It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

The Moon in Black - Photo by Amy Kennelly
The Moon in Black – Photo by Amy Kennelly

Photography:

Amy Kennelly is an amateur photographer from Kerry currently on a voyage of self discovery, like Eat, Pray, Love but supplemented by a job in customer service. 

She's An Artist She Don't Look Back - Photo by Amy Kennelly
She’s An Artist She Don’t Look Back – Photo by Amy Kennelly

Future Bohemic Boyfriend

– By Brianne Kohl  

I know you are out there, spinning so free in the universe, just waiting for the day I’ll ride into your life on my 1984 Shwinn World Sport fixie with the retro pink and white lettering. I’ll braid my hair loose like a mermaid and wear a Che Guevara T shirt even though I spent years thinking he was the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine. But, you won’t care, future try-hard-boyfriend. Because, you couldn’t find Cuba with google maps and a prayer.

When I meet you, you’ll be in your late 20s/early 30s. You’ll be sporting a full lumberjack beard but dress like you are auditioning for an episode of Happy Days. You’ll have a neon green Vespa LX 150 scooter that you’ll ride to your job as a barista at the local non-corporate coffee shop, Counter Culture.

“Four-stroke single overhead camshaft!” you’ll say.

“Automatic torque slave transmission,” you’ll say.

“Come over here,” I’ll say.

You will be good with your hands. A grease monkey underneath it all just like my Dad was. Your fingernails will always be rimmed in engine oil and dirt, even when you scrub them clean. You’ll  carry that roasted smell of freshly ground coffee beans in your shaggy brown hair. Sometimes, I’ll think if you would just shake your head like a dog, beans could fly out onto the floor.

On the weekends, you’ll be a drummer in a post-post modern Band of Horses cover band. People will flock to you, eager for that nearness of you. You’ll know the difference between essential and non-essential hygiene and even though you’ll have no political or religious objection to antiperspirant, you won’t bother using it. I won’t notice this at first, because we’ll meet in the Autumn, just as the leaves start to turn orange and red and the nights have a slick coolness about them.

You’ll have a slightly crooked front tooth, cocked to the side like a swinging door. I’ll feel it with my tongue every time I kiss you. On our first date, we’ll meet up in a parking lot and share a PBR and a Parliment. I’ll get chilly so you’ll lend me your gray fitted hoodie. It will almost be too small but I’ll squeeze it around me, stretching it tight against my chest. I’ll run the zipper up to my mouth and suckle the metal pull tab. I’ll love you that quick.

I’ll start spending my nights at yours. We’ll stay up late, listening to Elephant 6 and Neutral Milk Hotel on vinyl. People will begin to expect us at all the wrong-for-the-right-reasons shows in Cobble Hill. You’ll get jealous when I get friendly with that noise scene musician we’ll meet outside Derby’s but I’ll only be friendly with him because he’ll know my room mate’s sister. His music will be marginal, squawking baby toys spun against radio transmission wave noise. It will be borderline in all the right ways, even if we can’t stand to listen to it for long. You and I will make up over a couple of gin and tonics, leave the noise behind and head home. As you slide into me that night, your weight pressed down on my hips like a clamp, I’ll smile up at you and think of him.

You’ll hate my room mate. She’ll hate you even more. We’ll start to argue about what to do when your lease is up. You’ll barely be able to afford your little one man pup-efficiency in Bushwick. So, we’ll start to talk about getting our own place together, someplace that belongs to you and me and no one else.

“Williamsbug,” I’ll say.

“Metro North Railroad,” you’ll say. You’ll have this need to track your life like a hobo on the side of a freight train as the ground conveys passed your heels. I’ll narrow my eyes in confusion.  “Hastings-on-Hudson,” you’ll say. “The city’s been over run. We need someplace new.  Someplace a man can get a real job.” All I can think is, “What the hell would we do in Westchester?” But you’ll  fucking love it, all that roving hipsturbia and I’ll begin to tick off the moments, rolling my eyes and sighing, until you lose interest.

You’ll get fired from Counter Culture because of a pissy missive you’ll blog, decrying all the wrong ways customers order coffee. “They don’t even fucking know what a Machiato is!” you’ll cry out, throwing a spoon into the sink. It will clatter against my nerves and I’ll hope I hid my Starbucks cup far enough into the trash can so you’ll never see.

We’ll start to plan a community garden that we’ll never build. You’ll get a job at the local co-op. You’ll start dreading your hair, just two long tufts at the base of your skull. I’ll have dreams of running past you with scissors, cutting that gnarled bark of hair from your head. You’ll forgive me for throwing out your ratty black Bel Biv Devoe Tshirt – you’ll leave it at my place and I’ll think its a rag because of the threadbare holes in the back. We’ll sit outside on the front stoop and you’ll feed me beautiful fresh cherries in the Spring. I’ll spit the pits back out into your hand.

I’ll get pregnant and miscarry and never tell you, blood as ripe as those cherries, that fragile pit lost forever as I cry on the toilet.

I’ll fall deep into a hole, so deep that I won’t be able to see your face peering down at me. You’ll get confused and with the confusion, you’ll start to get a little mean. I’ll start to get a lot distant.

“You’re a shitty musician,” I’ll say.

“I can’t STAND you right now,” I’ll say.

“Trendslut,” you’ll say.

After a while, you’ll stop peering down into my hole and I’ll stop looking up.

