They cultivate restraint on the island. At the harbour where force-ripe boys gather to trade cigarettes and obscenities, trawlermen unload, a fish apiece slipped from the catch for the pot and with them, I come home.
I climb the lane past stubborn cottages shouldered against the sea to her house, my house now. The door moans. The fire, long dead is slow to answer. That first night I sleep downstairs amongst her cups and cushions, my feet in her slippers worn at the heel, my arms in her cardigan sleeves, too wide and long like her love.
Through morning fog or fallen clouds I trace her path uphill, sliding on wet slate, blue-black and treacherous to her private place and unhook the latch. She has her easel set to south, a splintered palette of hot colours, the evidence of guesswork and longing on the canvas. Each one of me and me and me again. A fly caught on a gash of red has turned in the paint and drowned. One wing escapes.
She has a chair and a flask and a kerosene lamp. She has a photograph of a girl with the dyed green hair of rebellion and the sneer of dreams unlived. I am fifteen and wait. I wait in London and Toulouse. I wait in Marseille and Dubrovnik. I wait in Nepal and Cambodia and never write. Never wrote. There are no postcards in her studio.
‘Local Artist – Sale Today 5.30’. I take ninety five pounds for her work and pull the moaning door. At the harbour, I am helped into the belly of the boat with my fly picture and watch as the island grows small and she disappears. I harvest my restraint and go to find another waiting place