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Usurped by a terrapin

She bounded into the studio, her face aflame with what looked like sunburn. In just a tee-shirt and cotton khaki trousers she looked the very picture of hearty good health. Tea? I asked. Oh, go on then, she replied. Milk? Just a drop. What does just a drop mean? I thought. Is that OK, I asked, sliding in through the door and putting the paper cup of tea under her nose for inspection. Oh, I’m not fussy, she said. Have you done radio before? I asked. Just the once, she said, and I was usurped by a terrapin and ended up with just two minutes. I had no idea what she meant but laughed anyway, saying, Let’s hope there’s no terrapins this time. Oh, I don’t mind, she said, terrapins are far more interesting. I listened in the office. She was good. Clear and engaging. Sometimes I really like this job.

She texted in the end, two messages and two texts later. Do I irritate her? I don’t know how to be, how to manage all this. My wants and her non-wants. Just breathe, she would say and accept what is. Accept the messiness of it. I can’t rid it of the mess. It has happened. This is what we are left with, can it not be enough? Is that what she would say? Isn’t this enough?

I think I will make as well as write my way through it. I can do it in secret, in private. Harness the energy, the ungiven love and time into things, into gestures, into making.

Oh, God, he said at breakfast. I laughed. Sometimes they do play some pretty obscure music on Radio 3 of a morning. What’s she singing about? he asks as another woman begins to wail. Big pants, I reply. At some point they were playing something called Airport Music by a composer called Julie Wolfe. I actually rather liked it.

Just let them get on with it, he said. He is right. I get myself all tied up in knots. It doesn’t have to be that way. Just let them get on with it.

The day unravelled. So be it. I read too much into people’s expressions, voices. It isn’t all about me. I am safe.

I will send it off. Off into the world and see what happens. Perhaps nothing. It doesn’t matter. It has been made. And that is enough.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.