Waiting for Rabbits #1 – Bertha Mason and the Married Roommate

As I come to the end of my four years of college, I find myself in quite a reflective mood. Each day is a melancholy trip down memory lane as I prepare to move out of my college home of Dundalk. As I am a sentimentalist, I wish to have as many records of my time here. The best moments have been lamented in photographs and a #throwbackthursday Facebook post. But to maintain balance, and to ensure that my future self doesn’t look back on these ‘glory days’ as picture perfect memories, I now begin a blog series about the worst moments in college, which can be summarised in one word. Roommates.

First Year

At some point in my childhood, my mother stopped making my lunch for school. This was never a problem, I probably took over one day and she just let me. My parents always left me to be independent, much to my loner selfs delight. I classed myself as independent from early in my teenage years. I enjoyed learning new things such as how to make my own dinners, how to use the washing machine, what to do if the electricity trips, you know…basic survival in a house. So the prospect of living away from my parents was never daunting. What did catch me off guard was the suddenness in which it happened. Within a matter of days, I went from my cushy life in Dublin to being dropped off in the back of housing estate in Dundalk. My parents drove me up, we dropped off my stuff, I picked a room, we went for dinner, we bought the essentials -tea bags and tomato ketchup- and they left me in my new home.

The first night in 73 Rockfield was perhaps one of the darkest nights of my life thus far. Here’s the setup. The house was on the end of a row of houses. When you walk in the door there is the staircase in front of you. To your left is a door into the front room and kitchen. To your right is a locked door that I was told I could never open. Red flag No.1

The landlady was a woman by the name of Martina, she and my mother bonded over their shared birth names. Martina emerged from behind the house, not through the front door. Shortly after her mysterious warning that I could never open the door, she explained. The house had an extension, like a granny flat. In this extension is where Martina lived. She stated this as if it was normal, but I read Jane Eyre and a locked off section of a house with a woman living in it ends in bizarre happenings and a fire, both of which would happen later during my time here. Martina asked that all the month’s rent be sent to an account with the name “King..” something or other. Red Flag Numero dos. Now if you’re reading this with the anticipation that I will eventually explain who King something or other is, I’m sorry but I’ll disappoint you now instead of later by stating that I never met his majesty, the King and he remains a mystery to me to this day.

This brings us to the darkest night, literally. So turns out I had moved in earlier than Martina and the King expected, so they had yet to turn on the electricity in my ‘wing’ of the house. My room was cold, empty and bare. I assured myself that once I settle into bed with a cup of tea and a movie I’d feel more secure. Apparently, my privileged existence thus far had led me to momentarily forget about my lack of electricity. So I had no computer, no wifi, no way of charging my phone, no light to read a book. Although the only book I had with me was my yearbook and I was already feeling sad that I had to leave my friends behind so that would have added insult to injury. Regardless, my optimism persevered and I took to the kitchen. By the light of dark blue September sky, I found joy in the knowledge that the stove was gas – not electric, and it did in fact work. The tap, it had running water. I had tea bags, a cup and room temperature milk. My night didn’t seem so dark. Until I found the pot. The only pot in my humble abode was rusted and flaking. I didn’t realise this until after the water was boiled, you know with all the darkness and that. So tea bag in cup, I pour in the water and notice my cup becoming littered with pieces of the pot. Desperate, I took the cup of tea up to my room and drank it anyway.

So it’s about 10:30pm, I am sitting on the cold wooden floors, drinking a rust filled cup of tea, in darkness. I think about where I am, and how I got here. I don’t remember how long I sat there for, mainly because my phone had died. I don’t cry, I don’t laugh. I am just alone.

Now there are 2 kinds of people, if any, reading this right now. One is feeling sad for me, one is going “oh boo hoo your life is so sad”.  I hear your sympathy and sarcasm and I want you to know that I don’t write this to encourage either reaction. I write this to remind myself of when life seemed darkest now that I sit in a room with blistering sunshine. I write as at the time, I was at the top of my game. I had a great group of friends, I had finished my leaving cert, I had gone to Debs. It felt like I had peaked and my life would only get better. But I had just been knocked by to a -literal- dark age. This night, it thought me a number of lessons that I would only realise in the following years. But that’s for another post, for now, lets get on with the roommates.

I plan to write a number of blog posts about my many roommates, and while I doubt any of them will ever read this, I will give them a pseudonym. My experience with roommates is that they have been messy, smelly and generally unwanted in my life, for these reasons I will name each roommate after a type of cheese.

Brie

Now Brie was the first roommate and by far the most complex of them all. Two days after moving into the house, I was out with a friend of a friend who was showing me around Dundalk when the landlady called. She told me that one of the roommates had moved in so they would be there when I arrive home. Later that evening I arrived back to a dark house -there was electricity at this stage. I called out “Hello” like some idiot in a horror movie, but no answer. I quickly made my way up to my room when I notice the door at the end of the hall was closed. I call out “Hello” once again no answer. So I knock on the door and hear a crash, a mumble and the door swings open. A tall dark haired man stood in front of me with eyes squinted. I introduced myself and soon realised he wasn’t in any mood to talk to anyone. I left and went downstairs to make a cup of tea – minus the rust. Not long after the kettle boiled, Brie joined me. Apologising for being dismissive, we sat in the living room for a chat. It should be noted that at this stage I was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings so having a roommate who wanted to chat over tea was yet another relief. Although one thing that baffled me was that Brie drank boiled water, as he put it “it helps with anxiety”. We talked for over an hour, I learned that he was in 3rd year of Computer science in the college. We got on well and I was happy to have company in the house, we even had a little bitch about how weird it was that the landlady lived behind the locked door. At one point Brie awkwardly said, “there are no bars for people like me up here”. I quickly picked up what he was putting down, he was referring to gay bars. I said, “that’ll be the same for me so”. We spoke in code like 2 gay spies sussing each other out at some sort of money drop.

