Sof Wen is twenty one years old.
She is in the basement of the Queen’s Arcade, approaching the fridge.
Sof Wen is twenty one years old and there is no more University.
‘Get on with it’ thinks Sof Wen.
She is in the basement and she is approaching the fridge.
Her green Cafe Quik t-shirt stinks of sour milk.
‘Get on with it’ says Sof to herself, bending before the fridge.
No more University and six months of too many thoughts.
‘Get on with it’ thinks Sof Wen in the basement of the Queen’s Arcade.
Too many flying thoughts for one essay.
Bending before the fridge and taking its weight.
No more essays but sour milk and a secret urge.
To slice her own face open with a knife.
Above the basement the shoppers move in unison, like birds.
Sof Wen takes the weight.
Beneath the sour Cafe Quik green she feels a crunch.
There is a crunch in the basement of the Queen’s Arcade that only Sof Wen can hear.
‘Get on with it.’
Sof lifts the fridge for Cafe Quik.
Takes the weight.
And above her a thousand strangers and their thoughts quietly change direction.
Turk Sunkiss sat by the open door of Arcade Cardiff.
Outside the mall, on Queen Street, a man in his early twenties with Victorian facial hair was singing Radiohead.
He had his amp plugged into the socket provided by the council.
Turk Sunkiss sat by the open door and greeted Sof Wen.
He had been called in to invigilate at the last moment, that morning.
The opening times were not on the window of the gallery.
‘I’ll have to have a word’ said Turk, laughing.
He stepped outside and into the atrium of the shopping arcade, inspected the signage on the glass.
‘I’ll have to have a word with Bobby Gimlet’ said Turk Sunkiss, scratching his head.
‘He once put up the wrong month.’
A mirror ball hung from the ceiling, the size of an apple and suspended on a string.
On the wall were postcards, print outs from the ffuunnsshhooww website.
Authors were not referenced.
Nothing was labelled.
People’s names were scattered across coloured pages on Turk Sunkiss’ desk.
A tiny row of Fimo bottles of alcohol had been arranged on a plinth.
One of them had fallen.
And someone had carefully, meticulously painted a pretend spillage.
‘It was here’ said Sof Wen.
And she stamped on the floor of the gallery for emphasis.
Beaming at Turk Sunkiss, who beamed right back.
‘Here?’ asked Turk.
‘Actually here?’ he asked.
‘Here’ said Sof Wen.
‘Beneath this space, here.’
‘It was called Cafe Quick, back then’ she said.
‘I was twenty one’ said Sof Wen, feeling the pull and the presence of the basement beneath her.
‘I was twenty one’ said Sof Wen.
‘And I honestly thought that my life was over.’
‘And if you are having fun’ said Turk Sunkiss.
‘Then you aren’t working’ he said.
Three teenagers are approaching the open door behind him.
Turk was telling Sof a story about his foster father.
Turk was talking about how his foster father had noticed the manner in which his friends had been dying.
Dropping like flies within months of retirement.
The three teenagers giggle, peer through the window.
Turk’s foster father had observed this.
The way in which his friends had been dropping.
One of the teenagers, a girl in a puffa jacket and a tight pony tail, breaks away from the others.
Saunters nonchalantly towards the door of the gallery.
Turk’s foster father had observed this about his compadres.
How all of them worked and worked and then dropped like flies.
He observed this about them.
And then he got himself a job in a nursery.
The girl is at the open door as Turk finishes telling his foster father’s story.
She puts one foot over the boundary.
And runs away, laughing.
Sof Wen watches the cigarette smoke cast its curling shadow across the white brick wall.
She is thinking about Blodeuwedd Rise.
It is late afternoon and windless in the garden.
The light is falling in such a way.
The smoke has more clarity in shadow than it does in substance.
Sof is thinking.
The shadow of her hand is motionless.
She watches the smoke rise from between her fingers.
Something about Blodeuwedd Rise she wants to articulate.
Blodeuwedd Rise and ferns.
Elegant, delicate, tall.
The smoke moves with an intelligence of its own.
It’s very clear and dark in shadow, precisely moving into shapes.
There is a blank page upstairs.
Waiting for Blodeuwedd.
A flute in conversation.
A lilting way of tilting the head and looking sideways.
Something Sof would like to find the words to say.
‘It’s kind of….’ Blodeuwedd would say to her, pausing.
Tilting her head.
‘I suppose it’s…’ she might say next, looking upwards to the left.
‘But anyway…’ Blodeuwedd would say, touching on an idea gently.
Beginning to describe its form before leaving it unsaid.
‘It was something like that, perhaps a bit like this…’ she’d say.
Sof Wen watches the smoke move from shadow to invisibility.
Thinking about the page upstairs and the way words fall.
‘Oh!’ said Blodeuwedd, often.
A bend of the head and a fern in the wind.
‘Oh, I thought.’
Fascinated with some design.
Drawing the ‘Oh’ out sometimes, or suppressing the sound into more of a ‘Hmmm…’
A curious look upwards to the side, from under her lashes.
‘Oh!’ said Blodeuwedd.
With a tone of wise surprise.
Humorous too, as if she’d always known the discovery was to come.
And had always only been intrigued.
‘Tell me if you can see what it is’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
It seemed topographical.
There was a herring bone quality to the image, and within that, forms.
It seemed to be an Owl, to Sof.
It looked a little like a rubbing.
A little like a landscape.
Sof Wen stared at the image on the screen, said nothing.
And Blodeuwedd watched Sof Wen with interest.
‘Tell me if you can see what it is’ she said.
Sof Wen looked at it for a long time.
Turned to Blodeuwedd, eventually.
‘What is it?’ she asked.
And Blodeuwedd laughed.
She lifted a long finger to the shape on the screen and traced a line beneath the surface .
‘That’s me’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘Beneath the sheets’ she said.
‘I took photographs’ said Blodeuwedd.
‘After the operation.’
‘There’s my stomach’ said Blodeuwedd.
‘Those are my legs.’
‘And there’s the tube’ she said.
Sof Wen looked again at the shape upon the screen.
‘Oh yes’ she said.
It seemed clear now.
What had resembled the crown of an owl was in fact the fold of hospital linen.
