Iliffe Pepper

It was a grey morning in south London to say the least. The sky had heavy anxious clouds sitting in it. It was as if they were doing everything they could to keep the rain inside their pregnant bellies. Occasionally, men wearing smart suits and worried expressions would hurry by, checking their watches as if to say “I hope I can catch the tube to city on time today.” An elderly woman was sitting on her tiny porch clutching a morning coffee and a dog was echoing a fellow canine down the block.

She had been planning on sleeping in a bit this morning, but was rudely awakened by the off-pitch shrieks that bounced around her neighbour’s shower walls and into every flat in the apartment. She groggily swung her feet over the edge of her tiny bed, took about five steps to reach the door, and walked out into the hallway of the third and top floor. She bent over to pick up a small bundle of letters in front of her door. “Looks like they’ve mixed up our letters again” she thought to herself, and walked down the hall to the next door, swapping the bundle for a couple of sad envelopes containing bills (most likely). She dragged her tired feet into her disastrous flat and closed the door behind her, not bothering with the lock as usual. She yawned and stretched, still in her pants and ugly woollen jumper, then walked over to her window sill and lit a cigarette. Her bunny was sitting on the sill too. “What? ” she demanded as he stared at her. She sat down next to him and looked out the window. It was a dreary day indeed. The only exciting thing about it was that she had no business to attend to today, except maybe a Sainsbury’s run for some Nutella. It was this sort of day that made people like her quite content.

She put a kettle on the hob, her cigarette lazily hanging from her softly parted lips, then elegantly perched herself on the hard stool she used for painting. She casually looked around her flat. It was very small. She could barely fit another body in it, although occasionally her neighbour from across the hall would visit for a cuppa and a chat. The front door was on the largest wall and two parallel walls grew from its corners. Crammed against one of these walls was her kitchenette. The one opposite was reserved for her easel and paints. These two walls then turned towards one another to make two perfectly angled new walls, which were home to both of her beautiful rain-spattered windows. Right in between these two angled walls was the last wall, opposite the front door. There sat her robin’s egg blue daybed. It was extremely messy. Her entire flat was messy. There were clothes and papers strewn everywhere. There were half empty mugs and tea cups precariously placed on all manner of teetering surfaces. There were even small bowls here and there, which had transformed from food vessels to ash trays.

However, she loved living in her mess. The time that could be spent on cleaning was spent on thinking, which was much more productive in her opinion. It was days like today that she sat around, breathing in stale cigarette smoke, drinking cup after cup of liquorice tea, and thinking. Thinking about life, and about death. Thinking about art and travelling. Thinking about whether or not she had a chance with her music. Or if she would have another Cheezwhiz sandwich for lunch. Or if she should quit smoking. But no, she could never quit smoking because her neighbour across the hall smokes. She often caught her mind meandering to her neighbour across the hall, and thought about them ever becoming more than just neighbours across from each other’s halls. She also thought about the gigs she would play in the next year. Then, she’d get anxious and light another cigarette. They were just frivolous thoughts, really. But some days she would write them down for herself. And some days were days like today.