Rain (467)

The rain hadn’t come when I walked. Just a few spit spots. I hear them on my coat, my hood. Spit spot. I like the smell of the air just before rain. And the pavement tarmac, anticipating the wet. It is sheeting now. Rolling rivulets on the windows. Why does heavy rain unsettle me? I feel a little unsafe. Is it memories of our flat roof in Cambridge? And seeing the rain collect in pools. Weather defies us. Particularly here. It erodes, eats away at our bricks. We forget our humility, our vulnerability at our peril.

We’ve been watching Castaway. We watch films in bits. Bite-size bits before bed. Over three nights we watched him, Tom as Chuck. It was gripping. At least the island bit. The end was rather schmaltzy. Four years on an island alone. It is seductive. That aloneness. That simplicity. That doing nothingness except surviving. And yet, he didn’t want to be there. He didn’t relish the island’s beauty, its remoteness, its bounty. I’m good at the surviving bit. I like playing house. I did it a lot as a child. We made dens. I made them inside and outside the house. The simplicity of finding shelter, finding food, heat and rest. It is when it is forced upon you, that is the issue. We want to chose. To chose our peace.

A fug. I’ve been in a fug. It follows me, lurking just to the side of me, turning everything grey. I try to fight it, feigning fun. What would happen if I yielded? Went to bed and hid. I love to go to bed in hotels. Afternoon escapes. Hiding. Where no one can find you. Playing Scrabble on a rainy afternoon in a hotel in Amsterdam. Double pneumonia, sang Lloyd Cole. Time standing still. Dead time. Empty time. Holiday time. Seeking nothing. Finding nothing. Nothing. Being nothing.

The fug makes me touchy. Snappy. Behind-glass wary. Snap out of it, she would say, or I’ll give you something to cry for. What is it? Lack of sleep, menopause or the winter blues? Why fight it? Go into it. Know it. Embrace it. It is sensation after all. Feeling. A you-are-alive feeling. We expect to be happy.

I walked before the rain. The back way because it is Sunday and the bakery is shut. Not that I buy bread, I just like to come down the hill and smell the bread. That’s all. A treat. I have my landmarks, my stopping points. The top of the little hill into the Castle Park where I stand still for a moment and watch the hydrangeas swaying in the wind. And think of my mother. I don’t know why. She comes to me then. Though she has gone. Is no more. Is nothing. All that pain, hers and mine. Gone to nothing. I am emptied of it. The back way takes me past the station. Before I get there a girl and boy walking together ahead of me. I cross the road and pass them. She is in pink trousers, a wide-hipped, Botero-esque, red head. She wears a white t-shirt with a small strawberry motif on her chest and the words, BITE ME above it. Good evening, she says in a quiet, warm voice.

Yesterday, walking past The Angel at pouring out time, there were a black couple. Their bodies leaned against the railings surrounding the stairs leading up to The Academy. There was an awkwardness, a newness to their physical interaction. I’m the shyest girl ever, she was saying. Her hair in oiled ringlets hung about her face, her lips wet with gloss. Everything shiny in the darkness. I don’t really understand why you’re talking to me now, he replied, his fingers teasing at the chipped paint of the railing. A-wooing amidst all the hubbub. Another girl holding court with a group of grungy roadies outside The Angel. If I had a beer now, she said, I’d get really excited.

Days before, I encountered a couple pushing a small, red pushchair down the hill into our courtyard. 4.30 am, pushing a baby. Scurrying, hurrying, rucksacks on their backs. A flit? A train to catch? The first train doesn’t go until 6. A coach maybe. It was an expensive pram. High off the ground, and small.  A newborn perhaps.

Reading Jenny Diski all about her escapes to stillness. New Zealand and the British Countryside. Was it Devon? She writes with a brusque, almost ruthless clarity. I read it in bits. Bite-size, enough to fill my mouth, and chew. She is so easy to read. It is luscious, a falling into softness for me. And yet, she is hard-edged. She writes about Heimlich, notions of home. The despair of being away from it. Not it, the real thing, but the idea of it. I know it. I know that despair. The bleakness of that house in Baerum. No peace. No sanctuary. They were not to blame. I was lost. In the wrong place.

The rain has stopped. Sunday and it is my Proust day. I have him in French now. I must order the material and begin another. Where am I going? God knows.

Coffee and the Archers. One foot in front of the other. And small pleasures. It is enough. Until there is more.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.