Some winter fiction.
After Christmas, before the misery of the New Year's Eve scramble for plans, my father said he’d drive me back up to Dublin to see my boyfriend. He hadn’t called down this year. Had taken all the shifts in work he could. I was to bring back the gifts my parents had bought him. Guinness cans wrapped in a blue scarf, which I knew he wouldn’t wear. He was particular about things like that. He would act like his response was reasonable. But I would think it rude. He had spent his childhood abroad and sometimes didn’t know how to move through an Irish world. Lacked the grease and kind lies.
As we drove past junctions and options for food, my abdomen began to hurt. Not in an emergency way. Not in the way you had to beg for scans from a doctor who saw you were a woman and said your cyclical nature was the full stop. Nothing to be done for you here.
As we approached the city, as we watched the sky on the M50 for the proper exit, my heart began to hurt. My throat began to close. I felt allergic to nuts. I keep quiet throughout this episode. The radio was playing Glen Campbell and Declan O’Rourke.
“He’s a fine singer,” my father said, cigarette smoke being pulled out the top of the open window beside him. It wasn’t cold in December anymore, so I didn’t mind.
When we got to the apartment building, I thanked my father for the lift and he said it was nothing. That he needed a break from the madhouse. I rushed into the building, the code coming to me after two fumbling tries. The break from the city had erased my mundane rhythms. When I got to the apartment my keys had legs in my purse. My hands shook. I gave up and ran back towards the building entrance. I watched my father’s van indicate out onto the busy road. This place was built during a time of speculation, too close to the N11. I saw myself standing in the glass reflection of the entrance door. Fluffy socks peeping out of my boots.
I walked back to the apartment, got in eventually and turned on the blinking lights of our small Christmas tree. As the kettle boiled, I cried at the kitchen sink and gulped air. I text my father, “Thank you again. Love you.” He replied thirty minutes later with a photo of a coffee from Junction 14.
That man would wear a scarf made of nettles if I gave it to him and one day, maybe soon if the letters about appointments my mother hid from her children in the kitchen dresser drawer underneath tissue-thin out-of-date tax discs meant anything, he would be gone.
A version of the above was shortlisted for this year’s flash fiction competition run by the Write By the Sea literary festival in Kilmore Quay in County Wexford. I read it in a class tonight and the reaction spurred me to send it out here. If you enjoyed reading this, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to the newsletter. I’ve a deal running below. If you’d like to read something else I made up, a short story called Functioning appeared in Banshee a few years ago.