She wrote ‘tried’ instead of tired. Because she is tired and tried. We both are. Tried by this circumstance that beleaguers us, not always, but sometimes. She doesn’t refer to it. Seemingly all is forgotten. Not forgiven, perhaps, but who can know? We do our best, she and I. We muddle along. Sadness, regret, and indeed, grief have beset my morning. I walked wearily, made heavy by it. And yet, in the whole scheme of things it is nothing. A nothing compared to the world’s bank of misery. Misery from floods, cyclones, famine, illness, disease, hunger, conflict, abuse, loneliness. The list is endless, and my trouble is a dot, an iota of discomfort, a stitch in the side. I don’t know how to be with it. I don’t know how to be in most situations. I have lost my compass. Except perhaps when I am working. There is a path then, of sorts, to follow. But even then I can be thrown by a seeming blankness, a mist. Did it help to publicly declare my intention to quit? Somewhat. Though there was a weightiness, a wish to weep. I cannot see my way forward. What am I meant to be doing? I read and read for my writing project but when I visualise myself actually starting to write I’m racked with fear, my back tightens and my breath stops. I can see some detail but the whole of it is still a mystery to me. How can I rest all my hopes on something so tenuous? It’s like tightrope-walking with a blindfold. What do I have? A sense of something, feelings, regrets, some knowledge, a facility to write emotionally, to tell a story – that is all. Is it enough? I know I must wait, let it percolate still. (A sudden image of our old coffee percolator comes to mind – it was hers of course, and was always brought out after they entertained. I remember the bubbling-up noise it made, and the smell pervading the house. The coffee was always served in the those tiny white porcelain cups with an infinitesimal gold line along the rim and with cream.)

I waited for her and she didn’t come. I didn’t mind. I was content to sit in that café, on that slightly stained banquette, drinking camomile tea and watching the street below. We both talked about how we like that café, he and I. (He sat on another table with his paper.) It is a simple, no-nonsense place. And popular. People come for big plates of lunch – lasagna with chips, fish and chips, pie and chips, egg and chips, everything with chips. I like the tea –  always in a metal pot with another one of hot water. During the week the radio is on. On Saturdays there is too much chatter to hear it. It makes me feel calm, uncluttered mentally, sitting there. I am an outsider, and it is peaceful being so.

At least it was an answer. She hasn’t rejected me. I am grateful. The morning looks promising, the sky is blue. Perhaps I will sit out in it later.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.