Late Call

It woke me. It wasn’t late in most people’s terms, about 7.20 pm, but for me going to bed as early as I do it was. She woke me. A voice. A sharp, cultured voice. I tried to listen to what she was telling me as I pulled myself from sleep. She wanted to book me. For when? I asked. Tonight, she said, at about 9 o’clock. My heart sank and that old familiar bleakness that comes from the prospect of having to engage with the late night dark began to threaten. Hang on, I said, as I struggled out of bed, I just need to get a pen. Just a minute, she said, her tone becoming sharper. Someone was talking to her in the background. I could hear him. I’m so dreadfully sorry to have disturbed you, she said, conciliatory now, but it seems we’ve already booked someone. That’s OK, I said. But it wasn’t. Sleep took so long to come after that. It doesn’t feel right – such a rude awakening. Is the fault mine, or the job’s. I hate it. I hate that pulling from rest. And I’d laid down determined to be at peace, to accept the calm, the unusual uncluttered-ness of my brain. He was kind, coming back in to tuck me in. But oh, the lost sleep. Do I need to make a change? I cannot say. Opportunities seem few.

I’ve hung her painting. It is a wonder. She prepared it for me. What a nice thing that is. She thought of me as she did so. For that period of time I was in her head. The colours are muddy, and her finger traces clear. She cried when I took it away. But she was poorly, her cheeks pink with fever. But it is here. I have a small piece of them. And I am glad.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.