Cherry Tree

The first raindrop
upon my rooftop.
The first teardrop
singular and lonely on my cheek.
But I’m not grieving,
no, I’ve just stopped believing
in the undying truth
of the words I’ve yet to hear you speak.

The first star dies
in my black skies.
The first fallen sun
so graceful in decline.
And I’m not leaving,
my heart is only bleeding
at the thought of losing
what we might find.

Watch me, watch me fall.
You make me feel too much.
Watch me, watch me lose
my heart to you.
I surrender
I surrender it now.

One cherry tree
still holds its blossoms.
I want to stand beneath it with you
and watch them fall.
We will catch them in handfuls
and I will kiss you
until the petals coat the ground
and I can’t feel at all.

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Exhaustion

My college assignments are winding to a close, and I have never been so tired in my life. As a control freak and a perfectionist, I think all these group projects are going to be the death of me. I’m currently sitting working my way through a 30-page report, trying desperately to whip it into shape and omit the bucket loads of inconsistencies and repetitions.

I have another week to go after today, but the worst of it will be over by the end of the day. Apparently I’m then going out and getting drunk, but I’m finding it hard to imagine how I’ll have the energy to stand by then. I feel like I haven’t slept in a week.

I feel like all I’ve been doing is working solidly all day, and then re-reading one of Maggie O’Farrell’s books for a while in the evening before sleeping. So my life has turned into this hazy strange place, where I find it hard to remember if some of the story lines twisting around in my head are mine or the character’s. I find life sort of folds into itself when I’m busy and stressed and don’t have time to just sit and think, or write.

Anyway, it’s 5 to 12 and I have to be in college in a few hours to meet one of my group members and finish this thing off. Wish me luck, I may be a crazy ball of messy non-human by tonight…

Demise

Every time she woke, she felt she had lost something. The confusion was numbing. She would hold her breath, hold her muscles completely still, containing the panic. Then she would remember. It was not so much remembering as realising she had known all along. It was like waking in a bath and realising you were submerged in water. She remembered herself.

But there was still always something missing. A corner puzzle piece, it seemed small and vital. And it would drop slowly, becoming larger and larger as it loomed above her, and then she knew. It was catastrophic. She was not nineteen anymore. She was sleeping in a strange bed. She was a stranger.

A jolt of fear electrifies her; she realises there is someone in the bed beside her. The sunlight streaming from a gap in the curtains plays on the peaks and troughs of his shape under the covers. His body is angled away from her but his head is turned in her direction, his dark curls splaying out on the pillow. The unfamiliar eyelids suddenly fly open and he looks straight at her with unfathomable eyes. She leaps in fright and confusion from the bed.

The past few days, or weeks, are present in her mind but are clouded, foggy. The man in the bed is unfamiliar but she knows she has been sharing this bed with him for some time now. A vacuum of forgotten years yawns behind her. This man fits in somewhere amongst these lost years, like a piece of a long lost jigsaw puzzle extricated from a crack in the couch. For a moment, they look at each other uneasily, she and this man-shaped puzzle piece.

She sits, turning her back on him. A full length mirror mocks her from across the room. She ignores it. She sit on the big white bed and stares at the carpet. She follows its green pattern from swirl to swirl, her eye moving with the shapes across the floor. She tries not to think about this big double bed and what has happened in it, what it means. She tries not to look at the unfamiliar objects. Her things, her objects.

With some reluctance, she begins to look around. She stands up and takes in the room; the green curtains; the floor-to-ceiling built-in wardrobe. She wants to look at the clothes in it, but she is afraid. Instead, she turns and studies the bed again, studiously avoiding meeting her husband’s gaze. Her side is the left side; female objects clutter the bedside table. Nail scissors, moisturiser, a half-used packet of the Pill. The damages foil spaces of the popped pills speak to her of loss. She picks up a lipstick and inspects its garish shade with scientific interest.

A sudden noise startles her; he is rising from the bed and is pacing across the room, pulling open the wardrobe door. He starts to pull on clothes furtively, hiding his naked body from her. Are you late for work? It’s an innocent question, but he stops and stares at her. No, he replies slowly. I work from home.

There is a silence more weighted than the situation seems to call for. They stare at each other like cats, wary and thoughtful. Then he straightens, and leaves the room. The front door slams.

***

She was as alien to him as he was to her. He would wake some mornings before her and lie awake trying to figure out her profile. The curve of her ear seemed more complicated than he remembered; her shoulders were confusing. Her shorn hair was the only part of her that made any sense. It at least acknowledged the change, the difference.

Unwilling to face the realities of the day, he lies now with his eyes closed. He knows she is awake; he can feel the tension emanating from her taut, still form. He wants to avoid this moment of truth, to wait on the sidelines until she has found some equilibrium or coping mechanism, but his curiosity gets the better of him. He opens his eyes to find her watching him with an expression of fascinated horror on her features.

The panic, the leaping from the bed, is all familiar. This has become a ritual, a routine, a grotesque repetition. She moves visibly back and forth from incomprehension to understanding, and he finds himself hoping, as comprehension settles visibly on her face, that she has remembered him.

It is not that their life had been perfect, before. He watches her now, sitting herself carefully back down on the bed and staring fixedly at the floor, and tries to feel as he had then. Some days she had felt like an extension of himself; almost as though he had invented her perfection. He had once lain entwined with her at night, his face pressed into her thick auburn hair; and the line between me and her blurred and vanished.