What had looked at first like flowers.
Blodeuwedd had chosen a boy’s blue for the writing on the wall.
In the space in Arcade Cardiff.
In folds and fronds.
Her transformation had been framed and hung politely.
On the floor a pile of thrown off clothes.
Each shirt and trouser labelled clearly.
In the corner a denim jacket on a hook.
Embroidered by a friend.
The chosen font was Fisher Price and primary.
Behind a curtain, a private shrine.
To a name.
And a face, painted on Blodeuwedd’s mirror.
A man of reputation.
When Sof listened to the story, she imagined an open topped car.
An American road.
That couldn’t have been the scene.
That wasn’t how it really was and Sof Wen knew that.
But this was the wheel she imagined Blodeuwedd steering.
With the wind in her hair and a famous man in the passenger seat.
It was a broad and sunlit dashboard Sof Wen imagined.
Which housed the tape deck and the radio.
Into which Blodeuwedd had put her TDK Cassette of songs.
The passenger was very famous.
It was a big new deal for Wales.
It was a hard job, there was a lot of work to do.
To be at Venice.
And Blodeuwedd was working hard behind the wheel.
Feeling she was on the wrong road, interminably, at the time.
But behind the wheel and working hard.
The passenger was very famous and Blodeuwedd loved his work.
She’d selected the songs carefully.
Tilting her head to listen.
Spending time and looking forward.
She’d put the cassette together carefully.
Looking forward to the conversation.
But when he got into the car he had his people.
He had his people and he had his work to do.
He hadn’t really noticed Blodeuwedd at the wheel.
And when her music started playing.
He switched the mixtape off.
The music went unheard.
And the mixtape was ejected.
The road went on ahead.
An American highway in Venice is how Sof Wen imagines it.
Empty, straight and endless.
No suggestion of a turning.
The car was driven all the way to where it had to go.
The work, itself, completed.
But when Blodeuwedd climbed out of the car.
She left and didn’t look back again.
She went home from Venice.
Climbed under the sheets.
Lay there listening to herself.
There was something Blodeuwedd had to do now.
Something very delicate, something very clean and clear.
Something frightening, painful.
All Blodeuwedd’s gears were grinding.
There would be a process and an anaesthetic.
And complications after the crossroads that she couldn’t yet anticipate.
Ten operations, it took, eventually.
But Blodeuwedd didn’t know that yet, beneath her sheets.
Where she slept and cried and considered her story.
Its chapters and its titles.
Blodeuwedd Rise looks upwards to the right as she tells Sof Wen her story.
She is sitting in her office, and on the screen there is a map of something.
‘Topographical’ Sof had thought.
Blodeuwedd tilts her head, she’s humorous.
She tells her story and Sof Wen listens, sensing shapes.
There are ferns in the wind and a delicate herringbone over genitalia.
The path is meandering with many tangents.
A file has been opened on Blodeuwedd’s computer.
Revealing photographs of the shrine she made.
Her dressing table from her bedroom.
All the bottles and cosmetics that she kept upon it.
Some posters to the famous man she mocked up especially.
His face on Blodeuwedd’s mirror, painted by a friend.
Flowers, candles, an electric star across the drawers.
Blodeuwedd had sat, herself, invigilating.
Her physical presence in the gallery a significant exhibit.
‘I hadn’t thought of that’ she said.
‘Until it was happening.’
‘But it was good’ she said.
The man himself had been invited.
‘But he didn’t show’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘He didn’t even reply.’
She shrugged, inclined her head.
Elegant, tall, intelligent.
‘He probably didn’t even get the letter’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘He has people’ she said.
For the private view Blodeuwedd wore the embroidered coat.
The chosen font was Fisher Price and primary.
A local paper came and interviewed Blodeuwedd.
Hoping to sensationalise.
The words were written large in baby blue upon the wall.
The words were written on all her discarded clothes.
The words were written on the coat Blodeuwedd wore.
And when she told the tale months later to Sof Wen.
Blodeuwedd, who’d been born Benedict, looked up and laughed.
‘John Cale did it’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘John Cale Made Me A Woman.’
Someone has drawn a penis on the wall of the lift.
The floor is wet.
There is a penis on the wall and next to it, a vagina.
It stinks of bleach.
‘Oh good’ says Harmony Sweetfrock.
She’s just returned from a tour of youth hostels, with her boyfriend Rory Vee.
Rory plays guitar.
Harmony paints murals.
Together they arrive in each new place, together.
Wander around, exploring.
Photographing beaches, landscapes, clean white walls.
Posting them on Twitter, Facebook.
Harmony paints murals.
When Sof sees them, she retweets them.
Rory standing, somewhere new and lovely.
An acoustic strapped across his shirtless chest.
And Harmony pencilling and painting something she is bringing true.
A dream, for free on the wall of a YMCA.
Sof Wen looks at the cock on the wall of the lift.
‘Bob likes boys’ someone has written, beneath it.
The vagina has a three dimensional clitoris.
Some enlightened soul has chewed on this, contributed it.
Some genius has spat it out and stuck it up in Wrigley.
‘Oh good’ says Harmony Sweetfrock, sniffing the air.
She is still tanned from her recent trip with Rory, to Israel.
‘Someone’s finally cleaned the piss away’ she says.
It is the year 1999.
It is the year 1999 and there is about to be a total eclipse of the sun.
‘No’ says Fenella Redmane.
She carefully peels the free visor from the front of Cafe Quik’s copy of the Daily Mail.
Slides it onto her sharp white nose.
Peers at Sof Wen through the cellophane.
‘No’ says Fenella, to her Cafe Quik employees.
‘Stay in your positions’ she says.
‘In case someone needs a cappuccino.’
Sof Wen, Sash and Gavin listen.
The Queen’s Arcade is eerily silent.
There is an ominous feeling.
A very strange light.
‘Zombie Apocalypse’ whispers Gav Camel, pinching Sof Wen’s bum and winking.
‘Unreal’ thinks Sof Wen.
She rolls her eyes.
There are new colours on the edge of Sof Wen’s vision.
Fenella moves serenely.
She moves serenely towards the shutter which Sasha Twitch has winched, without permission, halfway down over the doors of Cafe Quik.
