Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hitting into a rough section of Place of Safety...after Brendan returns to Derry.
This photo is of The Maze prison, with her H-block cells. This is where the hunger strikes took place.

I haven't decided on the exact timing, yet -- March or April 1981 -- but this is the beginning of that part.

A friend of Aunt Mari’s worked at American Express in The Galleria, so she found me the best way home. I flew out of Intercontinental on a TWA flight to Dublin via New York, where I caught a short-hopper to Derry’s Airport via Avair. It wasn’t cheap, but I had savings enough to cover it. Uncle Sean told me he’d pay the ticket, but I wanted nothing from him. He called me independent to a fault and I knew he meant it gentle, but only because he hadn’t noticed how I spoke to him only when necessary, how I was never around to work on that old Volvo, again. I simply wanted nothing to do with a man who’d let family be abused in such a way.

Perhaps I should have told him why, but I never did because he was Aunt Mari’s husband and she’d done backflips for me. To have caused them all that disruption would have been a cruel way to repay her for all her kindness and generosity, not merely since I’d come there but in the years before. So I cashed all my savings into pounds with a few punt should I need them and when I said goodbye at the airport. I knew I’d not return.

None of them asked me how I was getting back into Derry, what with me not having legal papers, and I offered no explanations. The less known by all, the better...except for Jeremy.

Since he’d returned from Hong Kong, his position at Garrison Petrol had settled into Houston. His knowledge of the expanding Chinese market for oil and the secret (but widely known) discussions underway between London and Peking to hand the territory back at the end of the Brit’s lease made him too important to let go. So he handed me his passport and said, “With that moustache and sideburns, you look a lot like my photo.”

“I dunno, Jeremy; I can’t see it.”

“Sure, just lighten up your hair, cut it a bit shorter so it’s not so curly.”

“Without hair to hide me, I’ll look even less like you.”

“Fine -- Everett’ll slip your photo in for mine. I know they look for stuff like that, at immigration, but he’s an artist; he can pull it off.”

“But will he?”

“I’ve already talked to him.”

“You’ll need it again, sometime,” I said, looking it over, already knowing exactly what I’d do.

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

I shrugged. “Mairead says she’s fadin’ fast, then there’ll be the wake and family to settle. A month, maybe. Six weeks.” Forever.

“Don’t stay any longer; it’s due for replacement in a couple months and I have to send it in, so I’ll need to get it fixed, first.”

“I dunno, Jeremy -- really, do I look the part of a Jew?” I said it smiling.

“What does a Jew look like, bitch? And your dick sure as hell is Jewish. You’ll pass, so long as you don’t talk with that brogue.”

I snapped into a Texas twang, “Yor right a-bout tha-yat, little feller. Better if’n Ah talk lahk a fo-ohl.”

“Shit, don’t talk much at all. And when you do, whisper.”

I chuckled and slipped the passport into my back pocket. He also gave me use of his Master Charge card since it was slated for renewal the following month and had but five hundred left on its limit. “I’ll not use it,” I said, “unless absolutely necessary.”

He swatted me arse and sent me out the door with, “I want post cards!”

I didn’t look around but waved my hand back at him, as if in agreement.

Everett helped me shift my looks to better suit Jeremy’s description -- first coloring my hair a couple shades lighter then adding red highlights, and he worked his magic on my moustache and sideburns, as well. Then once my hair was cut back, we got a couple Polaroids snapped at a photo shop and he set to work. And he had no end of trouble exchanging out Jeremy’s photo for mine but once done, to my eye it looked damn good -- and I looked damn strange.

“This isn’t a good look for you,” he said, “but that should help. By the time they get to you, they’ll be so sick of dealing with Americans, they’ll probably just give it a glance, stamp it and tell you to fuck off.”

“In true Irish fashion.”

“What’d you have to give Jeremy for this?”

“Promise to give it back when I return.”

“What’re you giving me?”

“Well...I could go to Rocky Horror in a gold Speedo.”

He smiled, almost sweetly. “You -- you’d really do that?”

“I enjoy it, well enough. Susan Sarandon’s got a nice set on her.”

He laughed. “Shit, you’d make the perfect Rocky. So, they keeping your stuff in the pool house?”

No, I sold what I could and gave away the rest. “I got a storage unit. There’s too much of it.”

His expression froze and he looked at me, hard, as if he knew I wasn’t planning to return, then grabbed the back of my hair and pulled me close to kiss me, long and deep and French in style. I let him.

When he finally pulled back, his eyes were filled with hurt. “Is that how you kissed her?”

“Vangie? Yes.”

“But not -- ?”

Joanna? “No. It would’ve put her off, and I’d do anything to keep that from happening.”

He nodded. “Like what I just did.”

“Have I run screaming down the street, yet?”

He stroked a thumb over my right eyebrow. “Considering your luck with girls, maybe you oughta try a walk on the wild side.”

Been there and tried that; didn't turn out well. “With you?”

He laughed to himself. “Me as Frankenfurter, you as Rocky?” He was hurting and he’d been such a mate to me, I couldn’t help but nod. He took in a deep breath. “Keep the dream alive. Okay. I’m gonna hold you to it, Pug.”

I yapped at him in answer and we parted with him laughing. And two days later I was on a plane for home.

I took a window seat, and flying across the water I watched out the window at the passing clouds, peaceful and soft in the nighttime sky and --

Father Pat was sitting next to me, sipping a brandy and casting me furtive glances as he pretended to read his missal. He checked his watch then signaled for the stewardess and a water appeared before me along with a pill and I accepted both, obedient, and turned to watch the clouds gleam in the sun like fire and --

Jolted as lightning flashed between two huge banks of thick black cotton. Twisting. Turning. Highlighting the billowing nothingness and making it seem real. Glimmers of life dancing like the furies and giving meaning to things that could never truly live. The heavens were warning me, Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go. I merely lay my head against the plastic and sighed, I must.

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