Aye

She stood losing a staring contest with the new coffee machine before stepping aside for a copper. He overtook her on autopilot to resume the universal challenge of early morning indifference. Both of them united by separation anxiety from its predecessor. One that might’ve gurgled back in protest but didn’t tease regulars with fancy moves. Like dispensing hot water then pausing for a round of applause before introducing the headline act to the cup.

That’s when I invaded her peripheral vision with the offer of a lid they thought hip to hide from view, startling her in a manner usually reserved for catching my own reflection.

Ah. It’s yourself. I was away in another world there.

A world of under-eye shadows from Intensive Care Unit hours she’d been keeping; under eyes no bigger than curled up confetti from going through her revolving car-door leaving no time for make-up.

How are things?

Aye. OK. He’ll spend another week in ICU, then home. But recovery will be slow. It’s hard on Mum but there’s hardly a family we know that’s not affected by it. Is there, like?

Aye. True.

Everything else is much the same. The boys are fine. Still fighting over Power Rangers cards. You know yourself. Is your wee one not into them things yet? Lucky you. They’re a bloody torture.

Aye. She’s a big Celtic fan though, I conceded, finally settling my end of the subtle transaction of child inspired annoyance. Like her Da. So, you know yourself, kinda awkward on sports day.

[In unison] Aye!

And with that we awkwardly strung out our goodbyes until she reached the till and the poppy on the lapel of her padded coat faded to something vaguely resembling a blood donor badge on a shrunken duvet. One she could cheerfully disappear under.

Aye. That’s not the only awkward day. I wondered what would she think if she knew I pulled my wee one from Remembrance Assembly last week. The one her two boys skipped into along with every other wee one from what I could gather on Facebook, where all the best rights are violated. Shouldn’t I have sent in her in there? Isn’t this what integrated education is all about?

Aye. According to the stock imaged posters, and those misty-eyed promos featuring Liam Neeson selling us the benefits of holding hands across the playground in a non-threatening voice. There he is. All whispery, beatifically laying his hand on a shoulder as the camera pulls away to reveal me gnawing my fist. For fuck’s sake, Liam. Too many people already think integrated education is for pretentious wankers and toffs. Ham up the local brogue there like a good man.

Aye. OK. I made that last bit up.

Of course it’s for bloody toffs you stupid eejit, pointed out my friend diplomatically. You have to drive to get to it!

Aye. Right enough.

And where does your wee one go, the integrated?, enquired a colleague condemned to my front passenger seat longer than should ever be necessary.

Aye.

Aye?

Aye.

Fair play til ya. Our ones see it as a Unionist school where we’re the guests.

Aye?

Oh aye.

Wait a second. So there’s no Irish at all?, another mate re-checked, ramping up the incredulity.

Aye.

Lucky fuckers.

Aye.

 

blood

Join the army today! 

 

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Supposing…

When my words step backwards down into the page, they capsize and stubbornly attach themselves to the expanse in ways that duck my reach before drifting ashore in my hair from where I’ll embarrassingly pick them out days later, frayed and indecipherable to the untrained squinter. “Is that something in your hair?” “Ah yes”, I squint, dislodging it from its hiding place behind my ear, “it appears to be a question mark”.

That there will come a time when she won’t let me square why? with the why not? Of Rememberance Assembly attendance.  Of wearing that hooped jersey on sports day. Of being the Other of three categorically divided by Two.

I was to go one tip-toe further with a pre-emptive why not? at the why. Of the hidden fadas. Of invisible hurleys. Of being the Other of three unquestioningly divided by One.

We were keep-the-head-downers, mixed-marrieds centrists, holders of wringed hands clasped in prayer, would-be gleaming side-stepfording governors.

We’d all be Other than who We are then.

 

Body of evidence

The deck of cards is not needed now.
Slap it sideways on the kitchen table
Until it has break-danced itself
into sanctuary behind the Joker
Howling in our faces all along.
A jester holding appeals over the courtship
of righteousness and misdirection;
Chaperoned by those salt-of-the-moon types
Saucer-eyed out stationed destination’ed trains.
Incandescent with dullness and clapping
with all the force of a sigh of Iarnrod Eireann passengers
arriving within the hour of the hour.
The jury of the unamused should not fooled by.. by…
Objections, Your Honour.
Overruled
Over rules?
Sustained. The defence may call its sole witness.
Witness flings itself through the door
Rolling inanimately atop four-legged determination.
The defendant is ordered to place the needle delicately
on its infinite radial of plaintive cries,
underlain with pedal-raising feats of piano notes
subdued just enough to spark her synapses back into being.
Igniting her body along the flammable strip of her sashay
Before a creep-up of drumbeats begs her
to lose her footing causing her to trip
Headfirst onto a confetti of harmonica.
Zig-zigging to and fro in an eight-shaped
Skate-figured skim over what doesn’t matter now
Held up by the reverb from what mattered then.
Gripping her hips with the fellowship of disparition that
Compresses her track-by-track into an artist’s impression of
foetal desperation that when turned up
reveals her brandishing a mic mid-air
in defiant electrification.
The jury of the infused finds her gilded.