It will take us a long time, too long, really, to admit it will be too late for us. You’ll send me a text, maybe. Or, I’ll get one of your co-workers at the co-op to pass along the message. But, we’ll close that door and I know you’ll be out there, spinning around and away. I’ll eventually find my way out to Hastings-on-Hudson – housing will be so much more affordable in the sprawl. And, I’ll think of you, of your battered Doc Martins hanging out over the rusted rails, every time I take the 9:06 into Grand Central.

Brianne M. Kohl is a fiction writer who has lived all over the United States but currently resides in Chatham County, North Carolina. Her work has been published in Black Heart Magazine, Ohio Edit, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Corner Club Press and in ‘In the Hardship and the Hoping: Poems of Northeast Ohio by JB Solomon Editions. She was the best fiction recipient from Bop Dead City’s 2013 Summer Fiction Contest. Her work and musings can also be found at www.briannekohl.com

Tangled Up In Blue - Photo by Amy Kennelly
Tangled Up In Blue – Photo by Amy Kennelly

Joyce and Me

– By Anna Byrne

It was in Oxfam’s, in the used book area. Section M to P. That’s where it happened. Later, when I went through things, I realized I’d already read some of her short stories.  This book however, had a Getting to Know the Author section in the back, including a personal profile, a segment entitled Writing with Words and a photograph. The photo showed a woman with dark curly hair and large, soulful eyes, staring off camera. And right then, I knew there was something about her that would change my life. Joyce Carol Oates.

Before. That’s a word people used alot in Ireland. Before, guys would proudly write their number on the back of their ATM stubs and pass them out among the waiting ocean of high heeled, sun bedded women. Before, people were marching up the property ladder and buying five hundred euro dogs at the weekends. They were thronging the bar, fifty euro notes fluttering like miniature flags heralding our fiscal wisdom. I had a good vantage point, my circumnavigation in the employ of the eating and drinking establishments of Cork city almost complete at that time.

Now. That was a different story. Now, people lecture bitterly about household tax and the pitfalls of buying to rent, and get thrown out for smuggling in their own Tesco vodka. Now, no one bothers to print out their bank balance because they’re all either bankrupt or on the dole. Or just gone. If Galway is Ireland‘s graveyard of ambition, then Cork is the wake, with everyone sitting around, drinking too much and lamenting about somebody that went too soon.

In bed that night, John snoring beside me, I reread Joyce Carol Oates Writing with Words. I copy out the main points.

She doesn’t own a computer but works longhand and then on a typewriter.

She writes in silence.

She does not read, watch or listen to anything trashy. Life is too short.

I set up a small desk from Argos in the tiny room of our apartment underneath the stairs. I unpack the notebooks I have kept under the bed. They are full of the word Idea printed and then circled, and then the idea written underneath. Privately, I have harboured the ambition of being a writer for years. As a child, I had written a story about a hedgehog that was published in a book of children stories for children, by children. I place this, entitled Rainbow Days, on the desk. Since then there had been a dry spell.

I don’t really understand what happened. After school everyone dropped into their places, so sure they were the right fit. I started a course in web design, decided it wasn’t for me and moved to Cork with a vague notion of saving money to go traveling. I met John at a party. It made sense that we’d move in together. I’d sit back and listen to him and his friends talk about how to roll a perfect joint, and watch as they tried to master it. They talked about taking ten pills before they even ‘gotta tingle offa them.’ I had a job, money. I was even skinny because I usually didn’t eat at the weekends. Things were good.

But then one day I was taking a glass from the cupboard and I noticed it was cloudy looking. I held it up to the light and I saw how dirty it was. I took out the other glasses. They were the same. Then I collected the mugs from around the sitting room. Their insides were stained dark brown. I tried scrubbing at them but it made no difference. I started to sweep. How had I not noticed how the floor sloped in the kitchen before? I went out to the tiny back garden, where I thought the mop bucket would be, and saw the pile of sodden rubbish bags. I realized I didn’t have a mop bucket, or a mop. My head got this funny buzzing feeling. I got my keys and jacket and went outside. It was late morning and the sound of children echoed along the narrow street. I walked down the hill past St. Finbarr’s Church, crossed the South Mall with a vague notion of Oliver Plunkett Street and on the way I walked into Oxfam’s and found Joyce.

In work, at Ned’s Irish Fusion Bar and Restaurant I’m on the early shift with Iris. Iris is American. She’s outstaying her visa here because she’s having an on/off relationship with the drummer from the local heavy metal band Rancid Corpse. She is what my mother would call brazen. She pokes at the blueberry muffins in the pastry basket. I polish forks and imagine Joyce Carol Oates and her morning routine: wandering through her house to the study, coffee cup in hand. Do her friends call her Joyce, or JayCee? I think probably just Joyce.  I conjure up a chance encounter we’d have; how we’d end up, somehow, going for a coffee. I’d hand the sugar to her, call her Ms. Oates, and by the end of our first cup she’d look me in the eye and say, Just call me Joyce.

‘Hello.’

Iris is waving at me.

‘You’re in another world Sarah.’

She bends her neck, shouting at the ceiling in mock frustration.

‘God, this is so boring.’

Twisting her lip ring she calls out the old game.

‘Okay, if you had to, had to choose: Simon Cowell or Perez Hilton?’

I smile vaguely.

‘What’s going on with you?’ she asks.

I just shake my head and kind of float off; what I imagine Joyce would do.

I search the library for her books, then the bookshops. I line them all up on my desk. I underline the sentences of Joyce‘s that I can identify with most and stick them on the desk, the wall, the bathroom mirror. I stick one on the front door so I can read it before work. John comes up behind me, puts his hands on my shoulders.

