I don’t recall the staircase bannisters to the front door being painted teal or even the walls blush-orange. I like it. I don’t recall feeling the sanded pineboards beneath my bare feet before. I like it.
The sunlight pours oblong-shaped through the letter box onto the floor.
I am delighted (delighted!) and (as ever) a little surprised, to discover that there is a handwritten letter among the mail for a Ms. Brazfield (flat 9). I don’t recall her living here. I don’t recall there being nine flats.
But, of course, there is another floor beyond mine.
The attic is reminiscent of Wellesley Rd. where I lived in the early 1980s, except that it is divided into studio flats. The doors are graffitied (as they would be in certain Berlin districts). There are no numbers. Leslie R comes out of one door onto the landing and asks me if there is any mail for him. I tell him no, but that there’s a letter for Ms. B. He looks disappointed. He says he’s never heard of her and doesn’t know which door is number 9. I find this odd as (in real life) he is a postman. He goes back into his room.
There is a kettle on the landing, so I boil water and as the water heats I prepare a tray with a handful of tiny glasses spooning coffee granules and molasses into each.
I knock on each door.
Leslie is sat at a computer monitor. I leave a coffee with him. Two other rooms seem empty. The final door is ajar. I knock, there is no answer, but I can hear noises inside, so I go in. The room is cold. Ms. B is in bed by the window. She is talking in her sleep and appears to be having a bad dream. The window is open and pieces of paper blow around on the floorboards. Birds have flown in, too. They wander around, foraging. She has bed hair and wears a white shirt. “You were dreaming,” I say. “Mm, molasses,” she says. When I mention all the birds that have flown in she hides beneath the covers while I shoo them out the window one at a time (several excitable sparrows, two indolent pigeons and two unknown birds). I close the window and collect the paper as she reads her mail and sips coffee.
Nestled in a dell in the depths of the forest we come across a knuckle of a village. The buildings, pale and detailed with red timbers, rise up into the shadows from the empty dirt street that cuts through the centre. The windows of the buildings are thrown open and curtain rags fly. There is silence.
In and out of houses trying to find somewhere to hide. The army approaches through the forest – unseen and unheard – but they are coming.
In a church there is a space to hide behind the organ. There are several others concealed here already. We hold onto pipes and ropes in silence.
From our hidden space we watch the boots of the soldiers pass up and down the stone floor of the church in silence.
With some great effort I have dragged my mattress down to the beach where it is to be thrown into the sea. Jess C has set up a network of pretty fairy lights strung between poles that she has stuck into the sand. She sits beneath its glow in a thin blouse with silver collar tips with her knees drawn up to her chest. The waves crash behind her onto the dark beach.
I am somehow in the air, watching the scene unfold. It is something like an Aborigine painting I once saw in a gallery – a series of symbols and colours and simple figures that convey both a moment and the passage of time: the drag marked sand trail made by the mattress, the footprints in the sand, the scribble of star-like fairy lights, the seated figure, the comma of a figure that is me. The rectangle of mattress, like an eraser. The white scrawl of surf line, the black-blue expanse of sea, the smear of beam emitted from the distant lighthouse at St. Mary (itself rendered as a simple circle). The town is there, too, unseen in the distance, but its presence is heavy; perhaps it is a sleepy, darker shape at the edge of the page?
She has written something in the sand at her feet with her finger. But I am too high, too far away as yet to be able to read it. The night air is incredibly warm and windless and I am aware of both the disconnect and the connect between all the points below me.