Back in the boom (shake shake the room), Ardal O’Hanlon quipped that the arrival of Eastern European communities meant Irish folk could finally use the WXYZ sections of their address books. Too late for the tattered book in my folks’ house. You know the one; every household has one. Ours is usually sandwiched between the latest regional phone directory and an envelope bulging with memorial cards passed on from grieving friends and relatives down the years. That dog-eared antique had barely margins available by the millennium, and now doubles up as a whistle-stop tour of the lives of the off-spring.
It’s no coincidence the only numbers scribbled in the back pages next to a ream of scored-through dodgy addresses (up-and-coming actually *flings nose in air*) include: Western Union, PPS numbers, NI numbers, bank accounts, and the numbers of payphones on many a draughty landing. There’s also the number of the local pizza delivery service. Emergency information, in short.
All of page X and most of Y (why? indeed) are taken up with a string of residential dots that join up to my current cell, while one brother squats all over Z. It’s no coincidence either that the more ..shall we say.. solvent..siblings have barely a page between them. Losers. But enough of this exploitation of any opportunity to project my personal failings on to them.
This week’s form-filling tasks involved listing my previous addresses stretching back over various criminally dodgy hair-dos. The final tally came in at well above twenty. Barring the mothership, I’ve been in the current one the longest. It’s no coincidence I’m…etc. etc.
I couldn’t remember if that flat where the crazy Spaniard cut up my beloved Rocketdogs in an impressive act of revenge was number 27 or 29. There was that street I remember because it sounded like vulva, and I still have occasional flashbacks of my first bedsit in Grosvenor Square. Nasty ones that feature woeful attempts at flirting with the professional cameraman who lived upstairs (“Oh, I like photography, too”), and almost killing my landlady who lived in the basement flat with my amateur DIY skills. Yikes.
Turning the corner into our road last week, I spotted the giveaway signs of another house I lived in three doors down even though I’ve never set foot in it. The living room blind hangs at half-mast as a mark of respect to the new arrival, and an invitation to day-light to come in and sit down. The blanket-draped handle of the pram the only visible sign of life.
Late at night, the dim glow from the corner of the upstairs window is barely noticeable. In the mornings, I occasionally pass the same midwife who ordered our blind up, our heating down, and straddled me on my own bed with a nipple protector. Glancing in my rear-view I see her pull up at their driveway.
I’ve heard of folk returning to their former home-places unannounced because they happened to be in the area and fancied a nose-around. I’ve thought about knocking on the door with the offer of something, but I think we only exchanged hellos once by the milk shelf in the local shop. The thoroughly modern neighbourly relationship that could get you reported for stalking if you smiled.
I wonder what she’s done with the place. Moses basket or crib. Does the double-bill of Frasier herald the transition into normal morning time as she once knew it inbetween never-ending rounds of toast? If she’s not dressed by noon will she bother her arse getting dressed at all? If she isn’t dressed in another three months, will she make it out the door confidently by six? Who knows what goes on behind closed doors.
This fridge has no pâté. Quick! Call the parenting line!
Still, I’m curious if her best laid plans include trips to the cinema; whether she has friends and family nearby, and if she wishes everyone would just fuck off and come on over, at exactly the same time. Does she attempt a few selfies with the child for her mates overseas that won’t ever be sent but will actually look not so bad in hindsight. Will her hindsight rely on these photographic artefacts to jog her memory of these early days when she became a fugitive from certainty. Is she wishing she could sleep when her baby does or has she quit trying to grab hold of that mythical lifeline, and taking perverse pleasure in pâté and re-runs of One Born Every Minute by mid-afternoon instead. Does she wonder if she took a shit during labour and suspects everyone present protected her from the truth, or does she not…give a shit.
Might she, one day, a few years from now, recognise a half-hanging blind in a nearby house. Will she mentally push the door open and step inside to check what’s on the telly, anxiously note the room temperature reading, take comfort in the disarray, survey the contents of the cupboards, check the fridge door for photos of the baby’s Da at knee-level. Maybe run her eye over the CD collection to see how the child is likely to turn out. Will she scan the walls of the nursery for an infestation of animal stickers that threaten to bring her out in a rash. Will she baulk at the notion of calling it a nursery. Will she open the wardrobe to a dose of pink clothes that risk giving her diabetes unless she closes it again quickly? Will she at last be able to put a name on the feelings she felt back then and shake her head at the ruthless competition that ensued between them. Will she curse her inability to curate that phase from anything other than the splinters from mislaid memories?
And will she wonder if she’s the only eejit that looks up a house she’s never been in, longing to sit in it for just a little while longer.