This story was largely written in Falafel King on Portobello Road, London 2016.
The nineteen fifties or it could be, from this perspective, it could be the nineteen sixties. One of those decades losing colour as we paint their charms on new ones. La Coruña is the type of village British travel writers love to call “sleepy”, an insult meant as a recommendation. Terracotta, lemon stone. Barcos butt against the harbour wall. An Atlantic wave rises gentle and tump tump tump as hulls bounce off Medieval mooring rings or maybe Moorish or oh who cares it’s hot it’s hot. La siesta, y, la inglesa, on her balcony, adjusts her sunglasses. Wrought iron railing. White. Down below, a boy in shorts on the harbour wall drops a stone. Disturbs the fish, absorbs the result. He will swear blind that this is his first memory.
The Englishwoman’s wrist is blue. A fountain pen uncapped. She rubs at the smudge and smokes. Passes her fingers over letter paper: a bit of rough, a bit of strength. Not quite white. Top corner now: She has written the date but not the address. Next line now: Dear and then a name which is not the name of her husband. Ah. There follows a paragraph of inadequate sentiment and hackneyed half feelings. She writes neatly. The habits of handwriting are hard to break. A line passes through the centre of the sentences. We couldn’t have drawn it straighter with a ruler.
Angela is sensible. She knows the right words will come in their own time. Wishes they’d hurry up. Her role in all this is to give them a… a… a road, a path, a channel but, and at this she registers the church bell calling the farmers back to the fields, perhaps without channelling, that doesn’t sound very Catholic. Step back, Angela, you can express yourself. Think back through your life – this is like… what? The rush of going loop-de-loop in a light aeroplane. The thrill of meeting royalty in a light embassy.
She retires to the drawing room to pull out a book of verse. And another. Books and books and books ferried to balcony. Ash on Dryden, Pope, Racine, Cervantes… a frenzied investigation. Someone has written the perfect phrase which she can if not steal then perhaps borrow, bend, adapt. A paragraph, a few lines… Shakespeare, Milton, Song of Songs…
Down below, the boy calculates which boat he can climb aboard. A stone dropped from one of those would surely be a sight worth seeing. This one has a red hull. It’s the best one.
Angela is defeated. There is nothing else for it. She steps out of the flat and locks the door. Slips the key in a pocket. An envelope in her hand, stamped and addressed. The bell rings out again as she steps onto cobbles. Nobody. The young boy has gone. Angela finds a public spot, folds herself up very small and tucks herself into the envelope. She seals it from the inside and waits for a Good Samaritan to find her.