‘Sasha’ says Fenella.
She glares at Sasha Twitch through the cellophane of her visor and raises a finger.
Then glides without another word towards the escalator.
Sof Wen, Gav and Sasha gaze at Fenella Redmane’s tall, thin figure.as it is smoothly conveyed upwards towards the plate glass doors of the shopping mall.
It is a hot day, August.
The sour smell of boiled milk rises from the warm synthetic t-shirts of the three baristas.
The strong smell of their armpits mingle as they stand together.
Sof Wen sighs and Sasha Twitch scratches her Afro.
You can hear her nails against her scalp, such is the silence.
She rolls her pierced tongue fiercely against her front teeth.
‘Fuck this’ says Sasha Twitch.
Sof Wen sighs and looks at Gav, who looks at her.
‘Fuck this’ says Sasha Twitch, again.
Sof Wen sighs and looks at Gav, who looks at her.
He has melancholy eyes, long nose, long lashes.
Gav looks back at Sof Wen blankly.
No one can ever tell what Gav is really thinking, perhaps he thinks of nothing.
Is he smiling?
Or is that just the set of his mouth?
Sof and Gav look at each other for a long time, saying nothing.
Eventually, he speaks.
‘It’s a total eclipse of the sun, man’ says Gav Camel.
Those melancholy eyes, long nose, long lashes.
He looks exactly like a Camel.
There is a loud click of aluminium on enamel and Sasha makes a sudden move.
Sasha Twitch grabs Sof by the sleeve of her green t-shirt.
Sasha pulls her over the dividing line.
Over the dividing line, right out of Cafe Quik and into the lobby.
‘LOOK’ says Sasha, roughly.
‘I mean LOOK at it’ she says to Sof Wen.
The place is like a mausoleum.
The light is weird.
An eerie twilight has descended upon New Look.
The three stand together, in their t-shirts, listening.
And then Sasha Twitch starts screaming.
Sasha Twitch starts screaming.
Screaming and screaming and screaming.
The three are silent for a while.
His face reveals nothing.
He produces three cellophane visors from the pocket of his stained black slacks.
Shares them out and blinks again.
‘Total eclipse of the sun, mate’ says Gav, philosophically.
He places his visor onto his dromedary nose as Sof Wen winches the shutter to a close.
Together they look up, through the cellophane, at the glass doors beyond the rising escalators.
‘End of the World’ says Gav Camel.
The lift doors slide open with a bang.
Sof Wen and Harmony Sweetfrock step out onto the roof of the shopping mall.
‘I’ve been in this lift before’ says Sof Wen.
‘Years ago’ she says.
‘It wasn’t as well decorated at the time.’
Harmony Sweetfrock holds the doors open, preventing the elevator from descending.
‘Look at that’ she says to Sof Wen, pointing.
‘Look’ she says.
Sof Wen looks.
On the back wall of the lift someone has painted a crucifix.
Then a pentagram.
And next to it an Islamic symbol Sof Wen doesn’t recognise.
They seem to have painted them in ketchup.
‘All the religions of the world’ says Harmony Sweetfrock.
‘Here in this pissy little lift.’
Harmony Sweetfrock sighs.
‘I love this lift’ she says, blissfully.
‘It’s really quite profound’.
The sun is shining through the open doors and into the dark, bleached vault of the elevator.
Its walls are covered in symbols.
Sof Wen nods.
‘Terry is a total bender’ she says.
‘Bob likes boys.’
‘Wassup bitch?’ asks Sasha Twitch.
Four cappuccinos, a mocha latte and a macchiato are having a violent fit on the red hot grill of the coffee machine.
Sasha is expertly bringing two jugs of milk to a simultaneous frothy climax.
Without peeling her eyes from Sof, Sash prevents the macchiato from falling from the grill with her left breast.
‘What’s occurring bitch?’ she shouts, above the roar of the machine.
Fenella Redmane’s at the till.
She raises a warning finger.
‘Sasha’ she says.
A blonde woman with a baby in a Bugaboo is ahead of Sof Wen in the queue.
‘Two Americanos and a Cafe Quick Iced Coffee’ she says to Fenella.
‘Vanilla shot in one of the flat blacks’ says the woman, looking at her phone.
‘Where you to now?’ shouts Sasha Twitch.
‘What you doing back?’
Gav Camel slams through the swinging doors from the backroom carrying a towering tray of saucers.
He sees Sof Wen and blinks.
‘Wassup?’ shouts Sasha.
‘You coming back or what?’
‘No’ says Sof Wen.
‘No’ she says, to Sasha Twitch.
‘I’m at film school now’ says Sof Wen.
The coffee machine hisses as Sasha spins a dial, grabs cups.
‘Yeah’ says Sasha Twitch.
She puts two cappuccinos and a mocha latte on the counter.
‘Fuck off ’ she says.
‘Sasha’ says Fenella.
‘What?’ asks Sasha.
‘Film school’ says Gav Camel, meditatively.
Plating up an iced bun.
‘America’ he says.
‘No’ says Sof Wen.
Gav nods, philosophically.
The coffee machine hisses and Sasha yelps.
Gav Camel looks slowly up at Sof and blinks.
‘Put me on the Big Screen’ he says.
Blodeuwedd Rise tried every key.
‘Christ’ she said.
There were twenty two keys on the ring.
Blodeuwedd tried the one with the plastic fob, it didn’t fit.
She tried the three gold keys.
The little flat one.
‘Shit’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
None of them would fit.
They were standing in the passageway behind the gallery.
Behind the space where Blodeuwedd Rise had made her shrine.
Through a fire door at the back of Arcade Cardiff and into the labyrinth of hidden rooms and corridors.
The secret corridors that ran between each shop.
Blodeuwedd systematically worked her way through every key.
The smell of glue from Tanya’s Nail Bar was making her head spin.
The keys were difficult, confusing.
They fell together, tangled up.
‘I don’t know what’s going on here’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘This shouldn’t be happening’ she said.
‘It’s not usually this difficult.’
‘He must have changed the lock.’
She straightened up, stared up at the ceiling.
It was breeze block grey, unplastered.
Pipes and fibreglass, exposed.
