Sleeping Bag

My path isn’t clear.

Has it ever been?

Ordinariness is a sin, a crime, said the Indian prince who died alone.

I think about notions of success. What is it? What constitutes a success? The making of a lot of money, a change in circumstances? Public recognition? Or a job well done? I thought it would come in a rush. I’d hold my breath waiting for it. Just around the corner, surely. Soon. But it didn’t come, at least not in the way I expected. The stuff I was expecting was like candy floss. A nothing, a sticky, fluffy nothing. And a denial of what is. What is now. I look out of the window and there is the moon, a yellow shape against the black. It’s not round, not oval, a misshapen pizza base. It stills me. As does the brief power cut we had during breakfast. Nothing is real. No thing is real. It is all illusion. Even the moon, sent to steady us with its seeming constancy. And yet, for all this, it is hard to let go of the expectations. My spirits sink just before I come in here. I want to do anything but sit here and face it. This letting fall of fantasy, of wanting to be saved, to be lifted out of mundanity. And yet, what is mundane. What is ordinary? We require so much distraction. Anything to avoid looking at ourselves. And yet when we do it doesn’t have to be harsh. It can be kind. Compassionate, even. Try it.

I attempt to write without thinking about it too much. To let it come out. To blurt. There is freedom in revolutionary thought. A momentary frisson of excitement before the idea of having to put it into action drags the feet. You don’t have to do anything, he says. I fight against it. Not wanting the prison door to be opened. But it is. It is. And I want to walk out. I do. Honest. I see them in their semi-circular grouping. All those whose judgement I fear. All the while knowing it is imagined. Most are too wrapped up on their own lives to give mine a moment’s thought. And besides, they would celebrate the freedom of it. Conceptually, at least. It’s like Eleanor Oliphant and the imagined weekly telephone call from her mother long dead. Such vitriol. It’s not real. I am free to do what I choose. Let it be. I want to concentrate on this small aspect of practice. To delve into the ordinary. So be it. Let it be. No one cares. This is a chance to begin at the beginning. All those colouring books. Where was I in those?

No one about this morning. A few cars crawling through the streets. The University security van. No one walking. A body in a sleeping bag perched precariously on a bench in the shelter by the Pier. And a man, his face lit up by his mobile phone, as he read, sitting on the adjacent bench with his bike leaning against the frame. In the shelter opposite The Marine Hotel my eye was caught by a pair of boots. Was there someone sleeping there too? The shins were brought up close to the body. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. The clubs were shut this morning. The calm before the storm of New Year’s Eve. Eerie. Lip Lickin’ Chicken was open. And the lights across Terrace Road were lit.

She wrote that it was the hardest thing we ever had to do. It wasn’t. It wasn’t for me. I was glad to do it. To set her free. She’d gone anyway. Long gone. I am uncomfortable being spoken about like that. She means well. She thinks she gets it right but she doesn’t. I feel for her. I do. An uncomfortable love at times. She is so like her. The laugh, the one that reveals discomfort. That is spot on. I hope she gets what she wants. I will do what I can to ease her burden.

I see and know my blessings. But there is so much I cannot know. Let that be. Let that rest. To just not know.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.