Jessica Eve Watkins
9th April, 2015.
Everyday I sit out on my front wall. I smile to myself and side-eye the bin-men kidding around with fluorescent cheeks and sunburnt noses. I nod hello to track-suited women, dog walkers, and the old man smashing up his front yard into a million shards. Tiny Indian children wobble past on scooters with ice-cream smeared hands, wailing loud and free at the end of each school day.
The daffodils of late winter are brown and crispy now, shrivelling up with their season. Barren tree trunks have spurted luminous green overnight, and now our gardens bear pear blossom and magnolia blooms, and all the promises of shoots waking under tilled soil. Each morning Becca has new seedlings sweating away in pots on the table, and I peer at them curiously, in awe of the burgeoning baby leaves.
I have spent the last month with my paintbrush melded to my left hand, outlining letters onto sign after sign after sign. I am so lucky to have this job. I work out in the sun. I work for myself. Bare-toed and sleeveless. Floral-dressed and ribboned. My nose is peeling and my shoulders are glowing. I beat my feet over the cool kitchen tiles to David Bowie records on my tea breaks. Living still and flowing easy. Some of the kindest people I know are right here with me, and I am full up with love for them all. Slowly I am saving money, and all my dreams of returning to the open road begin to feel possible.
One afternoon I have a strangely unsettling realisation that I have made several homes for myself all over the UK and America, with pockets of best friends in each. I don’t know quite where to put myself. I’ve fallen in love with upstate New York, east London, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bristol, Hay-on-Wye, and Atlanta. Am I supposed to plant myself in one of them, or keep sowing my way around them all til I wear myself out?
For a moment though I am utterly here, right under the jawline of Wales, in the hippie mecca of Bristol. We’re having a cook-out this evening. It’s the first of the year, and Andy paces past me, on his way to buy cucumbers and sausages from the corner shop. He returns saying that everyone is behaving rather altruistically, bending over backwards to be kind to one another. Our city is happy and warm and alive with April. I feel it. We’re all looking each other in the eye. Awake and grateful.
Back out on my front wall, I talk to my mum on the phone about raw foods and all the people she knows with cancer. The heat of the day is lessening. My toes are dirty against the red bricks, and my pink nail varnish is chipped. Hels wends over from next door in a daisy dress, with two cups of earl grey and a box of white chocolate cookies. We sit watching the ethnic veils and Hijabs swish by, until Lyndsie joins too, with her own mug. Chris cycles home from work, and salutes to us ladies of the wall. And then George is on the phone asking if we want to go to the river soon, and what to bring to dinner. My own beautiful, vibrant, supportive community is right here, wrapped all around me. None of us have much money. And we get lost and sad sometimes. But somehow we always manage to connect and live like kings.