written by Cathal Brogan. Cathal (he/they) is a person from an island off the west coast of Ireland called Aughinish. It was a very rural and isolating experience so growing up writing has become a way for them to explore themselves and the world around them as well as escape from the more judgemental and hurtful people out there.
‘Why the fuck is it raining so hard? It’s supposed to be July for Christ’s sake.’
‘Climate Change. They say the oceans are getting so warm, all the fish are dying.’
‘Probably something we should be doing about that.’
‘Well, you could stop eating that processed shit you call breakfast for starters. Climate scientists say giving up meat is the number one thing people can do to reduce the impact of climate change.’
‘I’ll give up sausages when Taylor Swift gives up her private jet.’
‘That’s just an excuse.’
I’m annoyed now. I thought I had her beat with that Taylor Swift jab, but she isn’t as rattled as I’d hoped she’d be. Worse still, it looks like she’s lingering in the kitchen a while longer, waiting for her porridge to warm up.
I brace myself for the incoming barrage.
‘Why do guys have to make it their whole personality to hate Taylor Swift?’
‘Why do girls have to make it their whole personality to love her?’
‘Nobody except freaks and weirdos actually do that, men just like to use the fangirl stereotype to make women feel shitty for liking things.’
‘It’s amazing how everything is men’s fault in your world. A truly fascinating fantasy you’ve created.’
She’s busy adding honey and almonds to her porridge, fingernails painted black contrast with the white porcelain bowl. I can tell she’s prepping her final insult before she’s out of the kitchen. I can’t let her get the last word, so I don’t.
‘Besides I don’t hate Taylor Swift because she’s girly, I hate her because she’s an extremely overrated, boring as shit pop-star hypocrite who writes shite songs.’
‘You don’t even know Taylor Swift. You just hate her because your ego can’t handle women being happy without men.’
‘Bullshit, Girl in Red is a proper musician, Taylor Swift is just audible wank.’
I can tell I’ve got her there. Girl in Red, my new favourite indie lesbian folk singer, is my ace in the hole.
‘You don’t know Girl in Red. She’s too indie for you.’
‘Course I know her, your music taste just isn’t as interesting as you think it is.’
‘Fuck off John.’
And with that final statement, her and her bowl of porridge are out the door. My victory is secured. Not that it feels like much of a victory. A real victory would be getting her to just shut the fuck up and learn not to bother me during breakfast anymore. But she always does.
I scroll on my phone with one hand and stab a fork into my plate of hashbrowns and sausages with the other. The rain is fast and strong and loud, because of fucking course it is. Because why should I get to enjoy a warm, dry July like every other person in fucking history. I just know too that when I get to work tonight they’ll have some retarded reason why they can’t put me in the doorway and I’ll have to spend the night out on the pavement catching my fucking death.
There’s a horrid sound as I jab at a sausage with my fork unexpectedly hard and instead miss and scrape the fork against my plate.
‘Fucking come on!’ I mutter to myself.
‘Swearing at the delph will hardly make it quieter.’
And here’s my ever charming landlady. 81-year-old Debbie Powers; avid swimmer, bingo player and professional boring as shit old woman.
‘Yeah sorry,’is what I say to her, shut up forever you old bint, is what I think in my head.
Her loose floral dress rustles as she moves past me and, to my horror, turns on the kettle. I need to get into the habit of just eating meals in my room.
‘Out working tonight are you?’
I start shovelling the food in a bit faster.
‘Must be awfully busy on a Friday night like tonight.’
Two hash browns left. Just bite, chew and swallow.
‘Do you ever help out at the bar or is it just purely the bouncing you do?’
God woman take the hint, I don’t want to talk to you.
‘Sometimes I help them move kegs around.’
I’m moving my empty plate and dirty cutlery to the dishwasher just as the kettle audibly clicks with the sound of the water finishing boiling.
‘Oh the dishwasher’s full by the way.’
Of fucking course it is. I start assaulting the plate with a sudsy sponge in the kitchen sink. Debbie keeps talking at me.