Brie and I became friends fairly fast and I started to learn more about him. He was a loud personality with little regard for personal hygiene. We got on well and it was nice to have a roommate to talk to when I came home every day. After about a month of living together is when I started to notice something odd about Brie. He spoke about a woman lets call her Cheddar. The other roommates knew Brie was texting Cheddar and I overheard that Brie was clearly angry about this woman. But I didn’t ask for a while. My memory is hazy so I’ll just sum up what happened. I soon learned that Brie and Cheddar were married. They had a child together and Cheddar was pregnant with their second child. I discovered this after several weeks of living with him. I got a bit curious and asked, were they separated because he was gay. He said no, it was because he was a woman. You see Brie had told me he was gay, but that was just a stepping stone to his true reveal. I continue to use the male pronoun not to be dismissive, but because Bries story will change many times in this post so the male pronoun makes the most sense for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Lets fast forward a little, mid-October. Personally, I am struggling with living away from my family and friends, I am struggling to find friends in college that I am comfortable with, I am miserable. But yet staying at home, locked in my room isn’t an option because Brie now sees me a confidant. The only person he can talk to about his life. I wanted to be there for him and so I continued to listen to him. As of this point, Brie has asked me to address him with a female name, he has gone to a transgender support group, and his wife is still pregnant. Until one day when I hear Brie is obviously distressed on the phone. He has learned that his wife is in labour, yet she doesn’t want him anywhere near the birth. He is fuming, I try to help any way I can. He tells me he wants to go to the hospital. So off we go. Two of us march up to Louth Hospital and outside the entrance, he asks to use my phone, as she is no longer answering his call. I suspect it’s because she’s pushing a human out of her but hey I give him my phone anyway. The baby has been born and she doesn’t want him in the hospital. In fact, if he tries to see her, she will call the guards. Now any sane person would have tried to distance themselves from this situation at this point, but her I am. Instead of doing assignments, or hanging out with college peeps, I’m standing outside of a hospital calming down a man who identifies as a woman while his wife and new son (she had a boy) are meters away.

The following weeks were Brie telling me he was stalking Cheddars Facebook (they were no longer friends on it) and he had now seen a picture of his son. In this time it should also be noted that Brie finally admitted that he wasn’t a student in DkIT and lied so he could live in the house. I had my suspicions as he needed stuff printed one day but refused to go to the library as he “still didn’t get a student card”. So I’m starting to realise that this guy is a bit of a liar. I was kind of getting sick of listening to him and he would never take that hint that I didn’t want him in my room. My personal space invaded, I started distancing myself from him. Until one night he sat on my bed and wouldn’t leave because he was having his 3rd existential crisis.

We were talking about the operations and hormones that would be his next step to physically becoming a woman. He started to shrug it off as if it was nothing. After I pressed, Brie became a little panicked and described his attraction to men. I was calm because to be fair, I was under the impression that he was a gay man for weeks before he told me he was a woman. Now he was a straight woman. No biggie. But his panic continued when he told me that he wasn’t a woman (hence why I never dropped the pronoun) but in fact, Brie now realised he was a gay man. Jumping up he ran out of the house. Honestly, I did try to stop him but he just left.

Now, this latest twist in the tale wasn’t a major shock, but I had just spent the past 2 months calling Brie by his preferred female name, so I was starting to get a bit confused. You may be asking yourself, why would I believe anything this person tells me. His mind changed every other day. I was asking the same question, and I went back to the whole married with kids debocal. I was now second guessing everything he told me. Until a few days later when he called me into his room. Up on top of his wardrobe was a single photograph of a wedding day, his wedding day! There was a child in it, so I now knew the married with kids thing was real. I could feel myself becoming sympathetic towards him. Married to a woman while not even knowing who you are or what you want must have been difficult.

The story took a sharp twist in late November. I walked into the front room where all the roommates were chatting. Sidenote: all the roommates knew Brie had identified as a woman and they all address him by his female name, which was pretty cool. Now, I walked in and Brie was speaking in a deep manly voice. He was laughing and joking like he was a “lad”. No one else seemed to find this odd except me. I asked him in front of everyone why he was acting like this, he said “Ah I don’t know what I was thinking. That whole being a girl thing was weird man”.

I had spent night after night comforting him, reassuring him, adapting to him, and now he’s acting like those months were just nothing. I was getting incredibly frustrated with him.

The story ends with Brie meeting a girl on Tinder. They began dating in late November, by mid-December he’s head over heals for her. I’m sitting at my desk when he comes barging in (no knocking which was unusual) and said “c’mon say bye” Blindside I ask what he’s talking about. He tells me he’s moving in with the Tinder girl and he won’t see me again. We hug and he leaves. The end.

I think back on my time with Brie, he is certainly the most bizarre person I have ever lived with. He infuriated me with his complete disregard for me and my life, his little effort to reach out to his family,  his ignorance of his family in the months after his son’s birth. Now he left to live with a woman who I doubt knows anything about his past. Yet, I feel sorry for him. I suppose he probably had mental health issues that needed to be addressed. I wish I could meet him now, 3 years later. I wish him only the best.

Brie was the first roommate I had and I’m sorry but I hope I never have another one like him.

Has the Shift from Appointment Television to Binge Watching Influenced Audience’s Motivations and Behavioural Habits?

