Popcorn Sheep

I don’t know where it came from. Such outpouring, rolling down my cheeks as I lay there, not wanting to join in, not wanting to speak, just listening to the rise and fall of their voices. I am exhausted by it. Is there no end to the grief, to the grieving? It is fear of emptiness of having nothing to do, to say, to be, all prompted by the cancellation of our trip. We had to do it. To be sensible. The car is not well but we cannot find out why. To drive all that way would be pure folly and for what reason? So that I can escape for three days, be busy and filled-up, only to return home to the grief that would meet me as I walk through the door. Better to stay here with it, embrace it, live with it, know it, even if we have forfeited a cancellation fee. So be it.

Do you want a hug? she asked. No, I don’t, I wanted to say. Go away, I wanted to say. Leave me be in my ugliness. My snot-running, ugliness. Take your serene, ballerina-like loveliness to the other side of the room. But I didn’t. How could I? She felt small but strong. I was embarrassed, tight and uncomfortable, her hair against my face. I was lumpen against her grace. And yet, only three days before I’d been so joyful. First the light and then her and her. Both bringing me such joy. What do you want to do? she said, still hugging me. You can keep doing this, she said. Or you can go for a walk outside, or make a cup of tea in the kitchen. I opted for the kitchen, longing to free myself from her warm hold.

The kitchen smelt musty. It’s cold in here, she said following me in, I’ll put the fires on. Then she left me. I put on the kettle and rooted around for a cup and a tea bag. Several of the cupboard doors were marked ‘Quakers’ as were some jars of sugar and instant coffee. I found a box of Camomile Tea that was unmarked and dropped it into a cup. Then I went and sat at a wooden table by a window and watched a pair of sparrows hopping in and out of a bramble. I’d been in there before, though she’d forgotten. And I remembered the pictures on the wall. There was a pin board with various leaflets about the Quakers and images of an upcoming group holiday somewhere in North Wales. Tucked under this were two children’s drawings. They were the kind that you colour in, the shape already drawn out. They were of a sheep. A sheep with stuck-on goggly eyes. Pieces of glued-on popcorn had been used to suggest the wool. Someone had written the children’s names at the top of each drawing. The top one was mine. My name. It made me smile. In spite of the weeping it made me smile.

That is enough for now.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.