Talking in the car

I know it is ridiculous but we drive 150 miles there and back for a hair cut. We don’t have to do it but there is nowhere decent here. So we do it. Every two months. We stop for coffee on the way, take our own lunch and do crosswords. A trip, he calls it. I like our trips, he says. And we talk. We talk in the car. Sometimes I snooze. Mostly we talk. We iron out things, we mull over things, we try to order and straighten things. Sometimes there are eureka moments. The landscape is incredibly beautiful, majestic at times. Often the winding of the road continues to play through my body long after we’re home. He gets cross now and again. Fucking tractor, fucking lorry. Did you see that? Fucker. But it is never violent, it is a letting off of steam. We want to be on our way, keeping moving. It helps, it helps this sadness of mine to be moving. And to talk. To talk as we move. It helps.

In and out of semi-sleep yesterday afternoon I kept seeing a series of white doors. Close to my face is stone, wrote Rilke, or something like it. I’m not good at remembering lines. I’m trying to learn Philip Larkin’s High Windows, I have to do stanza by stanza. When I see a couple of kids and guess he’s fucking her and she’s taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know that this is paradise everyone old has every dreamed of, bonds and gestures pushed to one side (that’s the bit that I get stuck as I walk and chant it to myself) like an outdated combine harvester. That’s it, that’s as far as I’ve got. It is so simple and yet not. And the twist at the end is fantastic. He uses words that we speak, nothing precious, nothing sacred, just beautifully profane. Beautiful. But I digress. These doors. They were white, a shiny white like enamelled paint or vinyl. They were up close to my face, like Rilke’s stone, I couldn’t move. They surrounded me. They had little metal handles, so they must’ve been cupboards, as high as me, as high as my face. I didn’t want to do anything, I wasn’t ready, or couldn’t open them. And each time I closed my eyes there they’d be, back again. It’s symbolic, he said, when I told him. It was peaceful to encounter them again and again. The opening of them could wait. For now I could just enjoy the pure white.

Little things. Little things please. I wouldn’t say it was joy, but a brush of pleasure. Such as walking back to the car from the hairdressers up towards the market. And then needing a pee and going into the town hall. A lovely old building, heavy sculpted stone, reddish in colour. The mosaic tiled floor inside, the notice boards, a framed tapestry on the wall. The smell of polish of floor cleaner. And the toilets with their shiny magnolia paint, old ceramic sinks and floor length mirror. It all stimulated memories. Of what? School? Civic buildings. Things being in order, hushed voices, echoing corridors. Nothing rushed, nothing electronic. Old ways. He felt the same. A belonged familiarity.

Then there was the sun on the fields as we drove. Then rain. It was enough. Enough for now.

And today, the moon.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.