‘What’s this?’ he asks. I try not to wince when he touches me. I try to remember why I fell for him. He had a car. With a sub woofer. He brought me to Mondello race track when we were going out first. He still has it. The sub woofer, I mean. We haven’t been getting on recently. If I’m honest, part of it is because I know that Joyce wouldn’t like my boyfriend. She wouldn’t say it, but I’d know.

She’d have that intuition, that he would let me down and then one night, after something unspeakable, I’d arrive at Joyce’s house with the words ‘I had nowhere else to go,’ and she would take me in, no questions asked. She’d draw me a bath. Then, in the morning over coffee, she’d offer me the spare room.

Things would go from there. Joyce would see herself in me. I’d be like her little sister.  I’d discover her love of ginger tea, spicy Mexican food. Her abhorrence for bananas since eating a rotten one when she was three years old. We’d go to book readings. I’d read her latest manuscripts while she paced in the next room, finally coming to the door where I would look up at her and smile.

After her book readings we’d go out for dinner.  Somewhere small we could talk. She’d look at me with those soulful eyes over a plate of tacos with extra jalapeños and say ‘Oh Sarah. Don’t waste that talent.’

No, she wouldn’t. She’d never say something so twee. She’d quote maybe, something from her favourite authors, Joyce or maybe Dickenson.

Understanding. There would be an understanding between us. Joyce and Me. Me and Joyce.

I’m in work, thinking about a trip Joyce and I could take on the Trans Siberian express when Ben, the manager, asks me to come into the office. His office is cramped and smells of that aftershave all male bar managers seem to use. His shirt stretches when he sits down. I can see the outline of his bellybutton. He scrapes the stubble just under his chin and asks me if everything’s ok. Everything’s fine, I tell him.

‘Your mind isn’t on your work anymore.’

I can’t answer that, so I just look at him, around him. I know Iris has said something. Yesterday I refused to gossip about a story leaked on the internet that said John Travolta is gay. She was shocked. Ben rakes the remaining hair on his balding head with a chubby hand.

‘Sarah, things are difficult, I’d appreciate if you could – pull together with me. Will you do that?’

I nod my head.

Then everything starts to move to the edges of the page. John tells me he is going on a football trip with the lads, a something Cup or other. Finally, another of Joyce’s keys to writing accomplished – silence. At this point, I have shunned my computer, don’t have to worry about what people are saying on Facebook, or who is emailing me. I head to work on Monday morning to find a notice on the window that Ned’s Fusion Bar and Restaurant has gone into liquidation – apparently people don’t want to spend ten euro‘s on chicken wings anymore. Smiling widely, I go straight back to the flat and my desk and write like a demon in longhand. I write so much that I can’t keep track of it all. The phone rings and rings until I send a group message that I got a cheap package holiday to Lanzarote and then shut the thing off. Sometimes I wake up in there. Sometimes when I wake up I spend hours trying to figure out the tangled web of writing across the pages that carpet the floor. Sometimes I‘m sitting there and just thinking of the door, the door that is opening and staying open the more I write and it’s only when the motor on the fridge clicks on that I say ‘thank you,‘ and start writing again. The house is cold. I shiver, make a cup of tea. The milk lumps in the cup. I laugh at that. This is real writing, I think. In a jubilant mood I scrape coins off the mantelpiece and go out to the shop for milk. It is there, standing in line, holding a pint of milk, that I see the poster.

I walk across Parliament bridge, down South Mall and into the library.  The event is confirmed by the librarian. I walk back across Parliament bridge. My legs are trembling and I buy a chocolate bar for sugar and find a bench by the river beside a homeless man .

Joyce will be coming to my town! She will read in the library for the literary festival, in four days time. I look at the pamphlet the librarian handed to me. In it is a photograph of Joyce. She is looking upwards, her chin resting on her palm. I could swear her eyes are green. The homeless man beside me hawks up a gob of phlegm. It sits on the pavement like a rejected oyster. I close my eyes, chewing slowly.

It is true.

I am going to meet her.

The next few days I spend in preparation. I hear the door bell but it seems far away, like the shouts I imagine coming through the letterbox but I don’t answer them; I don’t have the time! I re read all of the quotes, paste some that have fallen off back on the walls. I try to remember what I want to ask Joyce, but there’s so much, I don’t know where to start. So I copy more of her quotes into a notebook and write my questions beside them.

On The Day, as I have referred to it in my notebooks, I get up early. I’ve been so busy I’ve forgotten about clothes. I manage to find an almost clean wool jumper and a pair of leggings I have to just quickly wipe down with a wet cloth.

Outside it’s the usual summer weather, the sky a cloudy marbled glare that hurts your eyes. I make my way down the small steep hills. At this time of the morning it’s just the same few delivery men and street people shuffling along. The library isn’t open yet so I wait outside. I peer back across the river at the derelict government building and the vegetarian restaurant that shoulders it. Finally, the library opens and I follow the woman inside. I watch her set out chairs, a small desk and microphone. I settle into one of the chairs. I change seats several times. I double check my notebook. I study the photo of Joyce, the same one that was on the poster. It has been blown up and sellotaped onto the wall. I like it.

Soon another librarian arrives with flasks of tea and coffee, a plate of biscuits. People trickle into the library, elderly people at first, then someone with a camera. They congregate around the tea and biscuits. I can’t believe people can fathom eating and drinking at a time like this. I read the leaflet about the literary festival but can’t get past the first sentence. I breathe deeply, in through my nose, and out my mouth. I stand; try to shake some of the energy out of me. The librarian is making a special fuss over a small, thin, elderly lady with short hair. Someone beside her carries a sheaf of pages and a laptop. She must be a benefactor of the library, I think.