Shot through the heart!

And you’re to blame *cups ear*  ….you give… that’s it…..a bad…

Beautiful singing, dot comrades. Like an Enya album speeded up to 45. Irresistable that tune, init?  A bit like the keyboard.

I hope you’re all doing grand and the sunlight isn’t causing too much of a nasty glare on your screen. As if internet enthusiasts haven’t enough to contend with. Sleep. Other people. Driving. Eating. The barriers are many but we battle through. Some of us towards other forms.

I’ve carried out the threat of tinkering beyond the long-form rambling into a more disciplined method with a new location for same. It may be short-lived. It may not. Shrugs. All visitors, snoopers, lurkers, and Enya/Chris deBurgh very welcome.

http://www.fourleggedwords.com

🙂

Full Stop

The screen that first looked back in blank defiance

The defiant North typing up the drama queen’s highway

The crowning of her and him with words they’ll never see

The sight of the first of a million abortion stories already told

The last shelter of cherished anonymity giving it away for free

The feeling of standing beneath a downpour of thoughts unblocked

The poring over of puddles of muddles without a reigncoat on

The top fives, the Bono-bashing, the back-tracking, the track-listing

The listlessness, the taking the pissness, the carelessness

The fall into a deep comma, the semi-colonoscopies and

The

Final…

.

 

An Easter rising

‘Share Your Story’

There was an invitation I didn’t receive every day. By receive, I mean what I stumbled on while frittering away time on the net, when one click inevitably led to another until the words stared back from the screen. Glared back with an arched brow. Like a gauntlet rolled across my eye-line landing abruptly in front of my finger-tips. Like my past tapping me on the shoulder having finally caught up after losing me on and off over the years. Here was my chance to turn around to have an encounter with what I never quite managed to shake off. Or share.

My story. Would I even have enough words to knead a story from them? Was the unsolicited offer of money from my friend the beginning of it? Or was it the umpteen tests that didn’t require the mandatory three minutes to be sure. Maybe it was the surreptitious tearing off of back pages from Marie Claire, or the relentless counting down of days and up of weeks in sheer disbelief on fingers that never ceased shaking; struggling to reconcile what was with what couldn’t possibly be. Could it? Was the return flight landing the end of it, or merely the middle, before the suspected infection landed me at a GP’s door? At the top of steps I’d never climbed before or since, and only out of necessity then because she had a reputation for being sympathetic.

And yet, all I can think of when confronted with this blank page is the red-headed girl who lay next to me in the recovery room.

I had a good ten years on her by then, though we were only counties apart. Same airline. Same stage. Booked in for the same procedure. I see her yet, pale, and anxious to return to her friend waiting at reception; both of us recovering on loungers as if on some exclusive spa retreat. To the manor born; dealing with our unborn.

Did she feel the same pain afterwards? Did she know to get Ibuprofen when nothing else worked? Did she wonder if the contractions she felt were like the labour she would not go through with this time? Did she go into combat against thoughts of never being given a second chance? Did she, too, go back to her daily grind immediately?  The relief from not colliding with anyone she knew in either airport still palpable…

I catch sight of her still in other teenagers. She would be 30 now. Two years older than what I was then. Old enough to have known better, they would say; whoever they are.

On that day, we became the ‘they’ that they draw sharp intakes of breath about in pulpits and pamphlets. We’ve been listening to stories about ourselves ever since. Stories I rarely recognise as my own.

The next day, I sat in a café, high on relief from being able to drink coffee again. Swinging down the Tottenham Court Road; buoyed up on secrecy, and a surreal certainty that nothing would ever be the same again, and everything would be exactly as it was before.

And here I am, almost fourteen years to the day later, the extent of the sharing of my story never having exceeded the number of people I can count on half of those same fingers. Until tonight.

I am participating in the ‘Share your abortion story’ initiative held in a discreetly disclosed location in Dublin City Centre. Final arrangements e-mailed, we are assured we can sign-in with a different name, if we so wish. I decline the option to be anyone else. It feels liberating to be me.

