November was always the worst month, not the wettest, not the windiest or coldest but the beginning of the long darkness, and the bleak, wet winds. Since he’d been in Ireland Victor had come to believe that SAD syndrome is not only real but he could now recognise its symptoms. Now with Juliette having just gone back to Australia the dread of another Atlantic winter was deepened by the loss of her company.
He picked up the envelope containing the latest X-Ray of his leg and marvelled at the titanium mechanism depicted, particularly at the way the two screws penetrated clean through his femur and out the other side. But it was clear the healing was good. He wondered as he poured another whiskey if Juliette would have come to Ireland at all had he not broken his leg falling down Aisling’s steps. Now it was healed and the sight of bone knitted tightly seemed to allow her the permission she needed to head home, back to the sun.
Funny too that his ‘Papa’ had died only weeks before but he could not legitimately add that to his list of woes, they had never really known each other anyway, but he nursed a desire for grief to add to his melancholy. He had taken the afternoon off work but simply went home, watched Rio Bravo on daytime TV and polished of the best part of a bottle of red. His only insight from that day was that the reds from the Sierra Madre were at least as good as those from the Barossa.
Just beyond the manila folder containing his X-Ray was a postcard from her. The note was quickly scribbled in a hotel in some town in India, and sent from another town in Bangladesh. Strange to think that the country is little more than a delta, that a metre of sea rise would obliterate. He’d rather a picture of that than the cheery Bollywood madness she’d sent. Mud would better fit his mood.
Tonight would have been the evening they went dancing, or more correctly, to dancing lessons. He looked at his watch, a beautiful sixties Omega, refined, almost feminine in the delicacy and purity of its design. The sort of watch only an Alpha male could wear, so unlike those monsters with many dials one sees in the airline magazines, and so beloved of the Betas.
They had only been to three lessons. Juliette had promised when she arrived three months ago that she’d see him dancing on that leg again. Booking the lessons had been the reward for his patience and her diligence, not to mention an activity to break the boredom of his tiny flat in Cork. He found he liked it, well the Tango particularly, he’d drop the Foxtrot – it was bereft of passion.
Maybe he’d break the monotony with a visit to Jake and Caroline in West Cork. Little Oscar was turning three and he’d been invited to spend the weekend with them. He wasn’t highly excited by the prospect but Jake would appreciate the company and the change might be an antidote to the emptiness he felt alone in the flat since Juliette’s departure, an emptiness he had never experienced prior to her visit. Who else was in town? Mike was off on a golf weekend somewhere in Kerry – amazing that a country with such miserable weather should have so many golf courses. He’d been once but had felt a right Charlie in the wrong outfit and using the tatty hired clubs and he vowed never to go again. Crazy to think that Golfers had a sort of uniform and even though it closely resembled regular clothing subtle deviations from it seemed glaring on the course. He’d felt like a Zulu in a stock exchange.
Caroline’s cooking was always exceptional – sure the coastline always deserved a walk; Jake’s latest creations were interesting (or amusing at least) and Oscar always brightened his soul but what Caroline could do with something as simple as Lima Beans, home-made Chorizos and some Habaneros could be so extraordinary as to become in memory the highlight of the whole weekend. He spent a wet Sunday afternoon watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Ossie, half dreading going back to the flat at the drizzly, grey end of the day, and half bored with the film, drifting off to think about Fremantle and Juliette. Even though she still had to visit her sister in Quebec, in his mind he could only place her at home.
He dragged himself onto the Bus at Leap, feeling like he had an extra kilo or two of rocks in his overnight bag and watched the lush green of the edges of the Bandon road flash by, too close to focus on and fuzzy through rain, all the way back to Cork City.
As he climbed the steps to his flat he stopped as the strains of ‘When Johnny comes marching Home’ floated down from Aisling’s place. It was Gary on the liquorice stick. Gary, our American friend, Gary whose farewell party had been the night he had too much Poteen and too much dope from the Polish lads and took a dive down the steps. Gary was being deported then but now he must be back, no-one played clarinet like that, only sweet, forties-face Gary, pleated pants and bow tie, charm and talent in a thin, elegant package. And that old Yankee marching song held it all, longing and celebration in equal parts.
In the letter box was a postcard. It was from Quebec. It simply said “Victor, remember when you and I were deep in corny love and I said I wanted you to be my Romeo? I still do…” The dusk took on a cosy warmth, a fuzzy optimism, a sweet shade of grey, the light from the street mingled with the echo of the liquid notes of Gary’s clarinet.
He sat by the window, smiling – didn’t even turn the light on.
Bio ~ Seán Kelly.
Sean Kelly has an extensive engagement with contemporary art in Tasmania, spanning over thirty years. He holds a Masters of Fine Art from the Tasmania School of Art and has worked as a teacher, university lecturer, arts administrator, writer and curator. He is past Director of CAST (Contemporary Art Services Tasmania), past president of CAOs (Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia) and was Program Manager of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, Ireland. He was inaugural editor of the journal Contemporary Arts Tasmania and has written numerous articles, catalogue essays and reviews.