‘They must be glad to have you, Pro boxer and all.’
Go fuck yourself Debbie.
My entire career; a bullet point on my C.V.
‘I suppose you won’t get much trouble tonight, not many people willing to play the hard man with a bouncer in that rain.’
My plates and cutlery are rinsed, dried and off into the cupboards and drawers.
‘You said it Debbie.’
Like that, I’m striding out the door, and headed to freedom.
This house, the house Debbie allows Sarah and I to live in, is a fucking kip. It’s one of those fancy Georgian types you can find south of the Liffey, all red-brown brick and white marzipan window sills. Except, of course, the white paint is peeling off in shards and now flecks the overgrown front lawn like dandruff in someone’s hair. The roof is missing several tiles as well, leading to a leak in the attic and the weekly chore of bringing up new buckets to hold the rain and emptying the old full ones out into the back garden.
The interior isn’t any better, she’s got a lot of shit just strewn about the place either in cardboard boxes or just stacked on top of everything else. It makes it fucking frustrating for a 6’4 lad like myself to move around. I’m light on my feet but I’m always having to tense my whole body and stare at the floor just to walk around the rooms on the ground floor, he kitchen, the living room, the dining room. And there’s never anywhere clear and stable to put something down.
Point is, even if the paint on the walls is chipped, the bed is creaky and my window doesn’t open fully .My bedroom is still the nicest room in the house.
I’m good at this sort of thing. My Da passed on some tricks from his army days. They called it “admin.” I know where my shit is and it’s in good condition too, my clothes are folded, my bed is freshly made and I’ve even got my work clothes hanging off the side of my crooked wardrobe. “Master the small things, then you can get started on the big things.” That’s what Coach always said.
Then I pull a chocolate bar out of the stash I keep in my bedside table. I eat half of it before I realise what I’m doing and lob the fucking thing across the room. It snaps into brown shards against my window. Fucking prick.
I change, slowly and quietly, into my work clothes (black shirt tucked into black jeans, dark grey shoes) and get out of there.
After a brief return to get my poxy raincoat and a short-ish walk, I’m at the bus stop. Today my usual bus has decided not to be on time but instead make me wait an extra 15 minutes before it’ll pick me up. I stare at my phone until the bus arrives. The weather app tells me it’s going to be raining for the whole of next week. The news app tells me there’s a Priest up north who’s a Paedophile and some government minister’s wife has been illegally buying property for him. I go on Instagram, see someone I used to go to school with is engaged. I get off Instagram.
The bus arrives and I get on it.
Dublin goes by in a whirl of streaking rain and shades of grey, everything muted and restrained, it’s not until the bus crosses the River Dodder that I start to feel back in my element. It’s still grey, still wet, but there’s noise now and movement and big tall buildings older than most families.
I jog down the quays of the Liffey, rushing around gormless tourists and deliberately ignoring the junkies begging for change from the shelter of untouched doorways.
No place like home, are my last thoughts before I reach my destination.
“Screwdriver” is a shitty nightclub that’s been operating since the 90’s. It’s your typical overcrowded- €12 a drink-cocaine residue in the toilets-type place with everything painted black and everything else lit by red and blue lights. “McLoughlin’s” is a pub, and a pretty bog standard one at that. It’s not the kind of pub that’ll get put in any tourism ads. There’s no knick-knacks or photos on the walls, no tvs blaring any matches and if you ask for food you’ll get given a packet of crisps and a dirty look.
McLoughin’s and Screwdriver used to be two separate entities with a laundromat in between, but around the turn of the millennium that place went bust and so the owners of McLoughlin’s and Screwdriver split the available space in half and each expanded their venues into the laundromat’s old space. Then, even later on, the owner of Screwdriver bought McLoughlin’s and tore down some of the walls separating them to create a singularly owned bar and nightclub, managed and staffed by different people despite being connected by a shared corridor.
