Complex Vessel

It was wonderful news, it really was! The two letters had been there by the front door for almost a week, just waiting to be opened. Where is the fun in opening a letter as soon as it is received? Nowhere at all! What is more, so rarely is the postbox visited that the two letters could have been delivered several days previous to being retrieved and discarded next to the front door. The animal lives; it is hunted and killed; the meat hangs to age. The largest envelope was placed atop the smaller in order to conceal it and fool myself into thinking I only had one letter. It was quite a fun trick, you see. The larger letter claimed to be important correspondence from the water board and instructed me to open it immediately—an order I would disobey on principle that I dislike being told what to do—and the other envelope was marked in a hand I did not recognise, but it was certainly human. For some time, I would ignore both.
    On Monday morning, I finally picked the letters up on my way to the toilet. I sat down, the cat leapt onto my shoulders, and I opened them one by one, beginning with the largest envelope from the water board. It was wonderful news, it really was. In some landmark peacekeeping agreement, in a very real demonstration of collaboration and progress, the water and the sewerage boards were working together and issuing all water and sewerage bills together. I could not believe it. A triumph! Thank heavens I was sitting down for I was lightheaded with glee! Previously I would receive—and pay—my water bill in January, when water is at its coldest, and my sewerage bill in August, when piss & shit are at their warmest. This changed everything. The temperature going forward could be anything.
    And how poetic that I should read such wonderful news of sewerage, water and billing while squatted over the toilet!
    God bless the water and sewerage boards for working out their differences and joining forces; one delivers water to me, the other takes it away. I am, and have always been, such a complex vessel of water. As much as a river or a raincloud, I am a vessel of water, an elaborate tube—with bells & whistles—through which water moves! Why, only an hour ago I drank a glass of cold water and it shall not be long until I urinate that water out—warmer, no less—having carried it several times around my flat. Between the sky and the sea, that water flowed through me.
    It is in the nature of water to occupy fully the space in which lies, so the water inside me rushes to every corner and pushes against the pressures of this atmosphere; the atmosphere pushes back; either side of my pockmarked skin I am flushed at the opposing caresses of air and water!
    Anyway—Good news, the letter said, you don’t have to do anything. It was not ‘good news’, it was wonderful news, it really was. And I still had the other letter to open. I placed the water/sewerage letter back into its torn envelope, like some maniacal surgeon, and lifted the other letter from the bathroom floor, careful not to let the cat fall from my shoulders; she dug her claws in. The other letter had a handwritten name and address—coincidentally my name and address—on the front. It was a wedding invitation. How unfortunate, I thought, and immediately became glum. It was from an old school friend, the first I had made and the only one I was still in touch with. Yes, all other friends from when I was eleven till eighteen had been lost; he remained. With considerable effort on his part, he remained. It is true, he is a good man. He recognises that I am a loner and a shut-in, but still he reaches out. While others have gone, he refuses to leave me in peace. I curse and applaud him for his persistence.
    That first day of secondary school, as all the year-sevens gathered noisily in the dinnerhall, a barren stage, the assembly is disarray, tall heavy curtains closed, dining tables unfolded, a most ghastly chaos of chattering and screaming children, laughter, giggling, flexing; he and I alone, all soft skin and softer hair, stiff new uniforms, leans over and strikes up a conversation; two new kids from different schools, by themselves.
    During lockdown he took me by surprise down by the waterfront. We walked along with his dog, who received many compliments from the other walkers, all of whom I had avoided and ignored until that point, despite seeing them daily during the pandemic trundling with their mutts. Back then he told me about his partner before she was pregnant and before he proposed. As far as I knew, he was the last person I knew from school to get married. That is, except for me. But, make no mistake, I am happy for him, as happy as one can be for the good fortune of others who deserve it. Happy is a big word for that sentence but I can think of no other right now, not at this moment and not when I was sat on the toilet moving water about this soggy earth.
    It will be interesting at the wedding, I suggest, to see all of those old people from school, to catch up with them, discuss how things are going, feign interest and pretend we will keep in touch. No doubt I will blush when I disclose that, no, I do not have any children and no, I am not in a relationship and no, I am not a director or a manager of any company and no, I cannot quite recall at this moment what I have been doing for the past twenty years. Perhaps it will be as awkward for them as it will be for me, and they will change the subject right away! It is unlikely, but, nevertheless, I shall have to start saving for a suit now.
    Still, it is wonderful news about the water and sewerage boards, it really is.