Wind (565)

A line of clubbers are filing out of Pier Pressure. It is 3.30 am. A girl emerges first, and her long curly hair is blown into her face. I can’t see, she shouts, my hair. Another girl, following close behind and almost toppled from her heels, pulls her short leather jacket across her chest. Then a tall, bearded American comes out,¬†wearing a baseball cap and a short-sleeved checked cotton shirt. Ah, Jesus, he says, will you look at that wind? Will you look at that wind? It is strong. A fury of a wind. It pushes into my stomach like a fist. They wear next to nothing these kids. Walking up the hill behind¬†Alexandra Hall there were two girls in thin shorts. A cold wind, a north wind. But the moon. The moon was gorgeous. It lit my way. I am grateful for any light. Even the cold light of the moon. No torch. No torch necessary this morning.

She said yes. I tried it and she said yes. That’s good isn’t it? Some proper work. Writing about poetry. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Still no reply. Is it anger? Or is she unwell? I will try again and then let it go. For awhile at least. It’s the silence I struggle with. What is one supposed to make of it? Communicate. Tell me. Talk to me.

I am rigid as I walk. So much angst. So much fear. A few years before he died my father gave me an envelope. Inside were my old school reports from boarding school. I must’ve been between eleven and fifteen, I suppose. I don’t recognise her, that girl, that girl they write about. All I can remember is the fear. Has it ever gone away? I grew up being fearful of her, then it was school, then it was the world of work, then it was my work. Will it ever go away? Will my deathbed be one of a great lifting, a great lifting of fear? I hope so. I cannot see I will solve it before then. Not now at least. The best I can do is try to understand it and accommodate it, live with it. Welcome it in. Good morning, heartache, sang Billie Holiday. It started then, that inclination to create. I was not a star pupil, I barely scraped a C but there was something there. It was a striking out, a striking out of a pretend confidence. Dare to be different, all the while knowing you are not. Then it was A level and I was nurtured, cared-for, known. I loved that. Though the work, myself, we were both pedestrian. Even through my Foundation year, nothing remarkable. I wasn’t worthy of remark. I do remember a drawing of an egg box. It got a good response. I was noticed, asked questions. Oh, you’re applying to Wimbledon. Oh, you have a B in English Literature. And then I got in. And there were flickers. Of something. Nothing remarkable, just flickers. I got distracted. Fell in love. Made a life of sorts. An average girl. Always. From the start. 2.2 material. And yet I persevered. I kept trying. Why do we? What compels us? All those art school leavers. So many. All with heads full of possibilities, mostly other people’s possibilities. Not ours. And now? What am I? Still trying to be authentic. I’ve done some shows that have pleased me. For a time I sold well. People bought what I did. But always this uncertainty. Is certainty, real certainty ever to be had? She looked so happy. She has a purpose now. She knows what is expected of her. I made a roast, she said, so proud, so full of belonging.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.