Saturday, 14 May 2016

Tiny stories 1: Streets


This is where you notice him, the first day, on the corner of Fountainville Avenue. It's his hair and his eyes, and the angle he makes with the brick wall, slouching in his navy school uniform. 



Stephanie sees you noticing. She and Angela rake you the whole way up the road. This is the function of your friends: to make a complete mockery of every tentative attraction, while simultaneously providing it with plenty of oxygen for potential healthy growth. You'd do the same for them.



Three days later, by means of your extensive network of spies, you find out his name. Daniel Healy. Ds and Hs appear in a range of different scripts at the back of your maths exercise book.



You and Stephanie and Angela talk about how you'll get fake IDs and go to the Eg, and maybe Daniel and his friends will be there. Angela says she got in one night with her big sister. To be honest, you don't exactly know what a fake ID looks like. You start planning your outfit anyway. 


You've worked out that Daniel lives up one of these streets, Derryvolgie or maybe Adelaide Park. One afternoon before your violin lesson, when Stephanie and Angela are at netball, you walk carefully up and down, assessing each house for evidence of the Healy family. His mum would probably have the garden really nice. His dad would be out at work now, but he'd drive home in a Volvo at six o'clock and swing his little sisters round and round when they run out to meet him.





On Saturday at orchestra, Aoife Curry tells you that Daniel doesn't live on the Lisburn Road at all. That's his friend Mark. Daniel lives in the Holy Land, with his mum and Anna and Nicky. His dad doesn't drive a Volvo or swing anyone round. He was killed four years ago in an accident on the M1.




Also, she says, Daniel just started going out with Jennifer Thompson, who has naturally blonde hair and grade eight French horn. Everybody knows that brass players are the best kissers, but you hadn't thought until now about it being girls too. 

You think about all this a lot, with a permanent cramp in your stomach. You're quieter even than usual. Stephanie and Angela tell you he was never worth it and exchange glances as you try to casually brush away a tear that you didn't mean to cry.

Later that summer, though, you decide that Stephanie's stupid next door neighbour Michael has improved quite a lot now that he is taller, and you start casually hanging out in her back garden in your newly cut-off Levis. It's hard to build up much of a tan when your family holiday is at your granny's in Aberdeen, but at least your legs are long and thin. Longer and thinner, you can't help thinking, than Jennifer Thompson's.
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You're home from Bristol for the summer and your mum paid for you to get your hair done "properly, for a change". Afterwards, since it's a gorgeous day, you buy yourself a Polly Pineapple and sit in Cranmore Park for a while. 

He sits down at the other end of the bench. 



He's at Glasgow doing English and Philosophy. He has one more year to go. He's on his way from Mark's house to his evening bar job. It's weird being home for him too. He keeps in touch with Mark, of course, but that's really all. Anna and Nicky are in sixth form now and a bit wild. He's trying to keep an eye on them but they just laugh at him. It's great to see you. You must meet up over the summer.



The strange thing is that this is actually the first time he's spoken to you. Doesn't he know this? It was like he knew you already.


You don't meet up over the summer.
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After the wedding, Stephanie and Michael move into a house at the bottom of Larkstone Street. It's right beside the railway tracks, but you get used to the noise after a while.

You visit them every time you're home. That's what you call it when you're talking to them, though Belfast doesn't feel like home any more. You sit on their sofa, drinking the red wine Mike chose specially for you, and a flash of pity catches you. Your own life feels bigger than Larkstone Street.
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Steph and Mike's party is tonight. Your heart isn't really in it. Redundancy doesn't feel like a great chance to reinvent your life just the way you want it. It catches you in the stomach, the way grief always does. It makes you feel like hiding in your parents' spare room, like the useless thing you are now.

But when your mum, who is possibly wiser than you think, suggests a nice evening helping her clear out the attic, you put on some black eyeliner and an outfit that doesn't reek of self-pity and get your dad to drop you on the Lisburn Road. He quite likes being your chauffeur these days.


Steph looks gorgeous. She has been loyal over the last couple of weeks, trying hard to lift your spirits, collaborating with your mum and dad. She's glad you're here. You're glad of your eyeliner. And you're glad you came too. The party is mellow. You only know a few people, but it's Belfast, and even the people you don't know know someone you do. Your stomach begins to unclench.

The doorbell rings again. It's Mark, Steph says, and that friend of his from school.
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You've rented a house in Melrose Street. The landlord allowed you to strip the living room walls back to the brick. It's going to look fantastic. 

You're up a ladder, trying to position the Velcro strip of your Roman blind, when you notice it. The angle, as he slouches in his navy t-shirt against the wall, beside you. 



5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Clare - it was fun to write!

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  2. I found your blog and started following because I love your photos. But now also because I love your writing. This was a fantastic piece.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Lorraine - I really appreciate that! It's lovely to hear that someone has enjoyed your work.

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