But at other times she had been alien, impenetrable. One day, she had come home in the evening with her hair cut short around her ears. He never forgot that day, the sense of loss and bewilderment and the tears he struggled to hold back. And on cloudy, cheerless mornings, he had often found himself thinking that although there was nothing wrong about their relationship, there was nothing right about it either.

He has lost her now. But the suddenness, the whole and complete nature of his loss, is paralysing. To let go might be easy but his fingers are locked tight. He feels as though he is teetering at the edge of a steep drop, clutching to a cliff-edge with his toes. She is looking around the room now, studying the objects on the bedside table. With a sort of careful but detached interest, she picks up a lipstick and studies it with a vacant expression on her face. He feels a sudden but violent urge to wrench it from her hands and fling it away.

The drop yawns below him and suddenly he needs its escape. He pulls on clothes like protective armour, but her voice breaks through it. Are you late for work? The question is like a blow. He looks at her again but cannot find her in her own face. They are strangers pretending intimacy.

He takes a deep breath and jumps.

 

Published in The Bell, 2012 – UCD English & Literary Society (University College Dublin)

Becoming a Librarian

Apparently, becoming a librarian is a lot of hard work. I’m learning this the hard way, becoming qualified for the job via a year-long Masters degree. I am well aware that I witter on a lot about how much college work I have to do before the beginning of May, but seriously guys. Seriously. It’s serious.

So serious that insomnia, my old friend, has returned for a visit. I’m not even aware of my levels of stress until I try to relax in the evening and realise that I have a knot of anxiety resting just above my stomach. If I think about it hard enough, I feel as though I could cry. I might even feel better if I did, but all I can manage is a sort of manic glint in my eye.

Anyway, my dad doesn’t like me bringing his dSLR back to my apartment, and I wouldn’t have anything to photograph or time to photograph it in around here anyway. But I might stick up an old photo or two soon. I do have my point & shoot here though, which produces the occasional nice photo, so I guess really I’m just too tired and busy.

I really like the immediacy of photography for tiding me over creatively during these manic times, though. Writing something sometimes doesn’t take me long, but only if I’m in the right mood for it. Painting, drawing, writing and recording a song – all pursuits beyond my reach right now. But I love that I can go outside with my cat, my dad’s camera, and preferably some sunshine, and within half an hour or so might have a few photographs out of 100 that I actually really like.

I think if I ever do get “serious” creatively it’ll be with writing rather than visual mediums, but you never know. I’m excited for the summer when I might have more time get out and wander around with a camera, and see where it all goes. I’m hoping that it will lead me back to drawing and painting. I’d love to find my medium with visual art – maybe this year I will.

Mermaid

We met as children. When I was seven, pale and skinny and already taller than all the other boys, a new girl joined our school class of scruffy and boisterous children. Her name was Judith Mirsky, and she had an English accent. She was demure, with an impassive face, straight brown hair and deep chocolate eyes. In her ochre-coloured school uniform, she looked like a sepia-tinted photograph. Next to us, with our ruddy cheeks and bright sea-grey eyes, she was like a glimpse of the past.

She glanced around the classroom at us from under a long fringe and hid her small hands in the pockets of a brown coat that was too big for her. But despite her apparently timid nature, despite her alien accent and appearance, she was greeted with curiosity rather than hostility.

In class, she was quiet, but knew the answers. Out in the schoolyard, Judith was transformed. She ran faster than anyone else and laughed harder than anyone else. A red flush seeped like blood from two pin points high on her pallid cheeks; her eyes turned jewel-bright amber. She became abrupt and sharp, the kind of girl who would pinch you when you weren’t looking, but not hard.

Judith and I were not exactly friends. And yet, her presence was notable throughout my childhood. We would bump into one another at the supermarket. Our mothers stopped to make small talk, and we made faces at each other across the laden shopping trolleys. She came to my ninth birthday party, and broke Steven’s action figure, because he wouldn’t let her play pirates with the boys. When we were in fifth class, we were both enrolled for swimming classes at the local swimming pool.

I had been to the beach on July days when the dull Irish sun deigned to shine. My father had waded into the sea with me, water streaming in rivulets through his chest hair, and held me afloat in the water, his big hands under my torso. I kicked and splashed, but as soon as he let go, I sank spluttering under the waves.

My experience thus far with swimming had therefore not instilled me with much confidence. Emerging from the warm, damp changing room into the cool air of the connecting corridor, I walked carefully along the ledges of the green tiled pond of disinfectant to avoid getting my feet wet. The clamouring echoes of the pool made my head ring, and I could feel goose bumps erupting on my skin as I approached the edge of the water. Several of the shivering children lined at the edge of the pool were in my class, and Judith was one of them.

There was no part of me that wanted to learn how to swim. Even my toes seemed to curl up in dismay at the prospect. They retreated back from the edge of the swimming pool with a mind of their own. ‘No!’ my knees shouted in agreement. The hair all over my body strained away from my skin in a desperate attempt to distance itself from the body that was, inexplicably, about to immerse itself in this expanse of deep water.

The children who could swim were separated from those who could not.

‘I’m a mermaid’, Judith said, poking me sharply in the ribs before joining the other group. I was eleven, far too old for believing things. But, I wanted to believe her. When I watched her small, lithe body writhe and contort under the water, I could almost, at times, see a flash of a tail fin, a scaly underwater glint.