Blodeuwedd ground her teeth.
Sof took the keys from her hand and tried each one of them in turn.
‘It’s not here’ said Sof Wen.
‘Aaargh’ said Blodeuwedd Rise.
‘I’m so sorry’.
‘I know how much you want to go back into the basement’ said Blodeuwedd Rise, to the ceiling.
‘Because of that experience with the fridge.’
‘It doesn’t matter’ said Sof Wen.
‘I’ll just write about this instead’.
It was a first year film school editing assignment.
They were on the roof of the Queen’s Arcade.
‘Okay’ said Sof Wen to Gav Camel.
Gav had already pushed the bin through the doors of the lift three times.
Sof had put a new cassette in.
It was too embarrassing to say ‘Action’.
‘Go’ she shouted.
‘Go, Gav Camel.’
The lift doors opened and Gav pushed the bin past a fourth time.
He pushed the filthy bin through like a pro.
He was an absolute natural.
Gav seemed to be smiling as he pushed the Cafe Quik bin to the skip.
He seemed to be smiling as he pushed the bin out from the lift.
It looked as if he was, anyway.
Well, whatever his expression was.
It never left his face.
‘You must write about this lift’ says Harmony Sweetfrock.
She is taking Sof Wen to the basement, after all.
A detour having been suggested, over the roof.
‘I will’ says Sof Wen to Harmony Sweetfrock.
‘I’ve been in this lift before’ she says.
‘Seventeen years ago’.
The sun is in Sof’s eyes.
Her thoughts are moving swiftly, flocking, switching.
There are new colours on the edge of her vision.
‘Gav Camel’ she says.
‘What?’ asks Harmony.
‘Nothing’ says Sof Wen.
Sof Wen shakes her head, there’s a pressure behind her eyes.
‘I hated that job’ she says.
‘Felt like the end of the whole bloody world, at the time’.
‘Would you and Rory like to come up to my trailer park?’ asks Sof.
‘Sing a song in my caravan?’
‘Paint a mural on my breeze block wall?’
Harmony Sweetfrock smiles.
‘Yeah’ she says.
‘Let’s do it.’
‘We’re all fascinated by that trailer park’ says Harmony.
She smiles at Harmony Sweetfrock.
‘I’ve got beautiful plans for that trailer park’ says Sof Wen.
She has another migraine coming.
Sof Wen smiles at Harmony.
She and Harmony are taking a detour together.
Since the lock has been mysteriously changed.
And the keys won’t fit.
The woman’s face was prematurely aged but her bare breasts were truly incredible.
‘You’re the hottest woman in this place’ said the bare breasted woman to Sof Wen.
It had been a miserable evening.
She leaned in and kissed the woman briefly on the lips.
‘I’m sorry’ said Sof Wen to the bare breasted woman.
‘I just don’t want to’ she said.
‘I don’t feel anything.’
‘Stop channelling Death’ said the bare breasted woman to Sof Wen.
She looked angry.
Bare breasted, tearful and really quite angry.
‘I can’t believe you’re rejecting me’ said the bare breasted woman.
Her breasts were truly incredible in the cold evening air, that October.
‘I’m sorry’ said Sof, again.
‘Don’t take it personally’ she said.
‘Your breasts are truly incredible.’
‘But it’s very cold’ said Sof Wen into the woman’s suntanned face
‘Please put on a cardigan?’
Sof and the bare breasted woman are sitting outside Mitzy’s gaybar in Bristol.
It is a cold October evening in 2015.
Sof Wen is giving the bare breasted woman a Tarot reading instead of a kiss.
‘My name’s Kadisha’ says the bare breasted woman.
‘I used to be celibate’ she says.
‘I come from your area of the country.’
‘I’m a shaman.’
‘They used to call me the mad horse woman of Lampeter’ says Kadisha.
The mad horse woman puts both her hands up Sof Wen’s jumper and squeezes Sof Wen’s breasts.
‘Oooh’ says Kadisha.
Sof Wen sighs.
‘I’m in a polyamorous relationship’ says Kadisha.
Squeezing Sof Wen’s breasts.
Sof Wen sighs, lays her cards onto the table.
Looks at them.
‘Come back to mine and let me fuck you in the kitchen’ says the mad horse woman
‘My girlfriend’s fine with it’ she says.
Kadisha and Sof Wen both look down at the spread.
‘Magician reversed’ says Sof Wen to Kadisha, pointing to the cards.
‘Someone’s not being entirely honest.’
A young woman with a crew cut and neck tattoo emerges suddenly from Mitzy’s.
Stares over at the bare breasted woman and Sof Wen.
‘What the fuck’s going on here, Kadisha?’ wails the tattooed girlfriend into the cold October night.
Near Death arrived a few months later.
Near Death arrived with a familiar hum.
At the height of seizure, Sof had given all her birthday money to a Taxi Driver.
There was a tunnel, in the taxi.
A tunnel and at the end of it.
A white light.
‘What’s your name?’ the Taxi Driver asked.
He was taking Sof on a long drive.
‘My name is Abdul’ he said.
Sof leaned her aching head against the seat and stared out of the cab window.
‘My name is Dymphna’ said Sof Wen.
‘Dymphna Tween’ she said.
Sof rests her aching head, watches Cardiff pass away outside the window.
She can see a tunnel beyond everything.
A tunnel and a white light.
‘Dymphna Tween’ repeats Abdul.
A strange fugue falls over his face.
‘Dymphna’ he says.
Looking at Sof Wen in the mirror.
Putting his foot down on the pedal.
Shaking his head to clear his vision as an intense fugue falls over everything.
‘Dymphna Tween’ says Abdul Mosaf.
‘I won’t leave you now’ he says.
In Lampeter, a few months later.
Sof is arranging a cabinet, in her caravan.
A cabinet of objects, salvage.
Books saved from a long collision.
In it she places an Elephant, a Wolf.
A scratched DVD of ‘Bronson’, starring Tom Hardy.
The Holy Bible.
A pirate ship, painted by her son Gwydion
A photo of her two sons, waving.
Daffni Wyre’s funeral hymn sheet.
With the photograph of Daffni at the age of three.
A postcard from the movie ‘Taxi Driver’, sent to her by Lucius Archer.
