When I woke that morning the air was strange. I could sense it on the breeze that moved the curtains covering the open window in my bedroom. Before it consumed me I took breakfast.
The second cigarette and third cup of coffee helped clear my head and prepared me for my daily ritual – if three weeks can ritualise anything.
The door of the cottage opened out onto a wooden verandah which provided a path to the verdant carpet that ran to the hills in the south. I disrobed and walked a short distance from the front door until I found a suitable spot. It had to be a different one each day, that’s what the ritual insisted on.
The dew laden grass flattened under my back and the moist, salt air felt soothing against my skin. The wind seemed to relieve the pain that the dryness in my tissue brought and sanitised that in my heart. I closed my eyes.
The saltiness of her sweat draws me in as my tongue explores the nape of her neck. Her scent claws at my senses encouraging a reaction. I push it into the small of her back and kiss her ear lobe. I caress her stomach as I pull her closer. Her head turns, I move to kiss her ever inviting lips. The scream from the dark does nothing to move me. The eternal chasm that has replaced her beauty does not stir me. I peer into its depths as the screams continue accompanied by a sepulchral stench.
Even after three weeks I could not escape my anger and frustration at her. The pain I felt for a lost love that was needlessly destroyed. I still couldn’t fathom her reasons, or maybe I didn’t accept them, and that is what made it difficult. What made it harder was my stupidity. The idiocy of hanging on to dreams of the future and not addressing her avoidance of what might be. I was frustrated by why she hung on to him when clearly it was only for appearance’s sake.
I was determined that my new space and the rituals I had built around it would help me move forward, leave her with him and make my life worthy again.
I opened my eyes, turned my head and watched the burgeoning weather system rise to the west as I stretched my arms out from my sides. When they were level with my ears I placed the back of my hands touching the grass. I listened to the voices coming from the cottage as the weeds grew through the my palms.
“Next this morning, on RTE, Donegal Days. In this episode Bernadette makes a discovery.”
“Well look at you! Fantastic, I love your hair. And that top…”
“Give it a rest Roisin and come in.”
“This is for you, get it in the fridge now.”
“Oh thank you, that looks great. Come through to the lounge and then I’ll sort some drinks.”
“That’ll be great.”
“What will it be? G&T?”
“Of course Bernie. When have you known me to drink anything else before the sun goes down?”
“Yep. How you been? How’s Jimmy?”
“Don’t get me started on him. He’s a waste of space.”
“Where is he?”
“And he’ll be there for a few hours yet.”
“I’m so sorry gorgeous. You deserve better.”
Bullseyes, Army & Navy, Cough Candy Twists. Sherbert Lemons, Chocolate Limes and Tom Thumb Pips. The jars behind the counter at Redmand’s are the bricks that complete my wall of comfort. Clutching my pocket money I can lose myself in a quarter of this, two ounces of that.
Acid Drops, Nut Brittle, Everton Mints. Winter Mix, Butterscotch and Kola Cubes. My father’s hand nestles on the back of my neck as he steers me towards the counter. The smell of paint and cigarettes from his clothes are soon usurped by the sweet aroma from the open jar of Pear Drops.
The simplicity of my sweet citadel shields me from the complexities of a young boy’s life, protecting me in a sugar laden oasis.
“What’s that noise Bernie?”
“Sounds like Jimmy’s mobile.”
“He not take it with him?”
“There it is again. It’s over by the arm chair.”
“So? It’s nothing to do with me. He’ll just have to miss the call.”
“It might be important.”
“For Jimmy? Are you kidding me?”
“Here, just check.”
“If you insist.”
“What’s wrong Bernie?”
“You’ve not said anything for a while, surely the message has finished.”
“You don’t look good.”
“Good? I’m furious.”
“What? Who was it? Don’t tell me he’s got a lover.”
“Well my good for nothing bone idle husband has finally found his passion. The man who I tolerate sitting here watching war movies, drinking beer each evening has found something to spend his time on. The man who can’t put any effort into us, the house, our life together collects stamps. There are numerous message and texts on his phone from dealers. He can’t be bothered to get off his backside and make a go of our relationship. No! But he’s happy to put his efforts into collecting little pieces of perforated paper. That’s it. I’ve had enough. I’m leaving.”
The startling taste, my first sip of whiskey. Its smoke tinged notes coat my tongue. My first embrace of her, the startling feelings it brings. I trace their entwined paths. One relationship having finished before the other but both all encompassing and destructive. Their ends are vivid, me finishing one, her the other. The half buried bottle of Jameson’s next to my clothes testimony to my willpower. The other a mural that dissipates before my eyes. I watch her stay where I found her the only difference is the ring has been replaced.
The noise startled me. I didn’t move though and watched the clouds out to sea visibly grow as they were pushed towards land by an accelerating wind. The noise, again. People in the area had told the tale of an old women whose wailing lament can be heard as a portent to a death. It seemed that she had sensed the demise that my cottage escape could not eradicate from my thoughts. My hardened memories of a woman who could not bring her self to face the consequences of her desires. Instead she chose the easy, mundane path that would not require explanation as it was the one everybody knew that she had chosen on the day the eternal loop was slipped on her finger. She could not find in her love for me that final step which would vault the threshold of her life and find the joy and happiness that would explain to everyone the reasons for what she did.
I stretched my arms out as the wail came again. Closing my eyes I waited for my thoughts to fade and the weeds to grow through my palms.