The full text of my thesis is now available online:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316841683_Has_the_Shift_from_Appointment_Television_to_Binge_Watching_Influenced_Audience’s_Motivations_and_Behavioural_Habits

 

Abstract

The shift from appointment television to binge watching is a direct response to the development of new technologies and services. To understand what effect this has had on audiences, this study investigates how audiences engage with television today and how their viewing habits may have differed from their past engagement. Surveys and interviews were conducted with members of the public, as well as one expert, to collect data which was then analysed and discussed. The result of this research shows that audiences daily lives are impacted by their choices in relation to television. Audiences social life, sleep habits, social media engagement and internet usage, have been altered by the choice to consume content in large quantities. The implications of these choices are outlined in the findings with many respondents noting that their television consumption has an impact on their daily lives.

Keywords: Television Audiences, Audience Motivations, Appointment Television, Time- Shifting, Binge watching, Spoiler Culture

In Defence of Girlboss

There are two types of people I don’t trust in this world, weather forecasters and critics. The latter proved true as I finished Netflix’s newest original Girlboss after having read slating reviews. In a – successful – effort to avoid working on my thesis, I watched all 13 episode of Girlboss in 24 hours and here is why you should give it the same chance I did. #nospoilers

Girlboss embellishes the true story of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso on her road to success. Set in 2006, we see Sophia’s entrepreneurial personality mixed with that of a lost 20 something-year-old as she faces an uncertain life. A personal renaissance finds her embracing her passion for vintage fashion and begin to pursue a career on eBay.

“You know how some people flip houses? I flip clothes.”

The Guardians review – which I regretfully read before watching – decided to tear down the real life Sophia. Stating that if she resembles the fictional depiction of herself she “deserves none of her success and should immediately hand over every cent to charity for crimes against humanity”. Steve Jobs is referenced at one point. Jobs considered to be a great innovator and businessman is similarly brash and flawed in his fictional depictions. Yet we do not attack the man behind the movie, nor should we attack the woman behind the girl boss. The harshness of this critics statement has led me to consider the character of Sophia as depicted in the show.

My issue lies in how critics describe Sophia as this overindulged brat. Having already brought gender into the forefront of this conversation, I would like to add an alternative perspective.

When looking at the vast array of characters on television, present and past, we can see many Sophias. The first that sprung to mind was Dr Gregory House from House M.D. Hugh Laurie’s Golden Globe-winning performance as the selfish, egotistical doctor who belittled everyone around him isn’t described as a “Walking Selfie”. The male equivalents of Sophia are not as highly scrutinised as she is. We have the brilliant minds that fail to understand social norms, your Sheldon or Sherlock. Their “quirks” are endearing and comedic. All three of these, what I will call for argument sakes, boy bosses carry the same character tropes as this girl boss:

  • Emotionally abusive to their best friend
  • Brash and unapologetic
  • Consider themselves “outside” of society
  • Emotionally inept

Sophia’s character is not without her flaws, I agree with the review at times. When watching the first few episodes, I found myself second guessing most if not every decision made by Sophia. From dumpster diving for food instead of meeting her dad for dinner to her lack of work ethic. Sophia is not a likeable character at first. Yet when we explore her backstory and invest in her character arc, we begin to understand her choices. Her burning desire to be independent, to be successful, to enjoy her work. In essence, Sophia embodies what every lost 20 something-year-old goes through. As with every character worth watching, we have to be introduced to their surface before we start to see what’s underneath.

All that said, I won’t forgive the show for making me relive THAT scene from The OC.

Articles Referenced:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/apr/21/girlboss-review-netflix-sophia-amoruso-britt-robertson

Charlotte

Charlotte, a five part story of one woman’s journey through the french revolution.

Script and Soundtrack produced by me, Kevin Carolan

Charlotte was exhibited in the Fís exhibition (2016) in Dundalk Institute of Technology.

#1: Flowers

Today was yet another reminder that my understanding of myself remains in its infancy.

Walking through Dublin City Centre, I blended in with all the others. Men and Women busying themselves, walking to work, just as I was. No one looked at each other, we remained occupants of our own minds while sharing a physical space for a period of time. I spotted a man selling flowers, just across from The Spire. It was in this moment that I remembered it was my mother’s birthday the following day.

After work, I returned to cluttered streets to buy flowers. My mother’s favourite flowers are Lillies, so I bought lilies. While my knowledge of floral varieties and arrangements is as small as my number of purchases of flowers over the years, I do know this; my mother’s favourite flowers are lilies. Now the fact that these flowers are lilies or that they are my mother’s favourite are irrelevant, what is noteworthy is the inexplicit feeling holding these flowers instilled in me.

Now meandering my way through a not dissimilar crowd as the morning, I received many a look from the passing strangers. Suddenly I was no longer the Kevin I had been up until this point, now I was a reinvention. A man walking through the metropolis with a bouquet in hand suggests a great deal of scenarios none of which I will ever be apart of. I became a man who was treating his girlfriend. I became a man who was buying a gift for his girlfriends birthday. I became a man who fucked up and was apologising to his girlfriend. I say, girlfriend because my age still gives some realism to my true character and it would be highly improbable that a man my age would have a wife or fiance in 2017 Ireland. Now it is entirely possible that a number of other scenarios entered the minds of the passing strangers in their 0.01-second analysis of me, such as the flowers were in fact for my mother or sister or female relative. However, I hypothesise that these notions would only follow the girlfriend scenarios in our cultural thinking.

The fact of the matter is, is that for a brief moment of time I felt normal.

The fleeting opinions of strangers and the innate understanding that men buy women flowers as a romantic gesture lead me to walk confidently through the streets of Dublin as a supposed heterosexual man. This raises a number of issues.

Men do not receive flowers. I have grown up with the typical gift in a marriage being alcohol or flowers. I would graciously and gleefully accept the former but in all honesty, I don’t know what I would do if I was given the latter.  It is not that I would feel emasculated, I would simply be at a loss having no precedent upon which to base my reaction. To the best of my knowledge, my father has never received flowers, although he has never complained about their presence in the home. In fact, he admires their smell as have I, yet neither one of us would ever think of buying flowers for ourselves or each other. Men do not receive flowers is a side effect of the male’s role in society which is a much larger issue and would require more than this blog post.