A different postcard of a signpost in the snow.
‘Llwybr Gyhoeddus’ says the signpost.
Above DeNiro and the snow.
There is a card Sof pulled from Sonny’s Tarot.
‘In ogni strada di ogni alta’ says Lucius Archer, on his postcard.
‘Il ya un quelquno qui soit etre un nessuno.’
‘Dear Sof’ he’d written, on the back.
‘Fanks for your entertaining account of your ‘oliday…’
‘Uncle Lleu and I continue in relative poverty, obscurity and anonymity…’
‘A workshop of one’ writes Lucius Archer.
‘Lorra Lone Love, Dad’ he says.
‘Tell me more about the trailer park’ says Blodeuwedd Rise over her cappuccino.
‘Do you think we could do a gallery trip up there?’ she asks, laughing.
‘Sounds good to get out of Cardiff’ says Blodeuwedd.
The two are waiting outside the Queen’s Arcade,waiting for Harmony Sweetfrock.
Harmony is a little late.
She and Blodeuwedd are interviewing artists today.
They intend to let Sof into the cellar.
‘It is’ says Sof Wen, smiling.
Sof looks upwards to the sky above the city.
Wonders how to put it.
How much she ought to say.
‘I’ve been through a lot recently’ she explains, slowly.
‘I needed to get out.’
Blodeuwedd takes a set of keys out from her pocket.
Sets them on the table.
She intends to let Sof Wen into the cellar in a little while.
Harmony Sweetfrock’s late and they’re about to take a detour.
A homeless man walks past.
Approaches a woman next to them for money, cigarettes.
He wears no shoes.
‘Peace’ says Sof Wen to Blodeuwedd.
The beggar’s feet are scratched and black.
‘So sick of the city’ says Sof Wen.
‘The police, the homelessness, the cameras.’
‘And the bloody internet’ says Sof Wen.
Blodeuwedd nods, she’s listening.
The sun shines on and she’s exhausted.
The sun is shining and Blodeuwedd Rise is listening.
Blodeuwedd’s phone is vibrating with a message.
She has thirty three new notifications.
Sof Wen has been in bed for a fortnight.
There is no tunnel in her caravan.
No white light.
Soft sunlight of an afternoon in June.
An exhaustion which has gravity and substance.
Moves within her bones, in waves.
Weighs her fingers as they move across her keyboard.
Falls gently over Sof Wen’s face, like light.
She rests in bed, writing about fugue.
‘Cheerful Thoughts’ says a little book in her cabinet.
Sof pauses in her writing, goes to fetch it.
Opens it with her eyes closed, points a finger.
‘The best mirror is an old friend’ advises the little book.
‘To be awake is to be alive’ it says.
Sof Wen’s Awake.
She is lying in bed, writing the Impossible Murmuration.
It is the Summer Solstice.
In Arcade Cardiff, Rafe Filhoumente has installed an electric Sun.
Sof has seen an image of it on the internet.
She has e-mailed Blodeuwedd Rise the recent video she’s put together for each passage.
‘Tao: The Murmuration Files’.
The videos are short and they are simple.
Shuffling cards and turning pages with her eyes closed.
They’re made from Sof Wen’s bed.
In Arcade Cardiff there shines a neon Sun.
Sof Wen hasn’t travelled down to see it.
She is stuck in Lampeter, in bed.
‘I have lived with a fragile faith built on the ether of vague memories’ says Mulder.
‘From an experience I could neither prove nor explain’ he says.
Sof nods, pushes her glasses up her nose.
Shuffles her cards.
‘The Golden Gate’ lies open on her Welsh Wool blanket.
‘Universities destroy people’s interest and love for poetry’ says Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
‘They destroy your whole idea of how a life should be.’
‘Make it more and more a commodity.’
‘They teach you how to earn more’ says Bhagwan.
‘But they don’t teach you how to live deeply.’
‘How to live totally’ he says.
Sof shuffles her cards, skips forwards to another episode.
‘I’d be willing to admit the possibility of a tornado’ says Scully.
‘But it’s not really tornado season.’
‘I’d be willing to admit the possibility of a black hole’ says Mulder.
‘But it’s not really black hole season either.’
Sof nods, drops a card, opens the book.
Points blindly for a message from the sage.
‘Prince Philip puts his dick on the table’ says Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
‘It is twenty five inches long.’
‘And everyone starts singing “God Save the Queen!’
Sof Wen shuts down the computer.
Turns the parrot lamp off in the caravan.
Daffni Wyre had inherited that lamp from Mel, before he died.
Sof Wen inherited it, in turn.
Sof switches off the television.
Lies down to sleep.
She has to get up at dawn to go and empty George Newman’s catheter.
Make his breakfast.
George owns the trailer park.
He is nearly ninety, and he’s dying.
‘At least, I fucking hope I am’ he said.
‘Don’t make the mistake of feeling you have to visit him’ said the stoner in the next trailer but one.
‘Just because he’s old.’
No one visited George.
‘It’s because I’m old and ugly’ George had said.
Sof Wen started visiting him regularly after that.
Before she knew it she was making him his breakfast.
Emptying his catheter.
Standing in George’s bedroom holding a bucket of his piss.
‘How did I get here?’ she had thought.
‘In a caravan park in Lampeter?’
‘Holding a bucket of piss?’
‘Life’ she thinks, remembering this alone in bed.
‘Its twists and turns.’
Sof lies down to go to sleep.
Her phone vibrates.
It is a text from Sonny O’Hare.
Sonny O’Hare is pissed and in a gay bar in Cardiff.
‘Anyone who is a babe’ says Sonny.
‘Thinks that what Jesus had to say is some good shit.’
Sof reads the text and sighs.
‘I don’t know’ she thinks to herself, in the dark of her caravan.
‘The whole world’s having some kind of nervous breakdown’ she thinks, smiling.
‘We must surely be approaching an Apocalypse.’
Sof turns the light back on, opens up her laptop.
Writes this down.
‘You are civilised’ says Euphoria Jane.
Sof and Euphoria are sitting on the little wooden balcony outside Sof’s caravan.
A small table painted with an image of a Wolf.
And on it bowls and saucers.
