Wasps (7)

It was a fretful kind of a day yesterday. Sundays often are. Even though I cherish them – that stretch of time in the studio. The wasps were a symbol of it. That inner fighting. Snappish. He was also unsettled. It’s bank holidays. Always. He hates them. Hates the influx of people, often those he feels obliged to visit. He wants the same old, same old. No obligation. No chit chat. So do I, mostly. Though sometimes I want change, a shake-up but always on my own terms. Always. Yes, the wasps. He wouldn’t go down to the Prom. Not today, not with all those people. It’ll be heaving. No to all other suggestions so it was the University again, to sit outside the closed café. Fine. But there was no sun.

First it was a bee. Don’t flap at it. Then a wasp and then another. I’ll be fine if I keep still. Stop flapping. It was me they were interested in. Was it my perfume? I heard them in my ear, then they encircled my arm. I felt them crawling along my flesh. I wanted to be still. Let them fly away. He wanted to help. It made me edgy. She’d been the same. We’d egg each other on my sisters and I, no not egg but stir up hysteria. First one then another running down the beach. Don’t run, she’d call. Stand still. They won’t hurt you. Our panic made her cross. She had little patience with it. Then she’d swot at them. Sometimes crushing them between her fingers. I didn’t want the killing. It was a case of see what your silliness made me do. The responsibility had been ours, not hers. They were big then, and agitated. Yesterday they were small wasps, sleepy, irritable, disorientated. I didn’t want the killing nor the stinging. I gave him his pocket Archers and then we left. Dissatisfied. The sun hadn’t shone. (Pocket Archers – a pocket-sized version of the Omnibus with voices. He likes Joe Grundy best. I do a kind of growling nonsense, impossible to tell what he is saying. He never listens to The Archers himself. Telling it back the way I do makes him laugh. But even that made me stressed yesterday. The stress of having to be funny. Sometimes I’m just not.) Sylvia Plath wrote about bees. Her father as beekeeper. I need to write about wasps. My mother. My sister blowing them from my face. Our last get-together before Dad died at my youngest sister’s place. Eating out on the patio. Wasps everywhere. Adults agitating over small children. They crawled all over me, my face, my ears, my arms. Stay still, she had said. And I did, though it was excruciating. Oh my god, my elder sister had said, they’re all over you. How can you? And my younger sister leaning over to gently blow them away. An act of love. And then way, way back the taking of the wasps’s nest. All the men from the estate. A posse. It took on mythic proportions. I wrote a story about it. I want to revise it. Sharpen it, hone it.

We talk to them at the checkout. I like to do it. I like hearing about their lives. One lives in a cottage a way away. She leaves home early. Before the house is awake? I ask. Yes, I only put the downstairs light on. No breakfast? No breakfast, she says. And today. Another lady, our favourite, telling us about her mother. She hasn’t seen her for twelve months. She’s the kind of woman who stops talking to you over nothing. Impossible. We were on holiday once and me Dad was cooking. Watch those potatoes, she’d said, they’ll boil over. Everything’s in hand, he’d replied. And that was it, she said. She wouldn’t talk to us the rest of the holiday. It was dreadful. She wouldn’t come out, nothing. I watch her face as she talks. Trying to read her experiences. She is sanguine but it must hurt, mustn’t it?

A quick burst of work. It’s something. A busy morning. A professor of law talking about migration. Scottish with a Russian surname. As thin as a rake, he’d said when I’d got back into the car. Town was heaving this morning as I walked. The clubs had been open last night. £1 party at the Why Not? club. Three girls talking on a Prom bench. One saying, I lost weight when I first got to Uni…

Work. Now. A milky sky. Any chance of some sun?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.