‘Egg skin’

I start counting the minutes on the kitchen clock. I get just past two, but the bell ringers are practising. I go outside to listen. Turn my ear to the spire.

Every note, I imagine a person hanging from a rope. An accountant. A secretary. They’re standing in a ring, in a chamber that smells of foxed paper and feet. Every note is someone’s. Every note is holding hands with its neighbour. They all descend like confetti fluttering to the ground. Like falling sentences, each word sounding lower than the last. But I know that isn’t true.

Glancing inside, the water’s simmering like prawn eyes. The eggs are jostling against each other, and they’re safe now, they won’t bleed. Maybe three was too many. It’s only me, after all.

Minutes have stopped meaning now. Out here I only have my breaths, and the darkening sky, and the bells’ swinging meter to help me keep time. I try not to notice, because there’s nothing I dislike about it, but sometimes there’s a pause, then the notes slide together fast, like shoulders in a drunken crowd. It suits this place, because that’s how the birds come, and the seedlings sprout: sometimes all at once and often not at all.

It’s been far too long, but I tell myself it hasn’t. Does a tune sound better than a soft boiled egg? I already know how dry the yolks will be. Can’t you just do one thing at a time? It’s hardly worth peeling them now. But I do: I drain off the hot, run a pan of cold, let them sit. There’s so much you should do to an egg. Not too fresh, a centimetre underwater, five and a half minutes precisely, a rolling boil. Screw you, Jamie. I’m so over cooking for one.

The last of the sun illuminates the sink, gilding it a coppery yellow. I’m cracking, peeling, rinsing, and my shadows do the same. I’m repulsed by the thickness of the membrane beneath the shell. The bluish glow of their opalescent flesh. The red dots signalling the beginnings of another life.

I hear the bells again; perhaps they never stopped. I reach for the takeaway menu.