Thursday, July 06, 2006

This Dark


My uncle Caolán disappeared off the street and into Long Kesh a fortnight fore Bloody Sunday back in Seventy-Two and we did not see him again til Seventy-Four. T'was the way back then and not a thing anyone could do. So the family moved in with us, crowding the house on St. Patrick Street, which now had to fit three adults, five lads and four girls. Aunt Onóra slept in the front room downstairs, the girls crowded into bunks in one upstairs room, the three younger boys in another, and Niall and myself dragged our blankets into the airless attic and lay beneath the rafters wishing for nightly rain that would drown our conversations before they drifted into the rooms below.

By the light of only a small oil lamp and the glowing ends of cigarettes – Players lifted from the table near where Onóra slept or joints rolled in single-handed elegance by Niall who told all that he had learned the technique so he need not stop wanking when he wanted to get high – the two of us would plan all things, from stealing a fishing boat and sailing to Canada to blowing up the Brit watchtowers, from stowing away on the ferries to France to hiking to Galway and finding ladies. Dreams violent and dreams of escape and dreams of love. The stuff of boys.

I told him that I wanted to sail not to Canada but to St. Pierre off the coast, where we would be both free and surrounded by French women and the ocean. He told me that only an idiot Irish fool would want to trade this cold island for another. He thought Australia might be the place to go. I thought it was too far and doubted the wisdom of running away only to end up on the bottom of the earth.

Below us our sisters spoke of boys and school and girls "looking to find themselves in trouble." Our brothers of football and throwing rocks. My parents of money that was hard to find and fears of what would take place next. From the street came the sly steps of Provos running and deep vibrations of Brit armor patrolling and the clockwork bells of the churches. We could not hear Onóra who, like ourselves, sat smoking in the dark on her own level.

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copyright 2006 by Ira Socol

1 comment:

Brenda said...

You've packed a lot into a night! Whole histories of a family and a time. And possible futures. I like the last line too, how Aunt Onora sat smoking in the dark in her space.