She listened to his breath and watched his hands, they were resting in folded arms across his face and she thought of them fresh from birth, grabbing onto her thumb, wrapping themselves around her finger. And then hot and small as they fumbled with bright bricks on the floor.
There were hours when she held them on the walks to school, past their familiar way points, the big brick wall and the Spelling Hill, the Opening Trees and then the gates and they held pens. The hands she looked at now, that gripped the pencils, that formed the words, that scribbled and drew mazes then shaped sentences across their days, were the hands in the final playground when they swung from monkey bars, one determined grasp after another, pulling himself along before they left, before the photos at the gate and they left.
She remembered his hand as it clutched hers, as they sat heads down on the pews, in darkness when the light was sucked out of their world. And how she held tight, how she clung firm to him and him to her as they stumbled forward in an unstable new world and then they looked up.
To his hands, bigger, lifting heavy bags of books and different walks without her and he grew. He grew in ways and wisdom, in taking on his world and subjects came and subjects went, fingers folded around revision pens, shoving through hair as he leant over exam papers and he thought. His mind whirring and whirling, making links, his fingers fiddling as he waited for results.
And now autumn wakes them up again, to rain washed lanes and leaves. And now the road rushes underneath him as his new day comes into view. Hands in pockets and a bag full of tricks, the compasses he holds now, he guides now, the calculations that he makes and his hands are strong and firm as they press buttons and follow the sines. Manipulating co-sines and tan in ways she cannot understand and she watches him go striding, preparing with a fistful of ideas, with complex numbers at his fingertips and behind him go the toddlers and the children he used to be, skipping, running in his steps and the hands she used to hold, wave to her and she counts every moment as he plots out his next phase.
How the hours have wrapped around us, she thinks, her baby, their boy and their joy. And as the sun warms pavements and rain drops lift themselves up from the ground, the man he is becoming makes his way back home.
She was wild, she was adventure,
she was passion, she was fun.
She was spirit and compassion.
She was comfort and she was calm.
And when night came, she was star dust
and her breath lit up her road.
And when her tears fell, she was released.
She was freedom and she was whole.
And her wings came and she knew them,
beating out so loud and strong.
And her feet blurred as she took flight,
her heart beat with nature’s song.
And when the dance took its hold of her,
she rippled, she began.
And when its rhythm filled her full, she sang,
‘I am, I am, I am.’
The seagulls are back today, they swoop around, they circle her old home and from their wings she sees the carpet in the lounge, how it turned from spiralled blues to pink. And she sweeps above the kitchen, where the corner chair became a cupboard for the pills, opposite the kettle where she first made him a drink.
And as she looks, the seagulls fill the rooms, their wings waft feathers in her face and carry her upstairs and there they beat the air, there they hover at the edge of her old bed, with its camblewick green cover and in the light that lifts from day to night and day to night again, she sees herself lying, turning, holding thoughts.
The cupboard to the right is silent, where the drawer is stiff, the rich deep wood and a lamp stand of fading brass. She can smell the scented carpet and the polished trinkets, there, on a painted window sill that overlooks that world and as her seagulls settle and fold their wings she smells the coast.
Bedruthan rocks wrap around her and as the sand sneaks in her trainers she pads the beach towards him, laughing, parka flapping in the cut of air, then back.
Seagulls resting on her bedspread, her bed by a bookcase from her youth, crammed with early interests and they whisper. The ivy green curtains are closed, the lamp is off. Her seagulls watch over them, their words and murmurs.
And it’s August. They ruffle feathers around her and lift her up, away from her black and white skirt on the chair, its bells silent and the birds sing out, it’s always August, they call out, we’re always there.
There was a time when she first knew him, before the rainbows came. They walked through the seaside villages, buying up lemon ceramics for their new home. But she doesn’t use those jars now. They are filed away on the top shelf that she can just reach with the aid of a stool.
She dusted them with a soft cloth, let her fingers linger around the rim as she brushed and she thought of herself in a dark blue parka, her feet folded away in stiff new trainers. They were blue, the rubber sole had seemed so white but despite their starkness in the sand, they were the right ones for the job. The old grey rubber peeled off some years ago after the saltwater had weakened the bond, after the dried out seaweed had been tugged free and sniffed and thrown out.
She kept the rock from the first beach, where the sand found its way into her soles, she could feel it grumbling under her feet as they climbed the haphazard steps to the teashop. The rock from those days, holding the heat on her windowsill, next to the herbs and green things that she tends.
She was never much of a gardener but the new seeds in thin packets found her leaning into the sink, sleeves shoved up or neatly folded back on themselves, in the way that he would do, and she plants.
She pokes bits down in soil, feeds them and turns to the light. It’s as much as she can manage, tiny things, ceramic pots and the coloured plastic from her youth.
Mother had bought home the bright pots, the dolly mixtured ones when she still lived at home and she imagined a windowsill in her future, lined with fervent things in a spectrum, a rainbow, a nurturing place.
Now the fading plastic sits next the the rocks, the stiffened paint-brushes and chipped cups. The one without a handle that her Mother bought for him, back then, before these plants had grown.
And she preens, she has taken to buying fresh flowers, enjoying the promise, the sense of life in her home and it keeps her focussed on the cycles. She pours out stale water, she pinches off brown petals and she looks.
‘I buy flowers myself,’ she decided. ‘And I will learn – I will learn the latin of this blossom and that and I will find how to care for it well.’
She is often barefoot now around the house. She likes the coldness of the floor, the sense of connection to something underneath. She hasn’t worn trainers for years and the rock still looks the same as when she pulled it from the sand and there are flowers.
She snips off the lost blooms, the crumpled browns making way for new growth underneath. She holds the rock, it’s warm and heavy in her hand, in her day it still smells of the beach.
She can hear herself running towards him, the flump flump flump across wet sand, as grains were displaced by her small feet.
I like rocks. I like stones. Pebbles are my friends. There’s something quite reassuring about their edges and their lines. I like to peer inside them at their sediment and colours, study the way the hours have formed their shapes.
I keep them on my windowsill next to the plants I can’t look after. I try to nurture the growing things, I feed and spray. I pick up the leaves as they fall but my fingers are pink and not green. Some things stay for a while, now and again they flourish but whether it’s the angle of the windowsill or the anger of the sun at my glass, I’m not sure. It’s such a sun filled kitchen and the windowsill calls out for plants. So I buy and I tend and I leave. Maybe it’s the leaving where it goes wrong. Maybe it’s the constant watching that they need. Maybe if I pull up a stool and stand a post, keep a weathered eye on them at all times, that I’ll spot the bugs as they approach and I’ll fire at them with my special order nozzled spray. Maybe if I never move from this spot I can head off the disease before it sets in. Maybe if I do nothing but watch them that they’ll be alright. That the sun won’t crisp their leaves, that the soil won’t gasp and shrink.
I like plants. I like their potential for growth, their searching roots, their sap fresh leaves. I like their short-lived promise and the rich dark stink of soil.
I pull up a stool and wait. Wait for the seconds to eat them, to watch them crumble again. I watch my stones next to them. They are reliable, they sit, they soak up the heat. They smile back at me, warm and unchanged. At least I can’t see their changes.
They watch me. I crumble in the photons that they absorb, my leaves dry out. The bugs come.
I like rocks, they give me a sense of permanence but it won’t last. I like to hold them and study their lines, to connect with the heat they’ve absorbed.
They clank and graunch against each other, they tell me that they’re solid – I understand.
The leaves drop, the water evaporates, the sun moves around us.
My stones wink at me, they know it’s only a matter of time.