Nick Boulevard

Did I tell you about the hyacinths she bought me, all those years ago? Almost eight now. Hard to believe. Do they ever think of me? I doubt it. I passed through, that’s all, three months of tending to their house. A flicker in their busy lives. But the hyacinths were kind. I watched them grow, drew their progress as I waned, grew greyer.

It was a name this morning. Nick Boulevard. What’s that about? It made him laugh in the shower when I told him. It’s good to hear him laugh, that open kind of full mouth laugh, it’s been awhile. I’d been thinking about how authors find names for their characters and perhaps that’s what sparked it off. A name. No narrative. Just a name in my head before I woke.

Her name was from a sixties song. Or was it a sixties singer? She told me about her when we met for that cup of tea and her Chelsea bun (I love Chelsea buns, she said. Can I have some butter?) I’d never warmed to her as a child. We were a similar age. What was it about her that I didn’t respond to? It shames me when I feel that way. Perhaps she didn’t warm to me. Anyway she told me she’s in a nursing home. It was a throwaway comment, perhaps she thought I already knew. I did not. She had a brain tumour, she said, though I think it must’ve been an aneurism and she’s paralysed in both legs and one arm. Her husband is very good. We talk in that kind of shorthand. There isn’t room for the pain, the despair, the horror of it. Did they have children? I asked, in that noisy station café while I surreptitiously and guiltily watched the clock for my train. No, she said, they tried IVF and all sorts, but perhaps it is for the best. And then she tells me that her mother, the mother of this girl, now woman, is also ill, with only a few days to live. Her two other children have moved in with her, she tells me. She doesn’t want to see me, she says, those tears still unabsorbed on her face, she says it will make her cry. Is she in pain? I ask. Not so much. She manages to get about, she says. She told me on the phone that she’d made the trifle for Christmas. She’s my best friend, she tells me.

It’s all in the details. We just do our best, keeping our heads down, keeping it small, else it would drown us. I walk my hated dark and I’m sorry that I do, hate it. For it is just the flip-side of day. I walk those shadows and long for light. Let it be. As it is. Just as it is.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.