I must be staring, because the librarian turns to me and nods in the direction of the old woman.

‘This young lady was especially keen to meet you.’

I watch; an uncomprehending observer.

‘Sorry, what?’

‘Ms. Oates. I assumed you were waiting here for her this morning.’

I look at the librarian and back at the old woman.

‘Ms. Oates was just talking about her new collection of short stories. She’s just published them on Amazon.’

Ms. Oates nods. Her eyes aren’t soulful. And they’re not green, they’re brown.

‘Tell me,’ she says. ‘Are you a Mac or a PC person?’

A single, trembling biscuit crumb clings to her lip.

Originally from Ireland, Anna Byrne is a writer and filmmaker. She focuses her work on the female experience, and recently travelled to Iceland to work on a short experimental film. She is currently working on a short experimental documentary set in Berlin and her first novel. 

L’ètrange

Cuisine de France – Photo By Connie Walsh

Short Story: Gold

– By Sharlene Teo

Buzzing July lunchtime. It is getting so hot the back of my thighs stick to the seat. I miss pause-glacial winter, I miss slap-nasty rain, I miss whatever doesn’t make the insects come out and cause my brain to feel like it will melt and sidle down my neck, catching on my ribs and making me forget whole periods of my life and the names of common zoo animals.

I am sitting in a Pret with my new colleague Lisa. Lisa is maybe two or three years younger than me. She is slight and wiry, a mousy atom of a person. She has a sharp, pretty face and bitten-down nails. She has chosen a three-storey calorific blockbuster of a BLT and I have opted for a “seasonal selection” sandwich. Two bites in and I regret my choice. It is the middle of the week and I am sweating and I have food envy and I am a novelty-cuckold. A dribble of wasabi mayo escapes onto my body con skirt. Now I have a suspicious stain on my body con skirt.

I’m worried about my health, says Lisa.

Woah there sister, I don’t care and I hardly know you, I think, but on my face I affix a concerned expression.

Why is that, I ask.

I know we are eating, says Lisa, but.

But?

She leans in.

Lately, when I urinate, my pee is, my pee is golden.

Uh, everyone’s pee is golden.

No, it is gold. It glitters and everything.

You’re kidding.

No, I’m not kidding, Lisa demurs. She tells me that when she looks in the toilet bowl there is a liquid in it the colour of fine spun manuka honey, of overpriced salon blonde (Lisa and I are brunette and dyed auburn respectively)- Academy Award hued, iridescent, glimmering piss.

With gold flecks and everything, says Lisa.

That is so weird.

I know.

Have you seen a doctor?

I have. I sent in a sample. The doctor said the test results were all normal, and by the time I had sent the sample in it looked dull and ordinary, just like normal urine, but trust me, it looks amazing when it is fresh. Really beautiful.

This is a really odd conversation.

I know. I’m sorry. I just had to tell someone.

Why did you have to tell me, I think. I consider Lisa. I consider her brown eyes, her gray nail polish, her chiffon blouse, and the crumbs strewn before her on the table.

I have only known, or barely known, this small, strange person for two weeks. Before that she folded neatly into the ether of unimaginable existence, living and breathing and drinking and crankily commuting around this harebrained, labyrinthine, people-choked city.

For at least eight hours a day, we sit opposite each other in an open-plan office. We online window-shop and read the Daily Mail website in minimized windows, we nod along in team meetings, and daydream separately by the kettle. But for the most part we drain our energy over desks of cheerful fake wood using in-house operating systems to analyze Risk.

I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my dying father. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my friends. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my boyfriend, who seems increasingly bored and disinterested, drifting away on an i-Calendar of overlapping schedules and chronic fatigue, terse texts and football matches.

I wonder if Lisa’s life is a bare shelf bereft of boyfriends or otherwise, people closer to her and/or more suitably appropriate to discuss her urine with. I feel sorry for her and wonder if she has several screws loose. I remember Tim, my colleague who interviewed her, saying she was totally impressive, switched on, on the ball, on the money, that one, he said. I wonder if he said all that because he didn’t really know what he was talking about/ never knows what he is talking about, and he was tired of interviewing people near the end of the day, and she was attractive.

I feel spiky and tired, and like I will wilt. Lisa is looking at me with a concerned expression.

There’s a bit of mayo on your skirt, she says. She puts some water on a napkin and hands it to me.  I dab at the stain but it only makes it worse.

I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Lisa says. I just really wanted to tell someone.

That’s okay, I reply. Maybe you pee gold because you are a really good person.

Lisa doesn’t seem to understand it is a joke and looks so stricken that she might cry if you gave her ten minutes, and froze that moment.

I took a picture, as evidence, Lisa says, glowing with encouragement, with cloying earnestness. I put down my sandwich. It is disgusting anyway, £4.50 of cosmopolitan disgustingness. Lisa fiddles around with the screen, scrolls through and hands me her phone.

I look at the screen, a high-res Android screen. I tilt my head sideways, this way and that, like a caricature of someone in a French gallery, the Louvre perhaps. The Mona Lisa! Behold! Ancient oil paints, and gilded frames. Halogen glow, no-glare, pixels and pixels.

It is a clear shot of a toilet bowl, white ceramic, containing a pale yellowish liquid. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing too revolting. I could have seen worse, I have seen worse. I look at Lisa. Her small face is a cryptic, hopeful moon. In ten minutes we will need to cross the green, scan our cards in, take the elevator up to the fifth-storey office.