Peppers, beetroot, rocket, olives, capers and some mushrooms.
‘I don’t get many visitors’ says Sof Wen.
‘I’ve made too much.’
Two bikers pull up, wearing black.
‘Is this the reception?’ asks the female biker, pulling off her helmet.
‘I’m sorry?’ asks Sof Wen.
‘We were told there was a reception’ says the biker.
‘At the back of the field.’
‘There’s nothing up there but rabbits’ she says.
Euphoria sips her tea.
Helps herself to an olive.
‘Is this a campsite?’ asks the biker.
Her man’s in black, her clothes are black, her hair is long and black.
Both their motorcycles are completely black.
‘Can we put up our tents?’ she says.
Sof Wen looks around the trailer park.
The day is warm and quiet.
No one is around.
In the distance she can hear a lawnmower.
‘Sorry’ says Sof Wen, to the woman in black.
‘There’s no reception’ she says.
‘It’s not a campsite.’
The female biker adjusts the angle of her motorcycle.
‘You live here?’ she says to Sof Wen.
‘Aren’t you lucky.’
‘Strange’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘Those bikers were ahead of me on the road the whole way here.’
‘Strange coincidence’ she says.
‘Hmmm…’ says Sof.
The bikers have gone.
A black rabbit hops lazily up the path towards the caravan.
It pauses, sniffs the air.
Turns its head aside to watch the women on the balcony.
‘Black rabbit’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘Must have escaped’ she says.
‘More tea, Euphoria?’ asks Sof Wen.
The bikers came from nowhere.
Scores of them in black.
A cavalcade of Hells Angels.
Flanked the cab on either side.
A cortège in black, and roaring.
Abdul didn’t comment.
He kept his foot down on the pedal and his gaze ahead.
‘Dymphna Tween’ Sof Wen had said.
And then a fugue fell over Abdul’s face.
It was as if he didn’t see them.
Sof Wen rolled herself a cigarette.
Blew the smoke out of the open window.
Threw the stub onto the motorway.
Emptied her pockets of receipts.
Threw them out the window.
Snapped her debit card in half.
Threw it out the window.
Her cavalcade rode helmetless, on either side.
Black and leather.
Never looking anywhere but onwards.
‘You have not yet reached your full potential, but you will.’
The voice was mechanised and Transatlantic.
Strangers stood in Sof Wen’s Junk Room, waving torches.
Clattered out, like children on a mission.
Clattered out, exploring.
It is 2012 in Diana Street.
Sof Wen has an exhibition in her home.
Hide and Seek.
She picks a torch up from the pile outside the door.
Walks alone into her Junk Room to experience Euphoria’s work.
It is very dark in there, without the others.
Sof Wen turns the torch on, lifts its light.
The room has been transformed.
Though very little has been changed.
And when the light hits Euphoria’s detector she receives her affirmation.
‘You are surrounded by people who care about you’ says the robot.
‘People who love you, will support you, nurture you and help you to grow’ it says.
In the dark of her own junk room Sof Wen feels unnerved.
‘You have not yet reached your full potential.’
‘But you will.’
‘Do you think’ Sof asks Euphoria, five years later.
‘That you attempt this positivity in your work’ she asks.
‘Because you have experienced Darkness?’
On the balcony Euphoria makes a little backwards movement in her seat.
As if she has been nudged.
‘Let me tell you about that’ says Euphoria.
‘No’ she says.
‘What happened, right’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘What happened, right, was this’ she says.
Twenty years previously, Euphoria Jane had a child.
And after the birth Euphoria felt herself invincible.
She made herself a set of dresses.
Each of which was skirted like a child’s drawing of a Girl.
‘One of them was camo’ says Euphoria.
‘With pockets here’ she says, indicating her breasts.
‘To stash yer bottles.’
Euphoria reminds Sof of an Engineer.
An architect, designer.
Euphoria is cerebral.
When Euphoria talks, Sof Wen senses maps.
‘One of them had pleats right here’ says Euphoria, indicating her right hip.
‘So you could unhook it’ she says.
Sof Wen pours some orange juice, listens.
‘One of them was a cage’ she says.
‘It rested here.’
She indicates her collar bone.
‘Those dresses were all me’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘I made them to exhibit.’
‘I made them for me.’
Women came to the exhibition of Euphoria Jane’s conceptual, functional dresses.
One of them started crying.
An older woman, in the gallery.
Pointed at a dress and started crying.
‘That’s me’ said the strange woman.
‘That’s me’ she said, pointing to the cage.
‘I can’t believe you’ve made Me’ she said to Euphoria Jane.
Euphoria chews her food.
‘Fuck’ she says, now.
‘Freaked me out’ she says, twenty years later.
‘After that’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘I decided that I didn’t want to make any more work that upset people.’
‘You are civilised’ says Euphoria Jane again.
Helping herself to some salad.
‘I think’ says Sof Wen.
‘I think that you are very precise, Euphoria’ she says.
‘You have a definite precision’ she says.
Euphoria is listening, interested.
‘The way you think’ says Sof Wen.
‘The way you operate in the world’ she says.
‘It’s very precise.’
Euphoria listens over her salad.
‘Most people aren’t like that’ says Sof Wen.
Euphoria smiles and thinks about it.
‘So’ says Sof.
‘It seems to me’ she says.
‘That however positively you intend your work.’
‘It will always upset some people.’
The two continue to eat their lunch upon the balcony, in silence.
The occasional car passes on the road beyond the gate.
In the distance someone is mowing a lawn.
The aroma of cut grass reaches the women, on the wind.
‘Your very precision creates a rupture’ says Sof Wen.
The afternoon is wearing on.
It threatens rain.
Euphoria’s been describing her new work.
The events of the interim.
Three years have passed, since last she talked with Sof.
Calamities and disruption.
‘I haven’t had a chance to recover’ says Euphoria.
Sof Wen listens.
Makes some notes.
‘If something else happens now’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘I couldn’t even predict it’ she says.
‘If something happens now, left field’.
‘It will just come’ she says.
She makes a slamming gesture to the left side of her head.
‘Wang me in the chops’ she says.
She initiated a dance in Arcade Cardiff.
