I am in a bungalow in Hastings. Wrapped in a garden. A place that’s secret from everyone, literally invisible to everyone. You have to be standing in front of it before you can see it. I’m on a road that doesn’t exist. Behind impossible walls. And I should, shouldn’t I, be having the quietest, stillest life. Shouldn’t I.
But I’m not. I can feel the furniture moving. Do you have poltergeists?
I saw this place on my phone, on the day I had, I think, eight people come to buy my old house. Clicked through the images, and knew, immediately. I didn’t know it was on a nonexistent road, then. Or about the garden. Or its invisibility. Or the still steel band of the sea, visible from all but one of the rooms. Or the dim, intimate rhythm of creeping trains, sometimes, in the thinnest hours of the morning. But I’ve always been able to feel a bow wave, and I felt it then. So I bought the house. Right away.
I moved in, fresh from the graveyard, still not getting through a day without that storm rising in me. I knew I was hanging on. But I also knew – know – my grip is solid, the solidest thing I have ever had in my life. So I had no fear at all in that regard. I settled in, immediately. But with a head full of plans, there was a precarious element to that settling.
I watch the gulls sometimes, when the wind comes in, hard off the sea and they try to settle on the roofs, and their feathers won’t let them. If they move even slightly their biology lifts them. Their bodies want to fly, with or without them. I settled in like that.
Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I could really hear trains. When I first moved here, I dreamed about them every night. That slow perfect pentameter. So faint, it might just be the furniture moving. As weeks and then months passed, my prayer bead fears began to die, leaving moments, then hours, untethered. I unravelled into sleep and let them be. Walked down to the sea and stood staring at it, from the pier. From the railings, beside Darling John, Who Loved it Here So Much, 1952-2017; by Agnes, by Sarah, by Bill and George and Amanda and Aunty Jane, RIP… I trod the metal footsteps set into the boards. I watched the wash and slap against red girders, and the wind scared me, some days, out there, 0.2 miles out to sea on google maps. With the gulls, who hadn’t been able to stop it. Who couldn’t resist. Whose feathers made them, made them fly.
Things happened. The big fears started to die, like a comet had hit their planet. Whatever was going on, it was an extinction level event for fear. I let a dentist. I let a doctor. I let, and then withdrew to see what I felt. I felt a lot of things. When there were two fears left, huddled together in the ash, the phone rang. And someone I had never spoken to before – didn’t know existed – had never made any attempt to summon or conjure – told me one of my two remaining fears was now irrelevant. Pop!
One left. And it’s you.
Let me just stare at you, for a moment. Upstairs, the furniture is moving. Turns out it makes very different sounds from the trains. Heavier. Not rhythmic. Every now and then a piece of furniture gets to where it’s supposed to be, and there’s a thump, a settling, a homecoming. I haven’t been in that room, but I imagine it is like one of those children’s puzzles, where you have to slide tiles around in a tight little frame, to make the image of a ladybird or something. To move the one you want, you have to move three others, first. Like that. It doesn’t matter. I trust the process, stop looking at you when it overwhelms me: look at the horizon, read the poem, feel the strong storm wind of that last remaining fear. I don’t know you yet, either.
Sometimes I think about you, and my feathers won’t let me settle.