You’re right, I say, smiling slightly, holding on to her phone. That’s really something.

Sharlene Teo is a Singaporean writer whose poetry and prose has appeared in various literary magazines across the UK, US and Singapore. She is currently undertaking the MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia.

Follow Sharlene on Twitter and check out her Blog.

Fleurs de France – Photo By Connie Walsh

Personal Essay: Hurricane

– By Laura Hayley Kavanagh

The last month my mind has been wrought with an ever expanding and conflicting plethora of feelings. I have been pottering around Dublin city as it slowly ekes its way into winter; Christmas lights have been going up and the chill in the air is getting so much in the mornings that I feel like I will suffer from severe arthritis in my fingers very, very shortly. Basically, I am home and certainly not in New York.

These emotional inconsistencies have exploded recently and the major reason, I have come to realise, is Hurricane Sandy. A year previous I battened down the hatches and wondered about what would unfurl when Irene arrived. So subsequently, as time ticked on and reports of Sandy’s possible wrath became increasingly substantive and threatening, my confusion peaked. Aside from the engulfing pit of nervous tension in my stomach for my friends in the Big City, I felt jealous. As if being part of this new drama that was beginning to play out would allow me to reshape the imprint Irene had left behind.

For New York’s last hurricane crisis, I was there. That summer I had travelled over with my best friend on a J1 and as soon as reports began to disseminate on news channels, my relatives and friends at home hounded me for information. Were things as bad as the terrifying images the weather men and women had shown? Was I ok, had I enough to eat and ultimately, was it all a bit of a joke? Most of my responses were undetermined for the many questions that were heaped upon me but as the time drew closer I anticipated disaster. It only seemed appropriate because despite my living across the Atlantic, basking in the beautiful instagram glowing goodness of the sun, entrenched in a new and exciting city brimming with possibilities, I felt really alone. When I left for New York the excitement was palpable. My friend and I were giddy with the want of adventure but as the weeks passed after I arrived it seemed our paths were set to diverge.

In the midst of impending doom, normally one would find solace from those they hold dear but since arriving in the land of the free, my closest friend had become the most distant. The week Irene hit was the week I become conscious that life was in flux; I was no longer a frivolous girl, I was a woman, glaring at the crumbling gable walls of an old friendship that was ripped from its foundations when nature instigated an unplanned course of action. Signs of tumult were everywhere; the media was in total panic and the girl who had transcended the walls of friendship to become a surrogate sister was fast becoming a stranger. The end of the world had to be nigh. Right?

Attitudes towards Irene differed in most boroughs depending on whichever land zone you fell into. I still wasn’t totally sure how to take it all in myself, hurricanes not being a player at all on the Irish meteorological landscape. So, I decided to be cautious, to stock up on water and food so I could watch television all weekend (assuming the power wasn’t cut), brazenly laughing in the face of danger. That Friday evening I was in on it, immersed in the shared structure of feeling that had been erected to deal with Irene. I was with the rest of my neighbourhood who weren’t totally sure what to do but could feel something unnerving growing stronger. The reason the media were scaremongering was because no one really knew what Irene would bring. As a result, I was half expecting all the dreaded possibilities; hunger, no power, flooding, fires, roofs being torn off Wizard of Oz Kansas style.

As Sunday came to a close and Irene had torn up an enormous old tree beside my apartment block and stopped pounding the pavements with torrential rain, she calmed down – the sky turned blue and life regained normalcy. Yes, many people were devastated by her but ultimately, she was a much gentler giant than we were led to believe. On Monday I ventured into Manhattan to meet a group of friends. We exchanged melodramatic stories of the event and mocked the wholly outlandish hysteria of it all. I bought a camera and let New York take my breath away again but I observed the one I had travelled with as an acquaintance, wondering if the storm had uprooted us for good. I travelled home a month later and she is still in New York.

Two weeks ago my sister returned to me, disembodied but still able to enrapture me with her tales of adventure and droll idiosyncrasies. Her scent was intangible but her spirit called to our history through the throat of a megaphone. She rekindled my love like a favourite teenage band playing on a cd you found in the clutter of a drawer aged 29, when you are an adult in the throes of the world and only the ghost of those years remain. We discussed our anxieties about whether we would only ever be flooded with the prospect of unpaid internships finding ourselves incapable of having enough to eat and there she was, every aspect of her just hurling her thoughts against the wall of me. The bricks were being re-laid because the site was still strong. I didn’t ask about Sandy knowing she would only laugh remembering the frenzy of Irene.

We are different now but our roots are still entwined at the tips. We can be blown across continents searching for the job of our dreams but we’re still the same silly undergrads who gossiped about boys in the bathroom during library breaks. Sometimes life throws a lot at you and it can be so difficult to claw back everything you hold dear. Sandy was cruel, tearing through houses and submerging streets with her fury. Although afterwards, images proliferated on television screens of people rallying together to help neighbours repair their lives, homes and cities. Now I realise that sometimes it takes a disaster to examine the true strength of your foundations.

Laura Hayley Kavanagh is a graduate of English, Media and Cultural Studies in DLIADT. She is currently writing lots and trying to figure some things out so she can become a real grown up.

Jardin du Luxembourg – Photo by Connie Walsh

Flash Facebook Status: 14 hours ago, Near Dublin. 

– By Eims O’Reilly

The following is a summary of my brief, but harrowing, twenty four hours of Facebook deactivation.

Realise that my Facebook usage has recently started to escalate to alarming levels.

