is saying, ending the sentence with a lilt, as if it is a question, rather than a statement. I don’t hear his reply. She has a striped rug around her shoulders, which I initially thought was a fur coat, and holds a mug in her hand. It is held aloft like a movie-star with a cigarette. My bright blue wellies make a flump, flump sound as I stride past.

The tides are high. Yes, they’re always high at this time of the year, he says, though he can’t tell me why. The chorus from Blondie’s song plays in my head. The promenade is a mess, sand, pebbles, rocks and seaweed strewn everywhere. Thank goodness for my wellies. The crunch of them is most satisfying.

I am not alone. It must be the mild night. People, students everywhere. They sit on walls, on benches and in cars. One is asleep in his car, his stereo thumping. At the harbour car headlights blind me. I drop my torch and it breaks, its bulb tumbling down onto the beach. It is too dark for me to find it. So be it. I pass another car with music. Two bodies in the back. I walk on. Do they call it dogging?

I took the bar of chocolate. He’d been there the night before, perhaps he’d be there again. Don’t wake him, he’d said. Of course, I won’t, I’d said. I’ll just leave it next to him. There were two of them sleeping in the shelter in sleeping bags. One of them shifted their body as I walked past. Was it a girl? I left the chocolate at the other end of the seat. Might it bring some pleasure? A small thing. A sweet thing on a cold morning.

I think about a dying man. One to two weeks she said. How does that feel? How does it feel to know that your end is close? Is there peace in the knowing? Death brings life into focus. A sharp focus. She told me she rubbed Vaseline on his lips. That’s a kind gesture, particularly as they’d never got on. Didn’t see eye to eye. But she is kind. Humane. A good woman. My friend. My dear friend. I wish them peace. All of them. All of you. When it comes, as it will to all of you, all of us. To me also. May I be ready.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.