Men do not buy their boyfriends flowers. This follows on from the typical ‘who pays for dinner debate’. When society adapted to homosexual relationships and the customs associated with dating, it could be argued that the role of the man shifted. Now, who was to pay for dinner? The male’s role is to buy flowers, open the car door, pay for the meal and a kiss goodnight. In a nutshell, this is the procedure of dating, however as we know this is outdated. Yet the exchange of flowers was left in the past.

My argument is not that men should be drowned in roses and daffodils. My argument is that for a brief moment in time, I lived the normalities of a heterosexual male and judging by the looks from those around me, I was more attractive. Not in appearance, although the speckled babies breath in the bouquet did highlight my cheekbones, from my interpretation I was approved by society. I was, ironically, more masculine for carrying the flowers. What is perhaps more startling for me, is that I felt more comfortable in public than I would have if I had been holding another man’s hand. With that, the battle to discover the masculine homosexual continues.

-K

It was Christmas eve…

This year is suspiciously lacking in Mistletoe and Wine. At least one of them must return and based on my current mood, I’d welcome the wine. While I may sound cynical, I must reassure you that I love Christmas more than any other holiday. It’s just hard to enjoy it when there is a hint of homophobia in the air.

In recent weeks a feeling has drifted through our collective souls as the opening bars of Fairytale in New York graced our auditory senses. It has become a gunshot, signaling the beginning of the holiday season. Nustling itself alongside the arrival of the Coca-Cola truck or the Toy Show, The ‘Greatest Christmas Song of All Time’ is now ingrained in our nation’s Christmas tradition. There’s a collective sense of pride when Ireland is recognised worldwide for an achievement. Having one of the greatest Christmas songs played countless times every year is the perpetual Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Fairytale of New York is not your average Christmas song. It paints a bleak, depressing and yet hopeful version of Christmas day. I celebrate originality and in a genre littered with fluffy lyrics and happy messages, it is an audacious song and I admire that. So why in a song famous for it’s unusual lyrics, do I take issue with said lyrics? For that I provide some context;

The song was written at a time where, as you may regretfully remember, homosexuality was illegal in Ireland. Since then Ireland has become a more accepting and legally progressive country. In a move that shocked the world, Ireland passed the Marriage Equality Bill in the summer of 2015. Now not only is it legal to be a homosexual, you are considered equal to heterosexual couples.

When reviewing the lyrics of Fairytale in New York, the issue I have is the inclusion of the word ‘Faggot’. A derogatory term for the very people Ireland claims to accept. So Ireland celebrates May 22nd as a day where we became a progressive and loving Ireland. Six months later we are belting out the most notable homophobic slur with delight. Our national identity is inconsistent and consequently non-inclusive

We scream the word gleefully or spitefully yet we do not question the consequences. This word is used by playground bullies and in hate crimes. I, on occasion, have had the word spat at me in an attempt to degrade my being. Any decent citizen would be horrified if they witnessed someone throwing the term around in such a fashion, yet once the month of December rolls around all decorum is thrown out with the wrapping paper. The song is played on radio stations across the nation and yet ‘faggot’ is not bleeped out suggesting we do not see it as a swear word. By doing so we agree it is acceptable in society. It may be innocuous in the context, just as a particular event is ‘gay’, yet these words are used as insults.

Now there is a naysaying voice in the back of my head that protests against everything I have just written “It’s a song! Don’t be so PC!” Let’s call this voice Evan. Evan is the voice that gives me a more well-rounded perspective of life. I agree with Evan on this occasion, picking apart lyrics to find offensive terms seems somewhat juvenile. However, we have to reckon with ourselves and be aware of the kind of message this sends. Worldwide this is ‘that Irish Christmas song’ so we are voicing this homophobic message and telling the world that this is an acceptable term of phrase. So I ask you, and Evan, to consider this, When was the last time you used the N word when singing Eany, Meeny, Miny, Moe?  The very fact that I cannot even say the N word in this post reinforces my point.

We have changed with the times and so should our cultural bi-products. Not to please nitpicking people like me, but to protect and educate young LGBT teens who have to sit in silence while a room full of party goers sing ‘faggot’ with joy, although it may feel like a slap in the face. I myself have had this particular verse of the song directed at me as a ‘joke’. At a time of year when every song celebrates peace and love for all, be mindful of the message you are sending with this particular song.

Merry Christmas

Addiction Part #1

Whistle

One of the most frustrating feelings in the world is that of hot ears. “My ears are burning,” I think as I sit on the frictionless wooden chair. The only time I am aware of my ears themselves is when they are flustered. It is said that burning ears are the result of people talking about you. If that’s the case then soon my head with be set alight with the heat of a common log fire. I cup my cold hand over the left radiator and block out the sounds around me, but alas my ear just melts my hand. I always thought it was such a stupid expression. If you are the center of attention why do your ears suddenly feel the need to radiate unbearable heat. I think of celebrities, for example, boy band members who have someone talking about them every second of every day. Do they have a ventilation system to cool down their lobes 24/7? Ridiculous, it is simply an old wives tale, Irish superstition. But today more so than ever, I have my doubts about it’s credibility.

Perhaps there is some truth to what my mother told me. Perhaps the burning of my ears is not a result of moving from the cold raspy air of a January morning, to the over heated and rather stuffy courtroom. Today I was the centre of attention, I was the biggest news story in Ireland. Those reading their morning papers find their conversation piece for the day. A way to converse with co-workers, classmates, family and that randomer sitting beside them on the bus. Today as they unfold the crackling pages of the broadsheet or tabloid, as they scan their tablets with the countless news apps and gossip website, as they catch the morning news broadcast on radio and television they would find it. Their conversation piece, or as I like to think of it, fuel to the fire on my ears.