Decide to be proactive. Yeah! New day! Productivity bitch! Etc.

Now, how do I disable this thing…

Find sneaky, hidden buttons in account settings.

Facebook informs me just how much all my “424 friends will miss me.”

Ha Facebook, you emotionally manipulative bastard, you.

Screenshot.

Think of witty remark.

Update photo onto timeline.

Right, now, how do I disable this thing?

Realise that if I disable my account now I won’t see who likes my aforementioned witty repertoire.

Stream latest episode of Home and Away and hover over Facebook notifications in the meantime.

Realise this is possibly not the beginning of the new found productivity that I had imagined.

Dammit, I don’t need your validation: deactivate!

Refresh captchas until I can find one that I can actually read.

Ha, this is ridiculous, I should totally comment about this under my photo.

Wait, no, get a grip. Deactivate.

Spend the next couple of hours realising that every minute in front of a computer screen triggers a particular muscle memory; CMD+T facebo…

I guess I haven’t updated my Tumblr in a while, that’s not really procrastination, I mean it’s teaching me about contemporary art…

Remember that Tumblr is a dark, dark abyss of teenage ‘thinspo’ bullshit.

Creep on it anyway.

Feel wholly inadequate.

Swear obscenities.

Exit Tumblr. Google microwave cake recipe.

Cry into empty bowl of mulch.

Oh! New episode of Boardwalk!

Ok, right yeah, down to business, CVs…

Field worried texts; “grand yeah, just trying to avoid procrastination.”

BUZZFEED!

Kittens. Harharhar, I know who would love this… Share… Wait, no.

Actually I really should buy that John Talabot ticket before it’s sold out.

Checkout. Done. Now to tell people how cool I am having purchased said ticket. Yeah I’m so, like, with it, I should round up a crew.

Um… But how…

Right, ok I’m serious now, job websites, lets be having ya.

Wow, that job is PERFECT.

For someone I know.

But I’m not using Facebook so how do I…

I know, TWITTER.

Bit ly. Share.

Man, I’m such a nice person.

Oh this place looks interesting, I wonder what working there would be like. Right, yeah, links to a Facebook page.

Swear obscenities.

Repeat last three steps. Over and over.

Shit, these Tweets are so old and I never replied.

Feel Twitter guilt setting in. I really should Tweet more, for my career like.

Oh look, all these people reblogged my Tumblr posts. These people must really appreciate my aesthetic. That’s nice.

But I don’t know these people,

I wonder what my friends are up to. Or my ex. Or that random girl I met at a party once…

Realise that my problem is probably access to the internet in general.

Accept defeat.

CMD+T, Facebook.com…

Admit defeat.

Overshare and spam up newsfeed with ridiculously long status update.

Eims O’Reilly is a sometime writer who works in and around the arts in Dublin. You can follow her here

What Might Have Been Lost

Anywhere Is Paradise With You – Photo by Denise O’Riordan.

The Same Old Song of Plenty

– By Matt Hutchinson

‘I’ll tell you who’s to blame,’ the old man said, banging his dessert spoon on the check tablecloth, ‘that bitch who lives on Liberty Island.’

The woman sighed but didn’t let go of his free hand, which lay palm down in hers, his knuckles thick like knots in old rope.

‘You’re drunk, Paolo,’ she said. The restaurant was empty apart from a young man alone at a corner table. He looked up briefly when Paolo banged the spoon but quickly returned to his dinner.

‘She stands there and sings out across the ocean,’ Paolo continued, ‘same old song of plenty. What does she give when you get here? Nothing.’

‘We have this.‘ The woman spread her hands. ‘Food, wine, each other.’

‘Pfff,’ said Paolo, ‘we had that already.’

‘We have a home, we have a family.’

‘And she gave us those did she? No.’

The waiter – a young man, thirty at most – took a glass from the rack above the bar. He held it up to the light, polished it carefully on his apron and put it back. The woman finished the last of her dessert.

‘Delicious,’ she said, placing her spoon down. ‘Typical man, blame a woman for your own disappointment.’ She smiled and rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb.

‘Fifty-seven years,’ said Paolo. ‘Fifty-seven years in this country and still we’re living hand to mouth.’

‘Maybe so but the hand has a well-stocked cupboard to choose from these days.’ The woman wiped the corner of her mouth with a napkin. ‘You were never like this when we were young.’

‘When we were young I didn’t think this was how we’d end up,’ he said.

‘This?’ the woman replied, pushing her plate away.

‘Another birthday dinner in a cheap neighbourhood restaurant.’

‘Would you rather eat in the fancy restaurants uptown?’ she said. ‘Where they charge twelve dollars for polenta and call it rustic?’

Paolo looked at the tablecloth.

‘When were you last hungry?’ the woman continued. ‘When did we not have wine? Are our children not healthy?’

Paolo spoke more softly. ‘What about the dream? What about our life?’

‘We have a life, mio caro, we have a life.’

‘Not the one we came for.’

‘Maybe not the one you came for.’ The woman held his gaze.

‘We had a life before we came – we have a life now,’ he said. ‘No difference.’

‘We had hope, not a life. We brought that seed with us and planted it here in America. It would never have grown into anything more at home, you know that. Those hills are too old, too tired.’

‘It’s me who is too tired now,’ Paolo said.

A siren passed outside. The couple sat in silence till it faded.

‘More wine?’ the waiter asked, leaning in to clear their plates. Paolo shook his head.

‘Why mourn a dream,’ the woman said, ‘when we have a reality. Be happy with who you are now.’

