How’s the Water?

How’s the water? he asks at breakfast. I have to think. What does he mean? The water in my glass, or the sea perhaps? No. He means the water in my body. My poor waterlogged body. There was a phrase people used to say about living too close to the river, meaning that you cried a lot. A watery soul. I’m a watery soul. And now it is flooding me. About the same, I answer. And it is. Though last night I slept with my feet raised on two pillows in the hope that it would drain away from my thighs. It was a little better when I woke but it soon returned. I want to spend my days upside down in a headstand or shoulder stand and drain it. Drain it away. It is stuck. Something is stuck, not flowing, stagnant. It is a small thing. He investigates the symptoms online. Is it heart-failure? The consultant I saw years ago thought it was. A throwaway line. What? What? He lists the things I’m not. Not breathless, not coughing, not fatigued. Sometimes, sometimes I am. But that’s because you do a lot during the day, he says. He wants the comfort of it being just another menopausal symptom. So let it be so. I will see it through. Upside down.

Wolf-howling. It was a phrase one of the BBC journalists used in his piece for From Our Own Correspondent. Wolf-howling. A man howling up the wolves. I’m 30 % successful, he tells the journo. What do you do if you encounter a wolf? Keep calm, said the wolfman, and make yourself big.

There wasn’t a light on in the architect’s house when I climbed the hill. Has he gone? Has he died? I know he has Alzheimer’s, he told me himself. The house, though I’ve never been up close, is stunning. In the Le Corbusier style but without the concrete, it is boxy, all one level and with floor to ceiling windows. And high up on the hill. Looking down, surrounded by rhododendrons. And then, later looking out on it from our kitchen window, the light was back. Good. He is safe then. I always say good morning to him in my head when I reach the crest of the little hill. I hope you are well, I say to him, to no one, to the air, to the darkness.

The air was warm as I walked. The warmth brought out its perfumes. I smelt sweets. Confectionery. Sarsaparilla. Two lovers were sitting  on the bench in the little park at the bottom of North Road, the voices murmuring in the semi-gloom. And then its down the hill to the sea to kick the bar and two men are sitting on the giant deckchair, swinging their feet and eating chips. Morning, I say. Another pair of smoochers lent against the Prom railing. She had one of her legs up curled around his body. Urgent. Hungry. I remember that feeling. Do you ever really forget? I try not to stare and walk on. A police van is blocking South Road. A girl with a shock of blond hair is gesticulating. A red circle of light flashes on the chest of each of the police officers. I smell washing powder. The window of the Castle pub is still lit yellow. A honey, custardy yellow.

I did Reiki on myself last night. I felt my body fizz, I told him at breakfast. Yeh, he said, mine does too when you do it to me.

The rain is coming, it spots the window. I hope he managed to walk. Coffee then work. I think about an exercise that I might try. A short thing , a kind of deconstruction of a book, her about finding her real mother. A shorthand abbreviated to capital letters that note when she goes back or forward or is in the present.  I want to see if there is a rhythm, a pattern. It seems like a hotchpotch, a diving back and forth but I’m sure it isn’t. She implies a spontaneity. Do I have it? Can I allow myself to just write it? Enough. Time to work. Coffee then work. Adieu.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.