 

I choose to ignore the media, how Hollywood of me. However I didn’t realise how difficult it would be, Everytime I look at my phone I am bombarded with new rumours of my trial, my case, my own being. Eventually I forfeited and took my mothers of advice of retiring my phone to which I argued “But…Netflix!” Just one more thing that bastard has taken away from me.

It had been almost a year to the day when I first met him, a truly different man. A man who would change my life forever. My staring into space was soon interrupted with calling of my name. “Robert..” seemed so far away, like at the end of a long wind tunnel, the voice was distorted and hushed. Snapping back to reality I turned to my right to see all eyes on me. Now the heat from my clearly deaf ears had spread across my cheeks. Twelve angry men and women watch my face turn a shade of scarlet. Their glares seemed to judge my ignorance to the silence in the hollow courtroom.  Unaware of what had just happened I frantically look around me, The jurors scoff as my eyes dart towards the main man himself. He is always staring with resentment as clearly I rudely ignore his almost coveted time. Silence seemed to continue for another minute or possibly five and yet I was still utterly confused. Like a bold child in class I continue to panic as I remain seated. With the mahogany table as my barrier between myself and those who hold my future in their hands I usually felt safe. But now, now the table merely acted as a place for my sweaty palms to dance to future visually communicate my state of confusion. Why so sweaty? They were freezing a moment ago, or maybe that was an hour ago, who knows how long I zoned out for. But how are they sweating? Probably because I put them on my damn ears…FOCAS Robert!

Clearing my throat so I no longer sound like a demon, or my old History teacher I let out a single word “What..?” Now the jurors look to each other in impatience. I hear a giggle behind me, at least someone was having fun. Then the same whisper that called my name leans in “Judge Collins asked you a question” My lawyer was a smart man, despite looking like a ken doll. Yet he failed to whisper what the question was so maybe he’s not that smart. Now he has left me in the future embarrassing predicament of having to continue to seem lost. My body jerks as I place both palms flat on the table, and pull myself forward “Sorry?” I wasn’t too sure how to address the Judge, his entire being was intimidating.

Often I think about whether or not he is married, and if he is, was his wife forced into the marriage in fear he would flatten her? I would guess he is in his late fifties. My assumption is based on his silver fox hair style, and the ruled A4 page that is his face. I have only ever seen the top have his body, but those stodgy fingers are enough to tell me that he enjoys his food. Now his bloodshot eyes give me one of the filthiest looks I have ever had the misfortune to receive. Without breaking eye contact he speaks “Mr Guinan” I immediately think of my father when people address me as such “Your character is being called into question today, would you like to refute these accusations?” Crap, what accusations? Wow I really need to listen during this trial, “Eh what was said?”  A collective sigh fills the courtroom. But one voice breaks the cries at my incompetence. The voice that can send a shiver down my spine to this day, the voice that laughs maniacally. To my far left sat the man whom I was in a sparring match with, the match that had grasped the publics attention. His laugh fades out as the judge speaks again “On the night in question it is believed that you were under the influence of several narcotics, how do you plead?” Soon my confusion turned to fury to which I felt the need to portray through my facial expressions. My furrow brow and grinning teeth collectively responded “NOT GUILTY!” Before anyone could react I turned to my lawyer and whispered “Get me out of here now!” With that a short recess was called and I escaped to the bathrooms.

I burst open the stall door and slam it behind me. I didn’t need to urinate at all, all I needed a few second to comprehend what was just said. “Not Guilty!” I repeat over and over as I pace the 2 steps from the door to toilet. “Not Guilty!” But then other thoughts seem to overlap “Under the influence” And worst of all his laugh. Echoing through the stall was the reminiscence of his laugh. I continue to pace, catching my breath, not out of exhaustion. More so that oxygen will reach my brain and remind me that this is all a dream. A sick twisted…Just then another person entered the bathroom. They were ignorant to my presence as they stood at a urinal. Unaware of who it is, I stood still in fear that the man would ask me questions, to get the latest bit of dirt which undoubtedly would be trending in seconds.

I stood still and silent, now my thoughts were about this man. My ears no longer burned, instead they heard the man pee. The splashing of the urine on the porcelain, the shaking of his zipper, the sound of his heeled shoes clicking against the tiled floors. As he walked towards the sink, at least he’s hygienic, he began to whistle. I did not recognize the tune, probably just making noise for the sake of making noise. As the whistling continued it drowned out the sound of the gushing water, it eliminated every reeling thought in my mind. Instead it brought me back to the darkest night, the night everyone was talking about. The night I was apparently “Under the influence”.

I suddenly lost control of my mind, as it warped back in time, back to 12 months previous.

 

The Night In Question

Stumbling I picked myself up. Looking behind me I angrily glare at the ground for tripping me. It’s a thing we all must do when we trip over our own feet. However my little show went unnoticed. I was alone walking through a luscious green field. On route to my home, headphones as my companion, I felt safe. As I quickened my pace the song ended. Now silence, until I heard a whistle. A tune with no melody filled the field. I thought little of it as I continued walking. The whistling continued not even the volume of my music could out sing it. Looking around me, not a soul in sight. Maybe it’s birds, but this unsettled me even more. My fear of birds was ever present since I watched the Hitchcock movie on my tenth birthday. The thought that at any moment a murder of crows would be signaled to attack me simply by the trigger of a whistle. Soon I pause my music to pay closer attention, it wasn’t birds at all. Unless they were well versed in the melody of Baa Baa Black Sheep. I could see the opening in the hedge that would free me from this vast field. Only minutes from my house, I reassured myself I was safe. Besides it was sunset, the sky was a decorative shade of pink and orange. Who would attack me in such a light? I cleared the opening and the whistling became a distant memory. Little did I know that moments later….

