I dreamt about the Queen.
Well, actually, for the first part of my dream, I dreamt I was the Queen.
I was quizzing my Palace staff about my daily household routine, that as undeniable monarch, I’d suddenly, inexplicably come to question. All of a sudden I’d realised I was only allowed access to certain rooms at certain times of the day. My Palace staff explained that that’s how modern palace household run. The servants would open up sections of the palace for me to live in and wander through, whilst the rest of the estate would remain shut down, shrouded and mothballed for another day’s routine. The staff were briefed to vary the rooms for me every day, so that I don’t get bored.
Just as the penny dropped and I realised how, after all these years as ordained ruler, I’d be restricted to one room after another in a charade of orchestrated austerity, suddenly and inexplicably (as is oft in dreams) I morphed into a member of the royal household.
I was walking through darkened rooms, opening up huge, bluey-grey wooden window shutters to let light and life stream in. I moved from one ornate but dusty room to the next, preparing the route that the Queen would later take, spending her day wandering, taking tea, then passing onto the next.
I opened a set of grand double doors and walked into our living room, the familiar sofas, the green Ikea rug, the TV in the corner, the fire surround and the mantelpiece. I went over to the cream cloth blinds now down over the bay windows and pulled up the drawstrings to let the daylight in.
I turn around.
Beth grumbled nonchalantly from her curled up position on the sofa as the sunlight streamed in. She was laid watching TV. I sat down in chair in the bay window opposite her and shifted myself sideways, so my legs fell over the arm of the chair. We talked for a while about something or nothing. Something or nothing.
From from the bay window vantage point, I see someone coming to the door. I realised it’s Izzy, despite not recognising the new, pale orange shirt she’s wearing. She turns her yale key and I wait excitedly for her to come into the living room. To begin her usual disturbance of quiet, with her quips and her streaming questions and her constant chatter. She may well sit on Beth, literally, as Beth squirms and complains playfully.
And with the momentary anticipation of her coming into the hallway and bounding into the living room, with this excitement ringing soundly in my chest, I wake up…
It’s barely daylight. There’s a silvery stillness breaking through the spring night, making the trees outside the bedroom window begin to turn to hues of green from their night’s colouring of blacks and greys. A car passes. It’s the start of another normal mid-week day.
The dogs stir on the bed. One of them shuffles, shifts, stretches, then shakes themselves before making their bed again, pawing frantically through our summer duvet. Trace is asleep next to me, unstirred by the dog’s movement or the change in the early morning light.
My right arm is sore. My second tattoo from yesterday is still red raw. Cleansed and creamed as advised by my tattooist (and diligently followed), I pull my arm out of the cosy warmth of the bedding and lay it on top of the duvet. I feel my hot skin begin to appreciate the cooler air.
Before, I really didn’t like tattoos.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t bang on about them, but I genuinely couldn’t understand why anyone would want to permanently mark their skin and carry the results around for the rest of their life. I would occasionally take the piss out of Molly’s numerous tattoos. But mostly, I’d turn a blind eye. I don’t ever remember commenting about Beth’s little symbolic tattoo on her ribs.
Then, After, almost immediately, certainly sometime in Week 1, the idea of tattooing myself with a commemorative marking seemed the most normal, natural thing to do. I wanted to. It just felt the right thing to do. If there was ever a lifetime’s reason to be tattooed, surely this was it.
It took me nearly a year later, but I had my first tattoo – a combination of the patterns of the shirts Izzy and Beth wore the day before they died. And their names, merged into the design, coming together, as ever. Izzy’s name inscribed forever, close to my pulse.
Then 10 months later, I have my second. And, the day before I awake from my queen’s dream at 5am, I find myself having a Meltdown in Morrisons – a Morrissey song title if there ever was one.
My upper right arm is wrapped in clingfilm, I’d been here before, 10 months before, I knew the score. I’d come to Morrisons then too – it was on the way home. An opportunity to pick up a few bits, after a visit to Tattoo HQ.
As I pondered the mixed veg, I started to cry, then to weep and heave. And I remembered I cried then too.
It was something to do with the insane stupidity of such profound, surreal, unquestionable loss, combined with this unheard of, never foretold and very intimidate, gain of a new experience. The pain of a tattoo. The permanence of a tattoo. Of me, having a tattoo. About them, for them.
And then, still in the veg section, I so, so wanted to tell them my news. To call them on my mobile as I pushed around the wobbling trolley and say ‘Hey, guess what? I’ve had another tattoo!’. I just so, so wanted to talk to them. To share this bleeding, cling-filmed experience with them. I so, so wanted to talk to them. To hear them, distant somewhere, but so, so close, in my left ear again.
But, even in the chilled cheese section and the biscuits and crisps aisle, they weren’t there. And they never would be. And I was doing this, having this tattoo, being here in Morrisons, precisely because they weren’t there. I was here, wandering yellow and green isles, weeping, because they weren’t here.
After I finally managed to pucker up and brave the check-out, red eyed and probably wild-eyed, I headed out with my squeaky trolley back to the car park and to Izzy’s Mario.
Then I looked at my phone and realised I’d pocket called Beth.
My Izzy and Beth
19 and 24
Forever on my arm
Forever in my soul.