The Irish Thing

I can hear someone crying. Loud, keening crying. It’s coming from just outside The Castle pub on South Road. There is a light shining on her head and on the heads of the man and woman with her. She is small with a tiny head and thin, straggly hair. It doesn’t sound like crying brought on by booze. It sounds genuine, heartfelt, painful. The man stands a little apart, his arms folded. He leans towards her as if wanting to comfort but not knowing what to do. The woman is talking to her, cajoling. C’mon, she says clearly trying to cheer her, do the Irish thing.

I walked the other way this morning, encountering the usual noise and antics of a Saturday night in this student-heavy town. Music boomed out of the Pier Pressure night club. A police car’s blue light pulsed, sending electric blue echoes flickering across windows, lamp posts and rubbish bins. Nothing seemed to be happening, no visible sign of a melee. The air was thick with the reek of fried chicken and pizza. Drunken boys tumbled out of the club making their way up Pier Street to join the crowd outside the Why Not? to jostle, play fight and shout before running and stumbling down Darkgate Street. Cannibalism isn’t quite the same as being disabled, one lad shouted to his mates as they walked towards the SPAR.

I welcome the peace of death, that loosening of those blood ties that tangle me in knots. Now that we no longer have to fight for food we have to learn how to live, said the economist in his final programme. Yes, isn’t that so? I long to start again. Like the begun-again quilt, re-started in an effort to get it straight, right, perfect. Will death bring me that? I have no wisdom that I can access for this. I don’t know her. I don’t understand her and yet the blood connection is there, indelibly. Is it enough to muddle along? I am to meet another stranger today so as to talk in my mother’s tongue. It made me so stressed last week. I want to do it, but I get so edgy. And the words are clumsy in my mouth. It is just practice, I know this. Do they mind? E was so sweet, so earnest. What of A?

A still morning. All cleaning done. He is out reading papers and drinking coffee. He plays with our word, using it now all the time. I was cross-patchy, irritated with hoovers and wanting to rest. A heavy tiredness assails me. But I can’t give in, not yet. I’ve booked it anyway. Another’s silence like that is all too familiar. Go anyway. Be brave. Present yourself, ready to love.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.