 

The blasting of the hand dryer brought me forward to present day. My heart was racing and again my palm were sweating. I grabbed the green flaked cubicle door as an anchor. I was here, safe. I walked out of the stall with confidence, perhaps false. Leaving the bathroom I searched for my Lawyer.

“Where were you?” he asks with urgency, clearly I was gone for a while. “In the Urination Station…Listen you need to test the blood!” I spoke with such determination. I was now fully aware of the trial and was adamant to prove my innocence. My lawyer was pondering the idea, he was a bit slow so I helped him along. “The blood that the CSI’s took from the scene, its mostly all mine, they have tests right? The can see if I had any painkillers in my system. Theres your proof!”

“Can’t!” A voice spoke smugly, Hesitant I look over my left shoulder and my suspicions are confirmed. Standing arms crossed was Officer Reilly, the Garda in charge of my case. “Why not?” I bite back. He uncrossed his arms and puts both hands on his belt buckle. I saw that in a show once, it to assert dominance, but I wasn’t about to give in. He smiled at me “Because it’s gone!” I was taken aback “Gone as in stolen?” This question was met with laughter and again I felt foolish. “This isn’t one of those crime shows, don’t be so dramatic Guinan! Any traces of narcotics wouldn’t be in your blood after a year, so you could have been high as a kite that night and have no way to prove it!” He took joy out toying with me, he clearly hated that he had to deal with me, an eighteen year old victim with a mouth. Tutting off his presumption of my state of mind that night I walked back into court. Now the court had my attention, now I would argue my case and get that bastard locked away for good.

The Judge emerged from his chambers and instantly the lawyer to my left shot up. “Your honor it is clear that my opposing counsel is not ready for today’s proceedings, we ask a recess until Monday.” Outrage from our table as my lawyer shot up to join his opponent but before he could speak the judge raised his hand. My nails had dug themselves a grave in the Mahogany as I watched this twist of events unfold. The judge seemed equally shocked by the new proposal, yet after a consideration he spoke “I agree!” The jury seemed displeased, my lawyer slowly descended back into his chair as the judge turned to look at me “Mr Guinan, You are involved in very serious matters, I suggest you and your lawyer take the weekend to work on your case. You will be first on the stand on Monday Morning, am I clear?”  I gulped but agreed. But my mind once again was elsewhere, why now? What could they possibly gain from an extra two days? I walked out of the courtroom like a zombie when, for the first time all day my eye caught his. The man who whistled that night in the field, the man who laughed at me earlier. He was being brought back to Mountjoy prison in handcuff, yet he had more freedom than I did. We stared as if we were the only two in the room, a smile cut open his vicious face as he winked at me. My stomach churned at the sight of the man, and at this rate he would be out and walking the streets in a matter of days.I couldn’t let that happen! He turned away from me and now I was aware of my surroundings again. People brushing past me, they seemed dismissive of my being. It seemed everyone was against me, it was time I told my story. I shot him yes, that much is true, but he shot me first!

The Man with Half a Brain – Script

My mother used to tell me a story,

About a man with half a brain.

He didn’t find it unusual

He thought everyone was the same.

The man lived his life

Just like you or I

He lived free and ignorant

Unaware of his difference

Flashback:

His days filled with joy and laughter

He painted his canvas with smiles

And he sang his song with a full heart

Everything he saw, he touched and felt

Seemed to him…Wonderous

He knew the world was right,

He knew he was right

Enter judgment:

But every month there would be a full moon

It was then the man felt a change

Suddenly for a night

The world no longer felt the same

He soon understood he was strange

His condition, queer

He began to see the world

As it truly was

He lived a life of darkness

The beautiful of the world faded

The blueprints of life was

All that was left

Bathroom:

This isn’t a sad story

No not in the slightest.

The Man with half a brain understood the world

better than you or I

He lived most of his days right

Imagining, creating and draining the juices of life

However, he also saw what was left

The logical and bleak side

The hate and judgment of his condition

You see the man soon died

But like I said this is not a sad story

His vision was unique

He lived a life of bliss

But he could see into the shadows

And this is what you missed

A person can live

A person can exist

But to exist isn’t to live

Living is why we exist

That isn’t a bad observation

From a man with half a brain

Short Story #1

“Kev, I need to tell you something” He sat at the end of Conors dining room table. Just to the left of me. Headphones, jumpers and empty muffin casings littered the table. Why did they make such a mess? Was is instinctive. Did they even notice? Or was it some sort of way to build a wall between them and me?

To my right (directly opposite Kyle) was Conor. He was looking down at his phone, although it wasn’t on. In between both men was Aine. She held her hands in the cufflinks of her green knitted jumper. Her hands held her face like one does when coughing. But she was silent. I was offered tea when I walked into this room twenty-two minutes before. I was the only one with a cup.

I knew something was off as soon as I got the invite. My curious mind trumped my pride. So instead of coming up with some excuse, or even a direct rejection “Sorry can’t tonight!” I arrived at another exclusive group meeting. Unnecessarily exclusive most times but tonight I learned that it was better that none of my other friends were there. Not for my sake, or theirs, but for her sake.

“Ok,” My heart realised what was happening before the rest of me caught up. It beat faster. But I remained relaxed. Unaware of what news, what gossip, what joke I was in for.

A breath left the room as the nervous man put both his hands on the table before him. A pit stain in his dark blue t-shirt was exposed. “So you know the way me and Lindsey didn’t work out?” I nodded, he had informed me of this very fact a month before. “Well after all that, I started seeing Chels.” I think he wanted a response from me, but my face had fewer expressions than a statue. He took this as an indication to continue. “She and I…..we had slept together. Before I kissed Lindsey. But it was just friendly stuff. We were just having a bit of fun. So it was cool when we stopped when I started going out with Lindsey.” Still, I remained unmoved. My eyes fixed on him. “We didn’t want to tell anyone, yeas would have made a big deal out of it. I really liked her Kev. She’s great. But now…she and I are not in the best place.”

