NEXT JULY by Sally Barnes

NEXT JULY                                                                                                                                                      by Sally Barnes


Yabba, yabba, burble, burble.  I try to focus on the speaker, thin, balding, leaning over me like the tower of Pisa, with elbows.  He could be speaking Russian. Perhaps he is. We are in a faculty building, something to do with languages, I think. Somewhere in this Georgian terrace is my husband, the professor. The confessor. For once he’s actually talking to people his own age.

Draining the last pale bubbles from my glass – not champagne, something thin and cheap, not that it matters – I try to catch the eye of the waiter. Again.  He seems not to notice me.

‘Excuse me’. Smiling vaguely at my companion, I strike out into the crowd, bumping into shoulders, swaying into one person after another, bobbing like spilt cargo on an ocean swell. The waiter stands holding his shining bottle, like a lighthouse. A lifesaver. I lurch into him and he steadies my elbow with his free hand.

‘Thanks’, I say. He has nice brown eyes. All four of them.  I look down at my feet.  ‘High heels.  Too high.’

I watch as he fills my glass halfway and then hesitates.

‘I’m thirty tonight.’

‘Happy Birthday, madam.’  He gives me an odd look and turns away.  Is he deaf? I could have sworn I’d said ‘thirsty’.

It is noisy in here, despite the grandeur.  Looking up at the ceiling, the plasterwork swirls and fiery chandeliers splinter into a million exploding stars. Big mistake, big. I have to steady myself against a Grecian column, Doric, Doric, hang on, Dora, until the room stops spinning.

I begin to hum. ‘Have you heard? It’s in the stars, next July we collide with Mars’.  Frank and Bing and Grace, they all knew a thing or two about marriage.

I stay, leaning against my pillar, smiling and nodding to faces I think I ought to recognize.  Never been good at names and faces. Never been good at parties.  ‘Well, did you ever? What a swell party this is.’  Gulping the grape, swellegant, elegant. Party, party, parting of the ways; should have done, long ago.  It’s  ridiculous. I am di-ric-u-lous. I am in-eeb, inebriated, a victim of in-eeb-riety.  Wonder going to be sick.  The toilets are far, far way, as far away as Mars.  ‘Next July, we collide with..’

‘For God’s sake, Ruth, where are your shoes?’

‘Well, did you ever?  It’s my hub, bub, the hub of my life.  What a swell party this is.’



About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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