I saw her walking ahead of me. Well it was more like waddling. She was tiny, at least in stature. The width of her was about equal to her height. I thought she might have Downs Syndrome, she had that same rolling, waddle of the girl we used to see walking through Jesus Green in Cambridge, happy-as-a-sandboy (as my mother used to say of such simple bliss) singing away to her Hp3 player. But then I thought, surely not, who would let her wander out at this time in the morning (it was by then about 3.30 am)? She sat down on one of the Prom benches and as I passed I saw that she was crying. She didn’t have DS, that was clear. Her face was heavily made up, her dress, black and figure-hugging was stretched tight across her chest revealing two barely matured breasts. On her head she wore a black woollen hat pulled down close to her eyes, emblazoned along the front was the word WITCH. The tears were streaking her mascara. I went over and touched her arm. Are you alright? Then it all poured out. She’d lost her friends and her feet really hurt and she needed to go to the Spar but couldn’t walk. Her boots, faux Doc Martens were in her hand, her stockinged feet, now wet and curled at the toes, rested on the sandy pavement. Don’t you have your friends numbers in your phone? I asked. No, she said, still sniffing, they’re my flat mates. How will you get home? I asked. Taxi, she said. Patting her shoulder and stroking her face, I suggested that she call a taxi and get them to take her to the Spar (though it was only about 500 yards away) on her way home. And then she could see her friends when she got back. She stopped crying and thanked me. God, they are so young, these fledgling girls sent to University, unformed and unready for the bigger world (though this town is hardly a Mecca but all things are relative). Her loneliness in those post-club-post-booze hours was palpable. Bless her. Bless all of them, squeezing themselves into tiny fake leather dresses, dolled-up and expecting some kind of deliverance. It won’t come, it never does. I want to wrap them all up.

A fully-lit Christmas tree still sparkled from a back upper window in one of the flats along South Marine Terrace. A chocolate digestive, still whole, still round lay in a puddle on the pavement along Llanbadarn Road.

She told me of her daughter who is studying podiatry at Cardiff and the challenging stuff she’d already encountered. She hesitated about telling me. Are you squeamish? she asked. Yes, I said but she told me anyway about the homeless woman whose toe came away when her daughter was observing a podiatrist at work. And of the little boy who was asked to press his foot into oasis at the gait clinic so that they could make an impression of his sole. But it hurts, he kept wailing.

My greed in ordering too many library books has borne fruit. Three came at once.

Elephant and family have moved.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.