One by one, we take it in turn to read aloud over the next four weeks, retracing our steps along the choices we made; each story alive with the detail of exactly how it was then. Each reading followed by silence. Not the silence we are accustomed to when it comes to having our stories acknowledged, but a kind that lets pens glide across pages, delivering considered responses to mobilise us along our common quest to get it down. Pages gathered up to take away as we take our leave till next time.

The obliqueness of my story is evident to all. I have grown adept at disguising this chapter of my history over the years. The crushed heart I harboured at the time following the death of a seven year relationship is hidden from the listener; replaced by a hesitancy to share too much for fear it might trigger the slightest whiff of justification. I am not here for that. This much I know.

So what is my story exactly? It is one of fleeting comfort from unexpectedly finding myself in the arms of a friend at a time of rebound, one who celebrated the birth of his daughter with a former partner he reconciled with two months later. It’s a tale of sorrow at being marooned on a lonely place deserted from certainty, without the financial or mental means to make my own life work, never mind that of another. It’s the saga of a regrettable situation, but a decision taken without regret. It’s a one time thing, that happens a lot. It’s not the easiest one to tell, but one impossible to forget.

So why now after 14 years am I sharing it? There is no expiry date on the memory of our stories, or to the seeming right of others to assume copyright over what it was that we experienced, or what it was not. I answered the rap on my screen, opening it to the offer of a pen to take back the story I didn’t give permission for anyone else to tell. It was the first time I was asked.

For fourteen years, I have occupied a seat of nationally orchestrated silence at the foot of the altar of Official Ireland from where I am spoken about as though I am not in the room; where I am legislated for as if I were a headless surrogate for Mother Ireland and all her new-borns she will only commit to cherishing as children. Governed by unequivocal rulings that obscure the complexities of individual lives, and condemns grown women like me to fugitives from our own bodily and moral integrity; then onward to shameful silence on our return from Unofficial Ireland. Or the country commonly known as England. A nation that now counts my own daughter among its number. A new generation that appears destined to inherit the same unassailable, unsanctioned stigma presided over by the clerically-appointed custodians of their reproductive rights.

I believe that, like mine, their private lives should be sanitised of unauthorised public shaming, and all our confiscated wombs returned to us, stripped of competing graffiti and religious paraphernalia.

If the first casualty of war is truth, then sharing mine is a weapon I’m willing to fire. To begin to recover my lost voice; to reclaim the silence between the words never spoken. Until now.

With thanks to Angela Coraccio and fellow participants

The long goodbye

Sometimes this blog reminds me of a slow lingering break-up I endured in my late 20s/early 30s/early 60s. You know instinctively that once the love has faded, it’s impossible to rekindle. But that didn’t stop me from unpicking the wound before it had a chance to stop bleeding nevermind hatch a scab.

We’ve had the silent treatment, the exasperated sighs of it’s-not-you-it’s-me. I even went so far as to delete all remnants of the url and change the lock. There was also final rolling credits so there would be no mistaking it for a quick commercial break. I began to see other social media without really enjoying the promiscuity. But I could always be seduced by the unfettered sound of my own voice. The familiar scent of anonymity reeling me in back onto the unmade keyboard to undress thoughts from the banal to the ridiculous.

The fee on this blog expires on Sunday next. I’m not going to renew it. Readers move on, and eventually writers catch up with them as they lose their zeal and their motivations stray elsewhere.  The desire to write hasn’t waned, it just needs a new hanger to avoid further creases. Being a mixed ability person, it took me a while to twig this. That I stuck at a blog for three years is an unrivalled feat, as those of you who know me can verify.  I am not known for my sticking power. Or staying in the same place too long. And only two of you know me back on Earth.

Anonymity is fast-becoming a dirty word, which seems a shame.  It is a safe place for the reluctant speaker. A pixelated photo disguising folk to give them freedom to think and protect those around them. And yet, in its own not entirely unpredictable way, anonymity has managed to grip my flow in a headlock. It’s a relief of sorts because even I no longer enjoy the rigid privacy. Hey, ask me anything. Still, all credit to it for giving me a workshop to store my scraps of thoughts and tinker about with them in peace.

For a woman with too much to say at times, I was surprised my own favourite works were those cobbled together from few words. So, I’m thinking of downsizing and trading in lengthy posts for a crack at shorter formats. I might throw myself into a poetry workshop of some sort. By some sort, I mean an on-line version where I can avoid civility, eye-contact, and shame. I might even get a blo… oh, nothing .

Thanks a million for giving me an aul follow and crowd-funding my own form of madness with your presence. Next stop with a few of you is a pint. It’ll happen some time. G’luck with your own respective life-enduring endeavours. You’ve got to do what you must. Blogger today, Enya-impersonating taxidermist tomorrow. Who knows.

So long.

Insert awkward hug here.