What is the fantastic option?

So often I wake from a liminal space between sleep and wakefulness and a phrase is there in my head. Like this one. What is the fantastic option? What does it mean? Fantastic as in marvellous or fantastic as in over-the-top, magical? There is a lightness, a playfulness to this voice though, no doubt a twin to the grinning mouth of the other day. I also dreamt I was at my old teaching job. He was with me and we went downstairs to it. Familiar faces didn’t seemed pleased to see me and the other people who’d come with me. Coffee and tea was made but there was a confusion as to who’s was who’s. There was ice in one cup. They were those glass, Duralex cups.

I slept on the train. A gorgeous letting go kind of sleep, waking only when my head lolled forward. A woman was talking to a man across the aisle. Twenty-three quid to get to Wrexham. I could do it for eight pounds in a car, she was saying. I’m going to visit my ex-boyfriend. He’ll have to re-imburse me. Twenty-three fucking quid. Silence. Then. I ‘ate travelling, me, she said.

She came. And it was fine. She was shining. For all her grief, and the tears stayed on her face, not absorbed by her skin, she was shining. We sat in the same café he and I had sat in weeks before. I wasn’t sure she’d like it. But it was fine. She talked of her death, the months leading up to it. Her driving off. We were going to a concert, she said. And we’d gone to the supermarket to get some food in so we wouldn’t have to cook. Just get some of those Warburton’s currant buns, I said to her, she said, and she was fine then. I love the detail of her life. Her neatness, compactness and the way she holds my hands. I don’t know her well, but how I love her.

I saw a falling star yesterday morning. It looked so close. A fireball, a burning coal of orange-yellow fire. A meteor? A comet? I don’t know. Did anyone else see it. Or was it a spectacle the Cosmos staged purely for me? A police car patrolled town. Then I saw the milkman in his truck. Well, he’s Bruce Springsteen really. Our neighbour across the walk bridge has put bubble wrap around her plants.  Against the frost, no doubt. She told me once that it was the nearest she got to a garden. The downside of flat-dwelling, I suppose. I listened to Maigret’s Christmas on the radio, read by Derek Jacobi and I ached to be in Paris, in his apartment drinking Madame Maigret’s sloe gin.

It was good to get away, to be somewhere different. I walked around the Market Hall. I loved it. So much stuff. So much cosy endeavour, people in puffa jerkins chatting over mugs of tea, and the smell of bacon, cold fish and pasties. I read and drew. A good day.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.