I began to let myself slip into a commuting coma. Alongside the hundreds of other disengaged members of the public, I was consumed into the screen of my iPhone. Sure, an iPhone is interesting, it’s bloody interesting. Just yesterday I downloaded an app which tells me all the stars that surround me, I navigate it to the North, it tells me what constellations are above me. I navigate to the East, I still struggle to understand how space is EVERYWHERE, and it will tell me that there are some stars in the shape of an animal – amazing.
So I became disengaged from my phone, just like I just became disengaged from my story. It seriously takes me a millisecond to have my mind switch elsewhere. I disengaged, and the first thing I noticed was lots of lines. LINES.
Lines are a funny thing, perhaps it isn’t even worth calling them ‘a thing’. Some connect, some disjoin other things, some stand alone, they are in everything, but until it was a dull Wednesday morning on a Greater Anglia train, I never noticed them.
Fay tried to be honest. She thought of saying:
“No Sonya, the girl sounds dreadful. Just because she’s driven you mad, I don’t see why I should be driven mad too.” She really believed that life would be better if everyone was honest. She thought of saying:
“I do a lot of favours for you, Sonya. This one is going too far.” Or even:
“I’m rather offended that you think I’ve got nothing better to do.”
She pressed the telephone to her ear, and made a stern face at herself in the hall mirror, but her voice came out in a whine.
“But I don’t even speak French. Only schoolgirl. It’ll be dreadfully old fashioned.” Sonya laughed. A great, gurgling laugh that sounded to Fay, as if Sonya was relieved. As if Fay had already agreed to take the girl on.
“You needn’t worry about that, Fay. She never says a word.”
And indeed, Fay was already leafing through her diary. “We could have her Monday, I suppose. But only if Isobel’s free.” She tried to make it clear from the tone of her voice that she was not smiling as she spoke. “ You know what teenagers are like. Isobel may have plans that she hasn’t deigned to tell me, and I don’t think I could manage this on my own.”
So she agreed to spend a day with Sonya’s French student. It was bad enough last year, with Isobel’s French exchange. All the gesturing, the nervous laughter round the bathroom in the morning and her ill disguised distaste for English suppers. There was no scope for honesty with someone foreign in the house.
Nick was standing in the Romance section of his favourite bookstore, and he wasn’t sure what he was looking for – but that’s where he met Lisa for the first and last time.
She was standing in the Science Fiction section. Her almost obsidian eyes scoured the bookshelves, and her scarlet nails slid across the spines, searching. Scratching a single spine, she teased out a colourful edition of a Kurt Vonnegut and absorbed the blurb. Nick and Lisa locked eyes and she smiled. The way her mouth curled at the sides kept Nick’s eyes glued to her. Her curves ignited his imagination. Nick looked down at the Fifty Shades of Grey he was holding and then returned her gaze with a grin that implied only one thing.
Nick shelved the questionable novel and strolled from Romance to Fantasy. Lisa put Vonnegut away and wandered into his fantasies. They stood shoulder to shoulder in silence. He could almost feel her warmth. He picked up a clothbound edition of The Lord of the Rings. Lisa exhaled deeply and moaned; she knew he’d be the one man to rule her heart.
Their fingers twisted together, and their lives became Poetry for a moment. Lisa knew she and Nick were diving head-first into the abyss of lyricism and imagery but, as the excitement of internal rhyme wore off, she wanted something less fictitious, more concrete.
A message flashed up on the computer screen: Josh Widger, check under your bed. Josh blinked a few times, convinced he was hallucinating. The computer desk was wedged under the stairs and vibrated as Maria stomped up to put the kids to bed. Josh stretched and yawned. The message remained. It must be spam, he thought, though it was a strange advert. Maybe someone was playing a joke. He deleted the message.
He almost forgot as he watched television and rubbed Maria’s feet while she dozed next to him, but going to bed reminded him of the message.
I’m a missing person. Not that you’ll find me on any milk carton or across any headlines. No, I’m the reverse: all body and no spirit. No-one at this party knows that I’ve gone. I slipped out a while back, before I pulled apart my tie; before my mother got up to talk about my father, lips bleeding with lies. I most definitely left before then, before the talks. Way before. Not that I could tell you when.
At the downstairs bar, I flick through receipts that were stuffed in my trouser pockets and find a folded fiver, limp and soft, and a bit ripped. I hope they take it. I can’t be bothered to go to the cash point. They ought to; it’s not my fault the fiver has seen better days. It shouldn’t be chucked out because it’s a bit old. The barman notices me but he goes to a woman who’s just arrived at the bar. I’m not surprised, I would have too.
On the opposite side of the bar, a girl is staring at me. I stand up straight. She raises her eyebrows and sweeps the hair off her face. It’s impossible to tell her age, her skin is smooth but there’s something long lived about her; as if she’d circled the sun so many times that she could do it blindfolded and backwards. They say that’s confidence, that self-assurance comes with age. I reckon its exhaustion. I catch the barman’s eye again and put my order in: wine, large.
Kevin Connelly drawn by Paddy Lennon RHA
Kevin Connelly is the author of Fragment of a love story, recovered. A native of Kilkenny City, born in 1955, Kevin is currently living in Duncannon, Co. Wexford.
Kevin has been interviewed on The John Murray Show, Radio1 and the Eclectic Light Show, KCLRadio.
He has read poetry in the Wexford Arts Centre as part of the Cáca Milis Cabaret and on “Imeall”, the Arts programme on TG4. His poetry has received awards in The Black Diamond Poetry Competition, The Frances Browne Multilingual Poetry Competition and Fish Publications Poetry.
His poems have been published in “Boyne Berries” and “”Red Lamp, Black Piano”. In the US he has been published in “The d’Verse Anthology of International Poetry”,”and “The Lilliput Express”. Kevin has had both poetry and flash fiction published as part of the Writers on Board Scheme of the Carnegie Library in Kilkenny.
He regularly reads his work at Harry’s Bar, Langton’s Hotel, Kilkenny and The Fusion Cafe, Wexford.
Matt Harris is the author of CROCODILES and is a writer based in Liverpool whose short work and poetry has appeared in Transmission, Hoax, Winamop and Confingo magazines. Matt has been influenced by a huge number of authors, in particular the wild ideas of Philip K. Dick, the vibrant imagery of Sylvia Plath, and the simple prose of Raymond Carver. Matt has recently completed a full-length novel named The Tourist, a love story inspired by my fascination with travel and foreign places. Outside of fiction, my other great passion is writing and recording music.
Author Q & A
When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, starting with pencil-illustrated monster stories when I was a child and onto navel-gazing epics when I was a teenager. Hopefully I’ve improved since then.