There was this time, many years ago now, when we stayed in a house on an eroding cliff with no electricity but hot running water, and I took a bath and read a book and thought how sad it was that this place would be in the sea shortly.
I have no idea if that house is still there now, but sometimes I think it wove its way into my life somehow, irrevocably, to make the rest of my days a story about almost, almost falling into the sea but not just yet…
And I thought I was sad then.
Today I laid on the ground for ages, for about 20 minutes. I looked up at the sky and the clouds passing me and thought constantly that I was hearing some person who would walk up and ask me why I was laying on the ground looking at the sky, like it wasn’t a perfectly natural thing to want to do (especially when one cannot get on an airplane and hasn’t been on one in years). To ask me a whole slew of questions about why laying on the ground was a thing I decided to do, like an interview with an examiner. Defend your choice of ground and position of body.
No one did, though I constantly startled as though they had, hearing phantom footsteps over the sound of my bloody true crime podcast.
Lockdown, even if this is not a lockdown, makes it impossible to wear makeup for me. I cry mascara off and it just seems stupid to put it on again, especially when the damn hayfever is so bad here. I count my sneezes in dozens these days. Since Friday I rub my eyes occasionally and the gunk blurs my vision in an appropriately subtle way, just enough to make it hard to see things clearly and accompanied by just enough burning as to be nearly bearable.
I read scarythings from Shanghai and try to put them away. I think of the bath in the house on a cliff again. Even though I know they’re turning redder and redder, I can’t stop rubbing my eyes.
A room in a house on a slowly eroding cliff, without electricity but with hot water for a bath and candles. I have no idea what book I was reading. Seems somehow appropriate. I can just say it was Petrarch or 50 Shades of Gray or something anachronistic by Bob Woodward. Something that couldn’t have existed in 2014. Or Pale Horse, Pale Rider, finished today but inserted into the Cliff House to make it’s nest there, like an osprey or a crow.
Or a swallow. Swallows all over campus now. Songs of rainbows and crossing these and flying away in my head and on my lips as I close my classroom for the weekend, but actually it’s for the week, for the summer? For the year? Even though a few weeks ago at sports day I said aloud I wasn’t sure we’d be finishing the year in person, it still feels like it happened too fast. And on April Fool’s Day.
I wish I could remember what I was actually reading in the bath in the Cliff House. Maybe it would unlock secret knowledge about what came after, and what is still to come now. Maybe I would be able to look back and make sense of it. Or give it meaning. These two years. Make it be for a reason.
My yellow teapot from John Lewis at Oxford Street in London broke more than two years ago. I put the pieces back together recently but it didn’t fit back together right. So I left a hole in the top, where steam escacpes now. The pot looks cooler and more artistic than it did before. It couldn’t have had the hole before it broke; the structure wouldn’t have let it. Now it has a hole forever. But it still works, and it looks better than before. But the hole remains.
In my dreams, the teapot is at the Cliff House. Steaming near the bath.
I looked straight up and opened my eyes on the ground. A waxing moon, directly overhead. And white-tipped blackbirds flew across the sky. Why, oh why can’t I?
One thought on “The Cliff House”
Beautiful piece. Aunt Karen