Passports and Fire Eaters

It woke me. I’d slept right through and my alarm was due to go off. It wasn’t a nightmare, as such. More something that unsettled me. I’m glad I woke from it. It wouldn’t have had a good ending. I’d travelled to Norway with him. He was going there on his own and I’d gone with him for company. It was only when we’d arrived at the airport (which looked more like a train station) that I’d realised that no one had asked to see my ticket or indeed my passport for I had neither with me. It’s funny I remember saying to him in the dream that I thought him intrepid for going alone and yet I’d gone with him. My intention was to return home straight away and headed towards the departures – which involved crossing an open square full of pigeons – and then down an iron staircase. I watched him walk away from me into the pigeons and as he did the birds and he just flew away. It was then that I realised that I had no ticket or documentation. I began to rifle through my bag. Perhaps I had my passport after all. But no, there were passports but they were hers and others, childrens’ mostly – for they’d drawn on and etched out the purple front covers. I also realised that I had no money. I just stood there rooted to the spot. What to do? I went through the inevitable, the questioning, the suspicions, the interrogations, the eventual deportation. Could I call on my friends for help? I felt the loss of him but the practicalities of my situation dominated. I felt so foolish. And yet, I was calm, sanguine even. I’d been carried away by wanting to make his journey smoother that I’d forgotten to put things in place to ensure my safe passage home. There had also been a scenario where he and I had looked at coats, he’d brought some coats from his past, one was a woman’s coat, a green suede with a nipped in waist. I didn’t recognise these clothes and far as I was concerned it was just more baggage for us to carry. And there was so much baggage as it was, nothing in suitcases, just loose clothes. I was weighed down by it.

I woke unsettled and I’ve been wobbly ever since. Walk done, breakfast done, and shopping done nevertheless and my admin and an hour of Norwegian. God, I find it hard learning a language, I feel so slow, so clumsy, so awkward with my mouth. I wish there were classes somewhere. She is a sweetie but won’t she get so dreadfully bored listening to me read? Ugh, it takes me back to Primary School days where I followed the words on the page with my finger, not knowing them, trying to decipher their meaning.

A huge lorry drove ahead of me down Llanbadarn Road. Then without warning it switched on an array of red lights that lit up the back of the engine – it had no trailer. I could just make out the signage on the back – In Health, it read, Medical Unit. Was it going to the hospital? The red lights in the pitch black was friendly somehow like the white bulbs in the lit arrow in the junk shop on Northgate Street that I saw on my way home. I stopped in front of the window, wanting it. Wanting the white light. Now.

The girl with the purple hair was at the till this morning. And lo and behold she is a fire eater in her real life. She and her husband. It makes sense that there is something larger to her. We talked about how you don’t swallow the paraffin and how sometimes your lips get burnt. Sometimes I’ve seen fire eaters practicing on the beach at night when I walk. It is a magnificent sight. Isn’t life rich?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.