"The cold struck me like pricking crystals and I took a deep breath that stayed in me as if it was frightened to come out"
Yes, I awoke that next morning somehow enlightened to how ridiculous I had been, how the tensions of the journey to Mordan House had really got the better of me, and decided that the house and I should kiss, unpack, clean and make up.
But, appropriately enough, that next day it rained. And all freakin’ day too! It was that straight down kind of rain, with very little wind to give it any whip or snarl, so it just tumbles down without resistance. If it doesn’t wet you on the way down, then it gets you as it bounces hard off the ground and back up onto your ankles.
It reminded me that this was still Scotland and with winter on the horizon, and I should expect such days at any time of the year and not be misled by occasional sunshine. I was fully aware that my own green shoots of recovery, my own summer time, would be pushing against a changeable, volatile landscape. Yep, there was no sun that day. The sunlight of the day before seemed like a freak display, and I slid right back into a cold, drenched reality.
But it was not all doomy-gloomy! There was no way I could spend another night in my car. I had to make a change. I had to push through it all. And, to act as the artillery to aid the battle plans outlined in all the progressive verbs that went through my head, I played music. Oh, and happy music at that!
And here are the songs I played really loudly when I returned to the house after the previous night's scare: Stacey Kent's 'Shall We Dance', The Beatles' 'Helter Skelter', Chic's 'Le Freak', Jane Siberry’s ‘Red High Heels’. Shake away the cobwebs? Well, that was what they were designed to do! With one of my best pairs of knickers on to make me feel extra special, and with a contrived dance and an affected pout to every bar and beat, I told the house that I wasn't scared. No how, no way, no day!
"To act as the artillery to aid the battle plans outlined in all the progressive verbs that went through my head, I played music. Oh, and happy music at that!"
As I made this boogie-woogie statement of defiance, I unpacked the contents of the car into one derelict room off the main hallway and made tentative steps to start ferrying my possessions into the three rooms that were self-contained on the ground floor, and that contained a sitting-room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a short hallway with a door that locked from the inside. I could have looked for other suitable rooms within the house, but there was no real hesitation that this was where I would settle my things. I smiled. A smile of self-knowing. There was no way that anyone was going to get my ass to live/sleep/eat or live anywhere else in this house when there was a neat, tidy, enclosed location with a lock. And close to the front door. No way, José Lopé! I am not the pheasant who flies towards the gamekeeper thinking, "Hell, what is that? Is that a gun?" Rather, I will eye the instrument of death from the safe vantage point of a tree, a fig-leaf to hide my face, and peer out at the admirable lengthy barrel while further hiding my identity by neighing as if I am a horse! Yep, that’s safety-conscious, sensible me!
So, dancing, singing, spinning, jumping and booty-shaking for all I was worth, I hid well the growing realisation that I had screwed up: that the house was a disaster, barely habitable, leaking and frayed and on its last legs and not even fit for a desperate family of termites. "La-la-la-hey-hey-doo-doo-whoop!"
Praise be for the batteries in my CD player, as there was no electricity in the house. Having given the bang sound of the night before a bit of thought – and the resulting absence of all mod-con power that it brought with it – I came to the conclusion that it was probably a ‘fuse-related electrical issue’ that I was encountering. Forgive me for using technical jargon, but some currenty wire-encompassed energy thing had gone pop and all the electrical fizzly bits had stopped doing what they do best i.e. making shit work! I took a trip back into the local town and found a handyman who came out and fixed the problem: five seconds of work for £35! I’m sure – his stubble and stink aside – he must bathe in goat’s milk nightly and wipe his anus using gold-leafed toilet paper coated with a soothing eucalyptus and aloe vera balm – or else his wife Vera’s hand! What else could he do with the sizeable income that he’s generating daily? And how does this smelly God procure each anointed sheet of paper into his calloused hands? That’s right, perceptive reader, just like he does with members of the public, he rips them off!
"Forgive me for using technical jargon, but some currenty wire-encompassed energy thing had gone pop and all the electrical fizzly bits had stopped doing what they do best i.e. making shit work!"
It was only around dinner-time – as I started to get a semblance of order within the downstairs kitchen and the room that could be a living-space and bedroom – that I turned that smile upside down and let in a little of that maudlin, self-hating, self-pitying wind of feeling that had been concealed all day beneath high kicks and teeth clenched for the high-notes. Rash, impetuous. They had never been me. But I had made them me, and this was where I had ended up.
Before getting too upset I breathed deeply, found that I could and that it felt good, and sat back in a chair, some of that wind dispelled in the process. At some point, sitting back and breathing turned into sleeping. I needed it. I deserved it. The last moment before slipping over into sleep felt like wine coasting into my veins and I sipped hard. Change, cold, fright, lack of sleep, the bewildering newness of everything, the bewildering discomfort of everything, brought about a deep, necessary but fretful sleep.
A dream that contained Philip ended with the sudden realisation that Philip was beside me and that his hand was on my arm. I jumped so hard that my head felt struck by something and I felt my heart jolt as if bruised. But there was no-one there. On my bare arm I felt a touch still there on the little hairs, and I felt that it had not been direct flesh that had touched me but some material, a glove perhaps. As I grabbed my arms and held myself tightly for a second, I took a deep breath and then rubbed my eyes a touch to wake myself up more. Of course the room was empty.
Outside, it was practically dark; inside, without any light in the room, it was dark and shadowy. In an instance, the desire to step outside came over me. I glanced out of the window and noticed that the rain had eased considerably to a light drizzle, although the wind had increased. I walked out of my little suite of rooms, along the corridor that led to the front door and opened the front door. The cold struck me like pricking crystals and I took a deep breath that stayed in me as if it was frightened to come out.
All of a sudden, I noticed something small and curious above the treeline in front of me. It was a rectangle of hovering white light – ever so small, shining somewhat, barely distinct really, but against the darkening sky it stood out.
One moment I was ready to walk out, the next I hesitated. On reflection, it’s strange how certain anomalies can appear before you, yet appear to have nothing to do with you – they are just odd within themselves. Then there are other curios that appear to be about you, that you are implicated in. This was just such a sight. The thing seemed empty, dead inside. Yet with something about it that was certainty of purpose. I had no idea what it was but I closed the door and returned to my rooms. A last glance out of the window at the same spot above the trees and I noticed that the phenomenon was gone.
These rooms of mine though, they made me feel secure. In here, I was almost protected. No matter what was outside. So I fell asleep like the proverbial swaddled and well-fed baby. The slumber of the foolish, you might say. Securely, snugly locked in.