The Veiled Curtain

I’ve been here once before, maybe even twice. Three times? Possibly. My senses are failing me. Yes, I know those curtains. I crane my neck and catch my blurred reflection in the mirror on the bedside locker; the question as to the whereabouts of my shirt departs my mind as soon as it enters, when I realise I’m not alone.

The poison pulls me unceremoniously towards the darkness, but that strange melody keeps bringing me back. Sinéad O’ Connor. Even to my inebriated consciousness, that voice is unmistakable. Oddly though, her lyrics are carried around the room by Rastafari music, and it sounds absolutely terrible. So bad that it starts to sober me up; I suppose I should be thankful for it then, because I’m back in her room, and I want to cherish it.

Photo by Tim Marshall

She’s kneeling opposite me in a trance, head bent towards her chest, blonde hair swaying to and fro. Does she even know I’m here? I break the silence between us with a barely decipherable, slurred whisper. “This album is brilliant.”

Jesus, the lies we tell while under the spell. 

She rises from her stupor, eyes bloodshot and glazed, and forces a weak smile; I don’t know if she recognises me, she’s looking through me. And then, she leans in. I can still taste it. Bacardi and Silk Cut Purple- she only smokes when she drinks. A vicious circle. And just like before, we begin to wrestle our way through a bout of uncoordinated foolishness. I take my leave soon after you pass out. I grip the bannister, shuffle downstairs, and collapse into bed, before rising a couple of hours later to join you at the breakfast table with the others, as if nothing happened.

I sip my coffee nonchalantly, just like any other morning, wanting desperately to say something, to tell you how I really feel. I want to, but I’m afraid.

I was afraid from the get-go, on that first day when you asked if I wanted to take a walk. We needed milk, you said. Sure, I said, trembling. I floated, hanging on your every word; they rose in The Shehy Mountains, and flowed majestically with sweetness and charm. At times they carried a sting, which I admired. You told it like it was. I was thinking like it was, like how far out of my league you were; smart, beautiful, sharp as a blade, and slightly older. The fact that you showed an interest baffled my deeply insecure and naive young self. In truth, I always found you slightly intimidating, but in an endearing way; I would have gladly strolled all the way to Killarney for milk that day.

First semester came and went, and soon after our latest escapade we found ourselves gathered together in the living room. I’m not quite sure what exactly we were doing, probably watching some mind-numbing shite on TV, procrastinating, doing what students did best. Just another uneventful weeknight, until one of the girls asked about your impending visitor. I sensed a slight change in the air, but stupidly opened my mouth regardless and enquired as to his identity, thinking perhaps it might have been a brother you failed to mention. Eejit. 

I had no idea. My face burned, and I could instantly feel the sympathetic stares. As far as I was aware, the other girls didn’t know about us, but then again, you were all friends in the same class, we all lived under one roof, and as the old adage goes, they didn’t come down in the last shower.

I can’t recall how many weeks passed before I departed that house- and that town- for good. It wasn’t long after I found out. I can’t even recall if we said goodbye to each other. No, that’s another lie. I can, and we didn’t. Did any of it merit a goodbye, though? Who knows. There were certainly moments of vulnerability, of connection, that suggested something real. But they were mere snippets, concealed under a collection of veiled interactions.

It was exhilarating, though.

A part of me sometimes wonders what you’re up to now, how you’re doing, which part of this world you are calling home, 13 years later. Another part of me thinks at times, how nice it would be to take another walk, and have an honest conversation; to tell you that I liked you, a lot; to tell you that as petrified as I was, I never wanted us to have to use alcohol to get close to each other; to tell you that I wish you had told me sooner, but I understand; to tell you that you’re an incredible person, and that you helped change my perspective of the world; to tell you that whatever it was, I’m grateful for it; to tell you that you made a mistake when you bought that God-awful album.

But I suppose some things are better left unsaid.