Paolo waved a hand in dismissal. The waiter, misreading the gesture, returned with the bill. Paolo sighed, took out his wallet and counted out a small stack of bills.

‘The truth is,’ he said, tucking his wallet back into the inner pocket of his coat, ‘I’m to blame. I’m the one who brought us here, who believed her promise – wanted to believe it. What kind of fool does that make me, Francesca?’

‘Come now,’ the woman said, taking his hand again. ‘You’re no fool. It will feel different soon, it always does, you know that. Every year-’ she paused. ‘It passes.’

Paolo nodded.

‘You can mourn for now but let tomorrow be the end of it.’ He held her coat so she could slide first one arm and then the other into the sleeves. As she smoothed the lapel of his jacket he kissed the back of her hand and they left the restaurant arm in arm.

The waiter pushed their chairs back under the table and held the door for the young man who left, turning his collar up against the wind. The waiter turned the sign from Open to Closed and locked the door. He took down a glass, poured an inch of amaretto into it and added an ice cube. He held the glass up in salute to the old couple as they disappeared into the dark beyond the streetlights.

***

The morning was clear but Paolo’s head was a little foggy from too much wine the night before. He would go and see her; she always made him feel better. Anyway, he needed to apologise. He made it through the security checks and onto the boat quickly; the terminal wasn’t busy yet, not as busy as it would be in a couple of hours. As the ferry moved off he stood at the railing and watched Battery Park recede. He was still watching the city skyline when a young man tapped him on the elbow.

‘Time to get off, sir. We’re here.’ Paolo nodded and set his wind-blown hat straight. He kept his eyes low as he stepped off the boat and didn’t look up until he was close enough that his shadow blended with hers.

‘I’m sorry about last night,’ he said. The woman gazed out over the docks towards the Atlantic. ‘About what I said – what I called you.’ He wasn’t here just to apologise – he had to put an end to it. Paolo watched a line form to enter her pedestal. Since the attacks you had to book in advance to go all the way to the crown. Used to be you could just show up but they were clamping down now for security reasons. Who knew how many times Paolo had made that climb and stared out towards his past.

Back in Genoa it had been the hills. Whenever he needed some time to himself, time to think, he’d head out of town and climb, look out over the old harbour towards the New World and whisper his secrets to the wind. When he came to New York he found no hills, only tall buildings with security desks and over-inquisitive doormen. This town didn’t want his secrets. Then he’d discovered the Liberty Island ferry. As often as he could Paulo would make an excuse and slip away to climb up and whisper his secrets to the statue. She would keep them safe, tell them to no-one. For a while Francesca had been convinced he was seeing another woman and, in a way, he was. Eventually though she accepted Paolo’s walks as she had in Genoa; sometimes, it was understood, he just needed to be alone. Anyway, now he was an old man it was good for him to walk.

How many secrets did his other woman hold in safekeeping for him now? In those first years it had been mostly the one he held closest and told to no-one, not even Francesca – I want to go home. After that had come others: I was fired from my job; I slept with Cecilia the night before we left Genoa; I don’t remember who I am anymore. She kept them all.

For two years in the Eighties the statue had been closed for repairs in readiness for her centennial. Her right arm, it turned out, had never been properly attached and her head had been fitted two feet off centre. Paolo had kept his secrets then, written them down. He didn’t like to think of workmen up in Liberty’s crown, poking around in the quiet detail of his unhappiness, but what choice did he have? Again, after the towers fell, he’d been forced to keep his secrets close. When the statue finally re-opened in 2009 access to the crown was restricted to 240 people a day and Paolo had to find other ways to get his secrets to her. He could book in advance and go to the top and, once, he had, whispering secret after secret as he walked amongst strangers. Other times he only came as far as the island, secrets scribbled on tiny balls of folded up paper, which he would slip into the pocket of unsuspecting tourists as they circled the pedestal, hoping they were one of the lucky ones. To be on the safe side he would slip the same one into several pockets. He couldn’t often afford the ferry though so most days he sat on a bench in Battery Park and whispered to himself as he watched Liberty from over the water, waiting for the day he could be with her.

Today was different; Paolo had booked several months ago as a birthday present to himself. He was going to the top. As he joined the nine others in the first group of the day he fingered the worn piece of paper in his coat pocket, softened by time and by touch so it more closely resembled cloth. He’d touched it so many times over the years he was sure some of his DNA – the spiral ladder that climbed to the very heart of who he was – was embedded in its grain. The statue swallowed the queue one by one; hungry, like her country, for the people of the world. To be a national in some countries you needed family dating back generations – to become an American you just had to come here. Yet Paolo had never felt like one. He was still an outsider, after all this time. It was no secret; he told Francesca that. You never felt like you belonged in Genoa, she had patiently reminded him. It’s different here, Paolo had said, although he wasn’t sure it was. When he’d booked the ticket for Liberty’s crown he hadn’t know what he’d do when the day came. He knew now. As he passed from sunlight into the pedestal, he had more than a secret – he had a plan.

Paolo headed straight for the stairs; he knew the climb by heart. Up he went, each step taking him nearer his end. He had to pause several times to get his breath back – that had never happened when he was a young man. Finally, slightly dizzy, he spiralled out into the light. Up in the crown the usual shuffle and scuffle to get the best view was taking place. It still amazed Paolo that, in the statue’s 129-year history, only one man had managed to kill himself by hurling himself from the top, glancing off the copper as he fell like a tiny human tear. He reached up and touched a fingertip to the ripples on the ceiling – the underside of Liberty’s wavy hair. A young Japanese couple moved from their spot and Paolo slid into the gap they left.

