What are you staring at?

I thought she was talking to someone ahead of her. I was coming down Great Darkgate Street and she was crossing from Terrace Road. She had a hair band with white furry ears on her head. A plump little thing, she seemed to be singing and laughing at the same time. I turned to watch her as she continued along the road towards the station. I was just being curious. Was she OK? Did she have someone looking out for her? Then suddenly she wheeled round glaring at me. What are you staring at? she spat. What are you fucking looking at? Keep calm, I said to myself, hackles of fear or anxiety rippling across my back. It’s alright, sweetie, I said, I’m not looking at anything. I wanted to say, at you, I was worried, I wanted to see that you were safe. But her wall of aggression unsettled me. I kept my voice quiet, steady and kept on walking.

How horrid, he said at breakfast. And it was, though I’d forgotten it till I told him. I’d walked into a membrane of her making, it had nothing to do with me. Where had it come from? She could hardly see me, we were too far away. Perhaps she was scared, defensive at least. It was so unexpected. Usually I am unmolested, left to go my own way in the mornings.

Yesterday, I’d walked to the bar and been met with a figure all in white climbing up the stairs from the beach. A mermaid in a white, skin-tight sheath dress. She had flip flops on. She didn’t look at me but strode across the road to one of the Halls. Had she been swimming? A mermaid come from the water bent on mischief.

A crazy day yesterday, so much juggling, so many little things to do. And today. One thing at a time. Breathe. Just breathe. All will be done and if you are left with only an hour in which to write it is OK. Just do the best you can.

Another poignant morning at the Home. I will write of it soon. The woman hugging and seemingly defleaing a teddy bear and furry cat. The man picking his nose as he wandered about. The man who’d wet himself and refused to let the staff member change him. The tiny woman in the hoist. The other tiny one with the booming voice, what you doing, boy? And me, avoiding the other little man. Next time.

We sat on the bench watching the four men playing bowls. The wind was cold but the sun was warm. I love to be there with him. At least we had that, that quiet time. At peace. It’s always there, if you want it. It is, truly.



By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.