I myself always work security for the nightclub part but I’m always on hand to rush in and drag someone out of McLoughlin’s if anyone decides to make a tit of themselves.
Today, I come into the nightclub and sign myself in, then I walk down the corridor and head on into McLoughlin’s.
I don’t like any of the people I work with. They’re all too boring or stupid or bitchy to deal with so I prefer to just sit down in a booth and practice staring at the wall.
Unless she’s in.
Adalina is a short, slightly muscular girl with brown hair and a round face. She works behind the bar most nights while she studies part time to become a solicitor. She’s the only Adalina I’ve ever met and the only one at work I really get along with.
‘Did you know that the Irish for a jellyfish is “smugairle róin”? And that that directly translates to mean “seal snot”?’
This is what I like about her; no fake small-talk bullshit, just whatever random thing she wants to say.
‘Of course I didn’t know that, the only Irish I remember is “cáca milis.”
‘But that’s another weird one, “cáca milis” directly translates into “sweet cake.” But what kind of cake isn’t sweet?’
‘You’re having shit coffee cake if it isn’t sweet.’
‘Fine, whatever. What about banana bread? That’s not very sweet.’
‘Yeah but it’s not cake it’s bread.’
‘It’s called that, but it’s really cake.’
‘No it isn’t.’
‘Would you make a ham and cheese sandwich with it?’
‘Then it’s cake.’
‘I didn’t realise you knew so much about cake.’
‘Well I’ve eaten enough.’
I cringe a little inside. Shite joke.
She doesn’t notice though, instead she snaps her fingers and points at me with sudden realisation.
‘Pancakes! Without any syrup or sugar on it, it’s not sweet at all!’
I ponder this for a second.
‘Yeah, I think you’ve got it dead-on there.’
She smiles and it takes up half her face. It makes me want to ask her questions.
‘What’s the difference between a crêpé and a pancake?’
‘Rich people eat crêpés, poor people eat pancakes.’
I laugh, she smiles some more.
‘Hey Ada, we’ve got to re-stock the bar before our shift starts.’
Fucking Conor. He’s the deputy Bar Manager, so technically he’s Adalina’s boss.
‘Her names’ Adalina, Conor.’
He’s not mine though.
‘I know that, just a little nickname is all.’
‘I do prefer to go by Adalina though.’
He turns to her now and speaks with mock politeness.
‘Would you please come and re-stock the bar, Adalina?’
‘But of course!’ she responds with the same tone and then they’re both gone and I’m left there seething. I think about what a good right hook would do to Conor, how that prick would sound as I smashed his fucking head into the floor. Adalina would like it, even though she’d pretend she didn’t. I could tear that skinny, snide bastard apart with my bare hands and shit it’s time for my shift to start.
I run off and get to work.
* * *
My shift was standard. Wet people came out of the darkness and wet people returned to it. I just stood there and aged.
The bus back home was loud, and cramped with various types of drunk arseholes I’d spent my whole shift trying to get rid of.
But the bus made it to my stop, and off I got, then I tip-toed my way through the house and up to my room.
Now, I am tired. I’m always tired though, it’s just that it’s only before bed that I’m allowed to succumb to it. I move through my going-to-bed routine very slowly and very delicately, like I’m full of splints and IV bags.
Adalina always leaves work before me, so I didn’t get to see her for the rest of my shift. I think about that while I brush my teeth.
When I return to my room I eat chocolate shards off the floor. I swallow and feel so much shame. I check my phone and see Dad is inviting me over to watch TV with him on Sunday. I tell him I have work that day and spend the next two hours browsing Instagram on my phone. I turn it off at 3am and try to go to sleep.
I curl up in the tightest foetal position I can make.
I don’t deserve to be alive.
At some point in the night, I stop being awake.
Image: Untitled 1 by Ross Bradley
Born in Wexford town, Ross (he/him) has spent the recent years of his life, telling their story through the medium of graphite. They have chosen art as a way of life, mainly because it was a way to express themselves creatively, through secondary school, and college.