He looked out at the ocean as though he could see all the way to Genoa – to the lighthouse and, beyond it on the Apennine foothills, to a younger version of himself. But the curve of the earth hides many secrets and all he saw was water. Paolo couldn’t recall now what had so dissatisfied him with his old life – just that he’d been hungry to leave, had needed to leave. He pulled the folded paper from his pocket and stroked its soft nap a final time. The greying surface was covered in looping handwriting; years of secrets in shades from vivid blue to faded purples and greys. Paolo opened a window and took a deep breath. He took a step closer. Slowly he began to tear off bits of paper and stuff them through the open gap. One by one his secrets fluttered out into the air. There went I’m scared of becoming a father, followed closely by I don’t belong anywhere and What if she leaves me?

‘What you got there?’ A woman in her early fifties was watching with interest.

‘A ticket,’ Paolo replied.

‘Ticket for what? Don’t you need it no more?’

He dropped the final piece and watched until he couldn’t see it through his tears. He dried his eyes and descended, one slow step at a time, towards the exit, the ferry, the walk back uptown and the two flights to his front door where Francesca waited patiently (as she had for years) in their new life. On the ground he looked up and fancied he saw a secret or two floating off to settle on the waters of Upper Bay or beyond, but it was probably just old eyes playing tricks on him. As the ferry pulled away from the quay Paolo took one last look. He tipped his hat, settled it back on his head and turned to face the city, rising up to greet him like a familiar friend. As the boat drew nearer the skyline filled his vision until it was all he could see.

Matt Hutchinson was born and grew up in Lancashire. From an early age he was convinced he was going to be a rock star and learned to play a series of instruments in readiness. However, despite a degree in pop music (seriously) and a wide variety of gigs, ranging from the Salzburg Festival to Cambridge Folk Festival, and including two equally terrifying performances at the Albert Hall and Wakefield Prison, stardom forgot to knock.

In the meantime Matt kept himself busy with a variety of jobs in record shops, bookshops, music publishing, websites and – for an all too brief two weeks – as a volunteer monkey keeper.

Matt began writing in 2009 and, in 2011, attended a Faber Academy course given by MJ Hyland and Trevor Byrne. He has completed a novel and is currently working on a second as well as a collection of short stories. He lives in south-east London with his wife and a secret desire to still be a rock star.

Follow Matt on Twitter @matthwrites

___________________________________________________________________

leaves

The Heir

 – By EM Reapy

Grandad said to Ma that I was an odd, sensitive lad because I wouldn’t even go down to the slaughterhouse. The sound of the cattle bawling at night was bad enough.

I was sitting the other side of the table from him. He never spoke to me.

Grandad said to Ma, ‘The boy’ll be a weakling. He needs protein.’

But I still couldn’t eat the meat. Not even poke it with my fork. I didn’t mind just spuds and beans for dinner. At least I wouldn’t have cows Irish dancing in my stomach and the guilt of their orphan calves on my mind after.

Grandad had ‘talks’ in Westport every Friday.

I asked Ma, ‘With who?’

‘Farmers, butchers and codgers.’

A rough fella, Donny, would go with him. Donny had black front teeth and always smelt of cowshite. I never knew what he was saying. He laughed at the end of his sentences. He’d hose down his green wellies but Ma still made him take them off before coming inside.

Ma said Donny was pure handy at slitting throats. Giving the cows a quick death. This was supposed to be a good thing. I thought of the blood spurting from the Friesians. Their big black eyes sad. Their big pink tongues dangling out their mouths. Deflating to death. Ma said it wasn’t like that at all.

Donny had an awful turn and his left side went lame. Grandad said I’d be going to the ‘talks’ with him from then on. My pulse pumped and my head went roasting hot when I thought about it.

*

We get the train. It sounds like a heart beating on the rails. I can only see Grandad’s hands holding the Irish Times as he sits across from me. Trimmed nails with white half moons at the bottom. His pipe fills the carriage with Sweet Afton smoke.

In Castlebar, he crunches the paper down to chat with the ticket inspector. Would Mayo bring Sam back this year?

‘Would they hell,’ says the ticket man.

My job in the ‘talks’ is to stand behind Grandad, ready to take notes, do messages or run into someone’s shop or pub or house and see who’s there and if they are trading.

I like watching Grandad with them. They are all happy to see him.

After, Grandad buys us cones with flakes. He’s his eaten before I even get to the wafer of mine. We walk to the station. The sun is crawling down.

My eyelids sink on the train. Grandad puts his suitjacket over my lap. I wake to the whistle, recognise the bridge at Claremorris station.

Ma is on the platform, waving.

‘How did ye get on?’ She kisses me wet on the forehead.

Grandad says, ‘A great little worker, so you are,’ to me.

EM Reapy is from Mayo, Ireland and has an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. She co-founded and edits wordlegs.com. She is the 2012 Tyrone Guthrie Exchange Irish Writer in Varuna Writers’ House, Australia.

Her work has been published in Ireland, the UK, Australia, France and the United States. Her short film ‘Lunching’ is in production with Barley Films Animation Studio and she has been longlisted for the 2012 RTE/Filmbase Short Film Award. Her podcast ‘Getting Better’ went to No. 1 globally in iTunes’ Literature charts, May 2012.

She was featured at NYWF in Australia, the Dromineer Literary Festival and is the Director of Shore Writers’ Festival which took place in Enniscrone at the start of November.

Follow EM Reapy and wordlegs on Twitter @emreapy, @wordlegs, @30under