Hot Drink

I’ve just spoken to her. She isn’t well. Her voice sounded faint, quavery, scared.

I’ve been sick, she says, and I have this pain in my back. I thought my kidneys would be better, they’re not. Sorry for being such a moaner. You are no moaner, I reply. You handle it all with such fortitude, such grace. All you want is for your energy to return, that is all. I am sorry. What can I do? Is there something sinister going on. Her daughter has stayed home from work so that she can take her to the doctor’s. Usually you can’t get an appointment on the day, she says. I’ve been lucky, I’ve got one for ten o’clock. I make my excuses and ring off. I am so sorry. Sorry that she is scared.

I’d forgotten to take my phone to bed with me. He left it in on the stairs for me so I missed the alarm. I overslept. Only by ten minutes but it throws me. He was doing what he thought was best. I didn’t want to wake you, he said. I know. He is kind. Next time please do. I heard the alarm in the end. Waking from a dream where a woman’s phone had burst into flames. She and her husband were supposed to be looking after me but she was utterly distracted by the phone. Then later, again when she was supposed to be caring for me, I had to ask her for help. I was hurt. Can I have a hot drink? I asked her in the end. I was hungry too and ate a dry English Muffin. I can remember the taste of warm, rather bland dough in my mouth. Does one usually taste food in dreams? I was in an art school of some sort and had to choose whether to climb up some circular, fire-exit-style iron stairs up to the studio, or stay on the level I was already on. I went up. Ellen can’t buy the tiny buttons she wants, said a tutor. I don’t want to buy them, I wanted to interject, I make them. Two girls were sitting on high stools working on costumes on mannequins. They were making trousers. I can’t touch them, one of them said. All I remember is feeling of neglected, of being out of sorts, a little lost.

I can’t get things clean enough. Marks everywhere. I want spotless and have to settle for tarnished, marked. His blood didn’t come off the sheets. He doesn’t mind. It doesn’t matter to me, he says. I want white. Pure white. Apparently Barbara Streisand always has a new toilet put in whenever she stays at a hotel. Am I that fastidious? I’d like to be. Jenny Diski had a pure white bedroom. How is that?

The sun is out. The cleaning has been done. Jeans and books bagged up for Oxfam. I like this sloughing off. Will I want these things, will I miss them? No. Let them go. I hope she will be OK. Is it the infection in her hip? Keep her safe. Let her be well.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.