Biting my tongue although that was not apparent to the room. I pushed away any comments or opinions that had burned in my brain since he began.

He looked away from me, I think he looked at Aine. Just as a child looks at a mother during an apology to a grown up. The look that says “Is that ok. Are we done? I’ve said enough” I didn’t see what Aine’s inaudible response was, or if there even was one. My line of vision had not changed throughout his entire confession. “I wanted to meet up with her after everything with Lindsey but she was angry with me. I thought we were cool. Like it was just a bit of fun. Nothing serious. Now I think I’ve fucked things up with her.”

He was speaking in the present tense. His recital of the facts was over, now his story was over. I would have to talk now. That’s what he expected. My mouth shut. Locked by the gritted teeth. Dogs claws scratched the floors. Buzzing of the fridge was a guideline for my breath. Expelling air in a long stream through my nose. Kyle looked back at the others once again. He knew he was done. But I hadn’t reacted. This must have messed up the linear plan in his head. What he expected would unfold tonight. Maybe he imagined I would shout at him. Maybe he imagined I would do my usual “You did what’s best for you”. Maybe he expected me to say something important or meaningful. But I spoke the only sentence that wouldn’t come with a trail of fury anger and tears. “Why…Why are you telling me this?”

None of this information was new to me. But he didn’t know that.

“We’re worried about Chelsea” Aine had said this. I had forgotten she was there. Oh and Conor was there too, it was his house, but his presence was belittled by my thoughts. I shot a look to her and began to laugh. No one else joined in. “Kev…” Kyle asked in a broken voice. Had I upset him? But I couldn’t stop myself. The situation comical. “Kev, we’re worried she’s hurting herself!” Kyles’ voice sounded like he was the victim. He made himself small, to be pitied. I didn’t buy into his act. “I’m sorry, but you have to laugh really” my voice returned in the midst of laughter.

 

Clearing my throat I regained composure “You’re concerned? A little late for that!” I spoke with a smile, my eyes widened. Just as I would at a party. “Where was your concern when all this happened? Where was your compassion for Chelsea huh? You slept with her, then ditched her the second Lindsey threw you a bone. Where was the concern then? Why now. Why do you suddenly feel that now is the time to be concerned? Why now?” Kyle looked taken aback by my outburst. Although it wasn’t loud, nor was it soft, it made an impact. “We think she’s been hurting herself…” Aine had been crying, choking on her words. Storing this nugget in the back of my mind along with everything else I was dealing with I continued to look at Kyle. “Why are they here?” I pointed to Aine and Conor but didn’t receive an answer in the 5 seconds I allowed before answering myself. “Is it because you didn’t have the balls to tell me yourself. Just as you don’t have the balls to talk to Chelsea directly about this. Are they your support? You could have told me this over text. We could have gone for a walk. But no. You chose Conors house, with these two as your backups. Why? Because you can’t deal with confrontation. You know that whatever I say now, I’m going to want a response and you’re scared that you won’t be able to form a rational thought to save your life. That’s why they are here, to jump in whenever they see you overwhelmed by simple questions like what the fuck is wrong with you.” I pushed back my chair and stood up looking at the three faces, all horrified by what I was saying. But I had nothing to lose. “I can’t believe you two went along with this. You’re are supporting him!” I shouted that last line. Conor fought me “Kev, he’s trying to fix it. We’re his mates, of course, we want to support him!” Once again I laughed but only for a moment before turning back to rip that statement apart. “You are supporting him because he is your mate. Right. And I guess Chelsea is just a problem you want to pawn off on me? Something you want me to deal with so that you three can still be mates and feel good about yourselves because you help her. Here’s the thing, this. This little ambush of a confession only helps one person, him” I pointed at Kyle who was teary eyed. “You think y’all are doing the right thing. The selfless thing. You think you’re doing the right thing now Kyle? Bullshit. This is to clear your conscience. You tell me my friend is upset and you expect me to run off and help her. Thanking you for bringing it to my attention. None of you care one fucking bit about her. If you did you wouldn’t be here right now. If you care about her Kyle you’d be dealing with this with her. Aine you support him after he treated her like that? You both are acting like the parents that still give their child desert even if they didn’t eat their vegetables.

Where the hell is your human decency? A girl is hurting herself because YOU made her feel like she had to. You made her feel like she was nothing more than the sock at the side of your bed. And you two are telling him that that’s ok! Sitting here with him, defending him and his actions, makes me think that both your moral compasses have been thrown against a wall. Sitting here, By his side, is like saying ‘You made an oopsy, but we are here for you’. What does he have to do for you to finally wise up and form your own Goddamn opinions? ‘Hey guys I murdered someone, I feel bad about it…sorry’ It’s laughable really.”

The room was silent. Conor couldn’t look at me. Both Kyle and Aine had been crying. I took a breath and picked up my phone. I looked at Aine and asked, “Were they fresh?” She seemed confused so I explained “Who saw her and thought she was cutting herself? Were they fresh cuts? Did they look crusted and bloody? Or were they white speed bumps like mine?” Aine shot her head to the side, shocked by my questions. Kyle wipes his nose and looked at the table. “They were like yours”

Smiling I began walking out of the room. “Well, then all this was pointless. Because if you actually took two seconds to listened to her before you shoved your dick in her mouth you would know that she has survived a lot of shit. She has done some things she isn’t proud of, and she stopped. So no she is not hurting herself. Although it’s interesting to see how highly you think of yourself. That not being with you would drive someone to hurt themselves.”

