Sunday, 30 April 2022
I found a bike today, out in the big, big, big fields. It was a bit rusty and clunky but I could still ride it with a bit of effort, and it was red, and it had a basket on the front. I spent the day riding my new bike around the fields. I found a little shop. I bought a cream donut. I ate it sitting on the grass, under the blinding sun. Everything looked so beautiful. I bought some stuff to make custard, too, tomorrow Jacques and I are going to try to cook it on his portable stove. On Friday we made soup. We asked this Newcomer to bring us some sweet potatoes and carrots and onions and herbs from the vegetable gardens. We let him spend the day with us by the building site, see how the grass shines there. The soup needed salt. I haven’t been to lunch time in a week. I didn’t go mussel picking yesterday.
I have something to tell that is a little hard to tell.
It’s something that would make Bebe very angry, I know.
I didn’t go mussel picking yesterday. Neither did Jacques.
The reason why we didn’t go was because we wanted to go in the kitchen. The only time the kitchen is ever left unsupervised is during Saturday morning, when everyone goes shellfish picking, apart from a few of the Us, sometimes, but even they never come around this side of the vegetable gardens anyway, the things they have to do aren’t the kind of things you do around here, around the kitchen and the sprinklers and the dormitories. We wanted to go in the kitchen because we wanted to get some salt. We were going to try frying potatoes on our portable stove and have a picnic out in the big fields. Jacques and I have a secret now. We can never tell anyone. He’s been here for so long.
Since Jacques moved here, when he was thirteen, he had never been out into the big fields. He was too afraid, he told me. He moved here against his parents’ will, who of course don’t know about The Bomb, and who didn't approve of the naked dancing under the sprinklers, really the only thing anyone knows about us out there. Jacques used to come here on Tuesday nights to watch the sunset from the Grassy Hills, while people set up tents and opened the evening’s first bottles of cheap wine. Once he came and it was a Big Fire night. He danced. The cheap wine felt like hot tea going down his throat, he felt like he was dissolving. He fell asleep on a couch and woke up with the gentle stroke of a woman’s skirt against his cheek, and the smell of melting candles. He never left again.
On Saturday, he didn’t seem to remember anything at all about life out on the big fields. His hands were shaking. He didn’t know where to go or what to do. I ran in front of him, carrying the picnic hamper. “Listen to this bird sing. Do you recognise this tune?”, “No”, he said, terrified, “No, I don’t recognise it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before”, “Maybe it’s a new tune”, I said, “It’s been a long time, after all”. “Yes”, he said, “yes, it’s been a long time”.
We walked for hours, by the time the sky started to turn pink again we sat under an old tree, laid our red-and-white picnic towel on the bright grass, and started nibbling on now-salted chapati bread and the apples a Newcomer had harvested for us. We’re famous among the Newcomers these days. They all know we have a portable stove, they all know we spend most of our time by the grassy area below the vegetable gardens. Every time one of them comes to meet us, always with a few treats, from the gardens or even from the Outside, and asks if they can help us cook, they always end up rushing away at lunchtime, afraid that they will miss the naked dance under the sprinklers. That’s all they care about. We usually have a good time with them. It hasn’t been a bad week. I wonder how long we’ll be able to keep it up before someone finds out. That’s really my only concern now. I’m starting to become really afraid of the end - to be honest, I’m starting to doubt the end, which is even worse. Doubting the end is the exact opposite of dissolving. I avoid Leo at mealtimes now. I don’t want to hear about The Bomb.
I don’t think I can ever have sex with Jonah again. We are no longer In Love. He’s a member of the Kitchen Staff, he more than anyone else can never know about what I did on Saturday morning.
I like the people at the little food shop I found when I went out with my bike, they seemed to me to be kind-hearted, rather peaceful people. I don’t speak their language. All I can do is smile at them, but they always smile back. There’s always a dog asleep behind the counter. Yes, it is a good, special place, that shop. The truth is I can no longer stay away.
My red, rusty bike is now my favourite thing on the entire planet, really. That’s just the way things are now.