‘Seen it online’ says Sof Wen, nodding.
‘Yeah’ replies Euphoria.
‘You really have to be there, though’ she says.
Her dancers were predictable.
Repeating motions, movements, circuits.
Before an audience, lulled.
Then the dancers did as Euphoria directed.
And broke the pattern.
Moving apparently chaotically.
Coming in too close.
‘In fact’ explained Euphoria Jane.
‘I’d primed them in advance’ she said.
‘I’d point a visitor out to them.’
‘Say: that one is okay to approach.’
‘Do that one.’
Euphoria smiles, remembering the dance.
‘It really put the shits up people’ she said.
The show was called ‘What it is, rite.’
‘Because people say that in Newport when they’re about to say something you NEED to hear.’
They say ‘What it is, right.’
‘What it is, right.’
Euphoria was doing a residency.
Sat on buses, as a passenger.
Everything she overheard had been a cliché.
‘No, I thought’ says Euphoria.
Describes a woman on a bus in Newport whose children had been taken away.
Asking strangers if it were okay for her to send a birthday card.
Describes a man on a bus in Newport.
Operating a blatant drug deal.
‘Nah’ says Euphoria.
‘I didn’t want to perpetuate those cliches about Newport.’
So Euphoria descended from the Newport bus, thinking.
Took a walk from the transporter bridge, towards the castle.
‘Safe’ says a bloke to her left.
Fistbumping a hooded friend.
‘See you later’ says a girl on the right.
‘Safe’ she says.
Every shop along the road bears a neon sign.
‘Safe’ thinks Euphoria Jones.
She is looking at the neon signs and thinking.
A woman is running towards Euphoria.
She wears tight jeans, white trainers and a hoody.
‘Safe’ thinks Euphoria, thinking.
The woman is running straight towards her.
Away from the castle and towards the transporter bridge in Newport.
Euphoria looks around.
There is a man behind her.
The woman is running towards Euphoria.
Euphoria doesn’t know her.
She senses a dark inkling, suddenly, upon her map.
The shadow of a doubt.
‘Shaun!’ screams the woman.
‘Shaun!’ she screams.
‘What?’ yells the man behind Euphoria.
‘I seen you!’ screams the woman.
‘I seen you’ she says.
Euphoria sees the woman running straight towards her.
Glances at Shaun, over her shoulder.
She steps aside for the strangers to pass.
But the woman.
Unknown person on the street in Newport.
Runs directly up to Euphoria Jane and headbutts her hard in the face.
‘I seen you’ says the stranger.
Euphoria is on the floor and the woman is kicking her in the face.
She is punching Euphoria.
She pulls Euphoria by the hair until Euphoria is on her feet.
The blood is pouring from Euphoria’s face.
Something’s broken, she can feel it.
The woman has Euphoria by the hair and she is swinging her like a doll.
Euphoria’s hair is ripping from its roots.
Euphoria Jane swings.
‘And now’ she thinks, with some precision.
As she is swung bleeding onto the road.
‘Now I get run over’ thinks Euphoria.
Shaun is yelling something.
Euphoria is in the road, her eyes are closed and Shaun is yelling something.
He’s saying that Euphoria’s unknown to him.
‘I aint wiv ‘er’ he yells.
‘I seen you’ screams the woman.
Euphoria is in the road.
She’s in the road, her eyes are closed.
The shouting is receding.
She opens her eyes.
She is standing at the kerb.
Cars are passing.
Blood is pouring from her face, onto her shoes.
Blood on the kerb, blood on her clothes.
Euphoria is wearing white.
She looks up, through the blood.
The unknown woman is returning.
The unknown woman approaches Euphoria.
Stands before her.
Stares into her broken face.
She stares into Euphoria’s eyes for a long time.
Several seconds pass, perhaps a minute.
Then the woman headbutts Euphoria Jane again.
Does the whole thing over
There was an interim of twelve minutes after she was left for dead.
Twelve minutes passed.
Euphoria got up.
She walked on, bleeding, counting seconds.
‘Safe’ said a stranger.
Euphoria continued on her way.
On the road from the transporter bridge in Newport, towards the castle.
It took Euphoria twelve minutes to reach the town centre.
Passing strangers, passing cars.
Waiting, bleeding, for the Green Man at the crossing.
No one stopped.
No one offered help.
Eleven minutes in, Euphoria passed a man she knew.
He looked at Euphoria Jane, bleeding from a ruined face.
And then he walked on by.
Euphoria Jane kept going.
She was walking to a gallery she knew in town.
To ask for help.
‘What they do, right’ says Euphoria.
And she holds her hands up to her face with relish.
‘What they do, right, is’ she says.
And then she demonstrates with gestures.
The surgeons put her head into a clamp.
They peeled her face away, then built it back.
They had to put her Under for the work.
‘They wang it all back’ says Euphoria, moving her hands across her face with relish.
‘They just’ she swipes her hands across her face.
‘Wang it all RIGHT back’.
‘Safe enough’ said the anaesthetist, when Euphoria inquired about the process.
She explained the framework, the legalities.
They had to put her Under for the work.
‘Never safe’ explained the surgeon.
‘But safe enough’ she said.
Euphoria took a precise interest.
She’d expected splints, to hold the bones in place.
No splints were given.
‘You might find it moving’ said the doctor.
‘While you’re healing.’
For three months or more, Euphoria found it really moving.
‘Nothing’s certain’ says Euphoria Jane.
Pieces of membrane worked their way out through her nostrils as she breathed.
For weeks they would appear, like shards.
Euphoria would examine them with interest.
For months she found it moving.
‘I’d wake up in the morning and adjust my face’ she says.
‘I expected splints’ she says.
‘At least a bandage.’
‘But they gave me nothing.’
Euphoria’s little sister came to stay.
Watching over her.
Placing a mirror, once, before her as she slept.
In case she had stopped breathing.
Unexpectedly, then, Euphoria’s sister was diagnosed with cancer.
So Euphoria went to stay with her, instead.
Taking care of her, her baby son.
Wanting them safe.
Three boxes in the ‘Library of Pilgrimage.’
The first is topped with black glass.
The glass is dark.
Its contents are concealed.
The second has a membrane.