Looking back at the messy table, I wanted so badly to tidy it. A minute job to regain some sort of control on a situation. That’s when it dawned on me. Why I was here, why the table was a so disordered. I’m their cleaner. They know I can’t resist a mess.

“Where are you going Kev” Conor squinted as if he was angry with me. Like I disobeyed orders and went off script. “I’m going to get my mop! Because once again I have to clean up another one of Kyle Deans messes.” Spinning around I left the room with a slight spring in my step. I was furious at them. I had known this secret for weeks. My acting tonight, flawless. As I left the room I laughed a small bit and shouted back “Cleanup on Aisle Chelsea!”

The door closed behind me.

 

When I was 18 I couldn’t wait to get out of this town…

As a part of an English assignment, I was tasked with writing a short story given the prompt “When I was 18 I couldn’t wait to get out of this town” This was the result:

Glassy feel, fragile yet it held so much power, importance. I held the birro for five minutes in the writing position I learned thirteen years previous. Those long five minutes since I had written my last full stop. A black full stop is definitive. A full stop can mark the end of a sentences, more so a statement and also mark the beginning of another. But I had no more to write, instead, this full stop marked the beginning of a new chapter of my life, unwritten. Now ten minutes had passed and I still wouldn’t let the pen go, the sweat on my hands forced the pen to slide onto my exam paper. “June 20th…hottest day of the year,” said the weatherman as I was dressing at 7 am that morning. My last exam, my last day in that dull grey classroom, my last full stop. A sigh of relief slipped my dry mouth as the day had finally arrived, I could leave this town, I could start what was unwritten.

That night I went out to celebrate. I felt numb and it wasn’t because of the countless Jager bombs. More so because of my months of planning, lying and sleepless nights had lead to this moment. 3 am, June 21st I stood in my bedroom or “Man cave” as it was formerly known. Suitcase in one hand, passport in the other I walked out of my pitch-dark house. I almost didn’t make it with the noise of my suitcase on the hardwood floors and my clumsy slightly intoxicated self-making footsteps like an elephant, I almost woke the parents. They have no idea they will awake to a single crisp white envelope on my newly made bed instead of me. I had lied to them since Christmas saying I would stay in Dublin, get a job and wait for college…..Hell!

I decided to leave Dublin in my rearview mirror months before.

Sadly I still had that one loose end to tie up before I could leave, the leaving cert. And I tied that final loose end earlier with that full stop. Freedom! I couldn’t stand listening to my friends planning holidays after exams, leave the day they finish-come back the day of results. It made me sick to think of another three months, alone in this town. It was my 18th birthday back in December that I saw an epiphany in my flickering 18 candles. “Make a wish” I was done wishing, wishing for something to change. For he is a jolly good fellow was awash when I could hear my heart beating “Nothing is going to change if you don’t change it”.

                        So here I stood, at the top of my driveway looking back on the house that built me into what I am today. My heart was suddenly beating a different tune “Stay! Stay! Stay!”. I put my black duffel bag on my back, pull up the suitcase handle and looked down at my chest with a smile and said: “Shut Up!”. I started walking along the dry concrete, a sort of memory lane. I walked past the road where I lost my dog of 15 years. A green flaked bench where one of my closest friendships ended, why would I stay in a village full of pain? Then I looked at the town square where many festivals were held, the bus stop I stood at every morning before school. All the world’s problems were solved there if only it could talk. I walked past the field where I spent many a summers night like tonight was spent. Lying there under a blue and black sky, clear of clouds and sprinkled with stars I shared my first kiss. So it wasn’t all bad I thought as I looked up to find a cluster of stars. Now my heart cheekily beat “You want to stay now, don’t you?” Getting into a taxi answered his question.

I wanted to remain in a deep philosophical thought mode like you see in the movies. But alas the taxi driver didn’t take the hint of looking longingly out the window as we drove through more of my memories. “So where are you headed?” I broke my stare and answered “London and from there France”. I fumbled on the white leather interior while I checked my passport, he furthered the conversation “Are we picking anyone else up?” “Nope, just me”. That seemed to baffle him. I caught his eye in the mirror as he observed: “Aren’t you a bit young to be traveling alone?” I quipped back “Aren’t you a bit too nosey for your own good?” He laughed as we turned onto a seemingly abandoned motorway which appeared endless. I listened to the low radio playing Home by Michael Buble, “Can you turn it up?”. Suddenly a tropical shower attacked the taxi as I sang to myself “Another summers day has come and gone away, in either Paris or Rome, But I wanna go home”. We drove up to the airport as we both laughed again.

                                     In stark contrast to my “Man cave” was this titanic spaceship know as terminal 2. All checked in I sat in a coffee shop with my passport and ticket. I held a cup of tea -milk no sugar- and sighed once again with relief. I sipped the hot tea and with every sip, I was reassured I was doing the right thing. Itching to leave this town behind me and explore the world. I would be back when the leaves would start to brown, back in time for college. But for now, I walked on Irish soil for the last time as I walked onto my plane.

                                      We had lift off and my heart was beating “Let’s go back! I don’t like this!” I never was a good flyer. The captain boomed over the intercom “sorry for the delay but due to the torrential rain we will need to circle the city until it eases off.” The large man obstructing my pathway to the isle let out a scoff of annoyance. I ignored him and looked out the tiny oval shaped window. “One last time around,” I thought. Like Dorothy from Kansas I had been swept away in a storm and was heading to the magical Oz. I never understood that movie. A girl living a dull black and white life is given a free ride to the magical technicoloured city and she gives it up? My journey was much like Dorothy’s, going to foreign lands of adventure and cultures. The only difference between Dorothy and I is I don’t want to go back to Kansas anytime soon. As the captain straightened up and flew the course I looked down at my black and white converse. I clicked my heels three times and laughed as I set out on my life’s next chapter.