I realised that I didn’t look out of the train window anymore, even when the contest for seats subsided during the holidays, and infact my ability to recognise my location by the sway of the tracks was indeed dismal but particularly helpful. The dark mornings and evenings had long passed, and yet the risk of catching the sky- dazzling blue, pink and orange liquid- gave an unbearable transitory glimpse into something which vaguely resembled peace, so I kept typing into my computer [I’m alright. It’s the deadline for Chair’s Actions today, so naturally no-one is adhering to it and I’m fucking stressed. How are you?]. There was a passage in a book I couldn’t recall which might have helped, and I couldn’t read it again- had it ever existed at all- because I didn’t have the time, and nonetheless the book itself was on the other side of town, sandwiched between other books in a box, between other boxes stacked neatly upon each other, inside a rented room at the storage facility – a type of suspended animation I couldn’t afford to resume. There would be other passages in other books that I wouldn’t read again or at all, because of the weather, or because I was busy, or because I would be dead in the future [I hope you are well. I have compiled a short list of outstanding queries regarding the project which I hope you are able to review/answer, if it isn’t too onerous].
On the cusp of October, the group walked towards the wooden building at the end of the pier, huddled inwardly against the burn of the salt of the grey sea, and the pale froth of the clouds spilling over a paler distance. Their destination offered little respite from the cold, but an amiable welcome from the tour hosts as the group spilled through the door was welcome, and as they were led into the hall to see the grand bells any lingering discontent from the journey soon disappeared. The bells themselves were constructed almost like gargantuan teapots which reached to the full height of the warehouse-like ceiling; copper-coloured monstrosities from a different place and time with powerful rotation mechanisms which would pick up and bash the entire contraption into the metal piece on the ground-the tea tray element of the teapot comparison, noted the host- creating a staggering, gut-wrenching sound which filtered into your body and resounded there for hours. When the first bell was turned on the noise was so disturbing that one member of the group had to lie down on a hospital bed which was conveniently placed in the hall for such purposes, and the group laughed because it had been expected. When the host then turned on all of the bells at the same time, all members of the group lost any control of their senses but instinctively backed away away away from the noise, except it is now in all directions and is coming too quickly, and the bells are moving in a juddering and chaotic fashion, and the noise is too loud and inescapable, and sound is separated from sight and is too extended and too slow and too fast all at the same time, and there are the flashing lights of an ambulance outside obscured through the window by the rain, and the ambulance is approaching too quickly to back away away away, and the vehicle has crashed through the wooden walls and has struck members of the group who might be screaming but cannot be heard above the bells, and the floor has started to give way beneath the weight of the bells and the ambulance and the noise, and the pier begins to crumble into the sea, and the wide mouth of nothingness smiles up from below and embraces the chaos which endures forever.
Waking from another erratic sleep, I was pinned beneath a breakfast tray by a kindly nurse with receding gums and a full bosom. Shortly satisfied that I was upright and eating, she departed and drew back the thin curtains to reveal the surgical assessment ward in much the same state as I had recalled it from the day before- green-tinged in the early morning light and through the condensation on the windows, clean and clinical, and with an empty bed next to me and two other occupants opposite. The woman directly opposite me still had her curtains drawn around her bed and as toast entered my mouth and my faculties returned to a capacity acceptable in the dulled environment of the hospital bed- fluid drips and lifestyle magasines- I realised that I was eating breakfast through her cancer diagnosis. Pushing the breakfast plates around my tray, I felt entirely fraudulent as my internal bleeding had stopped two whole days ago, and now I was drinking orange juice. When the doctor left her and opened the curtains, I could sense she was nonplussed and defiant. A different nurse came to collect my tray, relieving me of my desperate Tetris, and I exited promptly to make a phone call. I hadn’t washed my hair in days and as I walked with the phone to my ear, ringing, I noticed that it smelled like arcades cleaned with cola: sticky and sweet, yet with a miserable fusty nostalgia. It reminded me of going to fun fairs and buying dinky donuts, but them being too hot to touch for a few minutes before you could eat them with all the sugar stuck to your fingers- uncomfortable grains like sand getting into your gloves, and somehow of the corkscrew I kept in my work bag for protection, which was probably not useful for opening wine or stabbing someone in the face, as I had never tried either. It had come out of a Christmas cracker. I put my phone down and I cried.
An assortment of items which couldn’t yet be packed away as I would need them before leaving for the wedding tomorrow sat precariously balanced atop the suitcase- a toothbrush, a hairdryer, a sense of mounting indignity at the late addition of the ring and how it had halted me, momentarily, in proceeding with the detailed formulation of steps in order to exit the house. I had never worn the ring before. It was a truly physical piece of memory which I had put next to my toothbrush as an afterthought and was now causing me some distraction as more items were added to the pile in stark contrast; its face, a small circular sea-green glass bead, reflected the dimming early evening light and the flecks of ash contained within sparkled with every minor trembling of misplaced fidelity. I became very still. The items on top of the suitcase would not be packed until the morning, and the night would be cold. I felt the base of my spine tingle at the perplexity of representational contrition as I reached into my wardrobe to retrieve a scarf, taking care to cover over all the items on top of the suitcase before finally making my way to bed. Latterly I decided I could put the scarf about my shoulders tomorrow, for the pretence of warmth.