It contains a sound.
The skin above the sound vibrates.
The third box is lenticular.
An image of a Sign.
‘I had synaesthesia’ says Euphoria.
‘I didn’t even know it.’
‘That was just my World, my Universe.’
‘I thought everyone experienced things like that.’
‘But they don’t’ says Sof Wen.
‘No, they don’t’ laughs Euphoria Jane.
The sensitive nerves within Euphoria’s nasal cavity.
Their delicate relationship with her brain.
The sensory conversation of the synaesthetic.
In which crossed nerves transform aroma into shape and colour.
Had been kicked in.
Sof Wen is thinking.
Wondering how much to say and how to put it.
‘We tend to think others experience the world as we do’ says Sof Wen.
‘We think the world is just the way it is.’
‘But everyone perceives things differently.’
‘And it can change’ says Euphoria Jane.
Her face has been reconstructed expertly.
The trauma made invisible.
Only Euphoria can sense the breaks.
‘I had a seizure’ Sof Wen says.
‘Quite a profound neurological event’ she says, slowly.
‘And ever since my perception of the world has changed dramatically.’
Euphoria Jane is listening.
‘I’m thinking’ says Sof Wen.
Euphoria Jane considers this.
‘I would say you’ve always been a quick thinker’ she replies.
‘Yes’ says Sof Wen.
‘The condition involves communication between the right and the left lobe’ she says.
‘Of the brain.’
Euphoria is listening.
‘Since last summer and the seizure’ says Sof Wen.
‘I can feel it, almost hear it.’
Sof puts a hand up to her head and smiles.
‘It feels like clockwork.’
Euphoria listens, interested.
‘You’ve been given something’ she says to Sof Wen.
‘But I feel I’ve had it taken away from me.’
She demonstrates with gesture.
‘When I ate a mint’ she says.
‘It made a wavy slope which moved off from my body to the left.’
Her hands are undulating.
‘I thought everyone experienced smells like that.’
‘They’d say “full bodied”, they’d say “spiky” and I thought they felt it.’
‘Saw it, too.’
‘But they don’t’ says Euphoria.
‘It’s just metaphor.’
‘They don’t experience the world like that at all’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘And neither do I’ she says, sniffing.
Euphoria works with perfume.
‘Made the scent of something ambiguous I refused to explain’ she says.
For What It Is, Rite.
‘People asked what it is, but I refused to tell them, right?’
‘I just let them feel whatever they wanted to feel about it’ says Euphoria Jones.
‘I’ll send you a vial in the post’ she says.
‘For your new home.’
‘It’s called’ she says.
‘The Smell of Reassurance.’
It’s threatening rain, but it hasn’t come to pass.
Euphoria is explaining the Library of Pilgrimages to Sof Wen, upon her balcony.
Relics placed in boxes.
Sof Wen, in turn, describes her trip to see the Elephant.
Her own pilgrimage.
‘They keep a fucking Elephant?’ responds Euphoria.
‘Yeah’ says Sof.
‘A solitary Elephant in Skanda Vale.’
‘Just over there’ she says, pointing.
Euphoria looks, as if expecting to see the Elephant.
‘I was exhibiting symptoms described as “leaving behaviours” ’ says Sof Wen.
‘A seizure’ she explains, again.
‘Stress induced and trauma.’
‘Someone, a few weeks previously, had mentioned this retreat.’
‘Suddenly, I knew I had to go there.’
Euphoria Jane looks across the landscape towards the Elephant.
‘Alone’ she says.
The work had not been what she was expecting.
It had not turned out the way she’d planned.
Descending from the bus.
The unpredictable happened to her, like a cliché.
Predictable, in Newport.
For Arcade Cardiff, a few months later, Euphoria made many neon signs.
Initiated a dance.
Made a perfume she now sensed differently.
Played a soundscape twelve minutes long.
A pilgrimage Euphoria made.
Once her face had healed.
Back to the place of the attack.
With a clip mic concealed on her lapel.
Euphoria walked again, from the place of rupture.
Capturing the interim as MP3.
Away from the transporter bridge, towards the castle.
A broken face and no Samaritan.
No response at all.
Though every sign in every window.
‘Safe’ the whole world said, to a bleeding Euphoria.
Repeating the affirmation her whole walk back along that path to refuge at the gallery.
What It Is, Rite.
Became three boxes in a Library of Pilgrimages.
Now on tour.
The first a dark glass.
Responsive to the warmth of your hand.
Touch it and it grows transparent.
Inside: her pair of shoes, both red and white.
Her white jacket.
The second a vibrating skin.
Place your palm upon it and you touch the sound, you feel it.
The third box is lenticular.
An image of a neon sign Euphoria made.
Carried beneath the Earth.
Into a Cave.
Climbed through a hole in the rock at Eglwys Faen.
To capture the Word she’d heard the whole long road along her path, that day.
The food has been eaten.
As much as can be eaten, Sof has made too much.
It’s been threatening rain, and now the rain begins to fall.
Euphoria packs her things, thanks Sof Wen for the lunch.
Takes her keys out from her pocket.
Prepares to leave, to hit the road.
‘My sister’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘I haven’t had a chance’ says Euphoria Jane to Sof Wen.
‘To take it in, to think about it, to recover.’
‘It’s been hardcore’ says Euphoria.
‘This whole time I’ve been in Wales’ says Euphoria Jane.
‘It’s been like this, a nightmare’.
‘You’re in the wrong place, perhaps’ replies Sof Wen.
‘The wrong place’ repeats Euphoria.
Looking out from where she sits.
Upon the balcony.
‘Her hair’s growing back now’ says Euphoria, of her sister.
‘She’s entirely clear now.’
‘Thank God’ says Euphoria, looking out over the trailer park.
‘I’d like a place like this’ she says to Sof Wen.
‘But in Tooting.’
Euphoria took her sign into the Cave, to photograph it.
She’d been in several times before, exploring.
The entrance was a hole.
Just a little hole in the face of the rock.
‘You wouldn’t know’ she says.
‘Unless you know.’
Each time before she entered, she would text her sister.
Let her know she was going Underground.
Just in case.
‘A ritual, really.’
Says Euphoria Jane, juggling her keys.