If I were to walk down that road now. Meet the woman that I was ten years ago. If I was standing outside that pub; watching her will herself toward the front door, to go in and listen to some music to ease her nerves. If I were to look at her with her severely underweight frame. Her nervous disposition. Feigning a smile, as her eyes dart upward occasionally, just about greeting a passerby, or a familiar face that was no longer familiar to her. I pondered whether I would have empathy for her. Would I speak to her? Would I even notice her? Would she exist at all?
I stand in the shadows of the past outside the pub. Inhaling my home rolled cigarette. Watching the rain gently spill over the top of the already over filled gutters. I stand and wait to see. Will she turn up in my memory? The sky belched and groaned, releasing another fill from its temporary sleep. Its liquid now forcing itself free from the black abyss. I look across the shimmering tarred road. A torrent of water bouncing back up into the air from the sheer force of its entry to earth. A headlight catches the mid air rain dance. I recognise the obscure shadow the light casts on the dark ground. I spot that old familiar car; a soft chuckle reaches up to my mouth, as I recall the left headlight constantly blowing from water getting in. I watch the car turn in to a vacant space. I see her. As I breathe in, my memory becomes temporarily lucid.
I watch her every move. Her seamless, ghost-like exit from the car. Her presence apologising for her sheer existence. Her quiet, almost silent steps; which clipped in rhythm loud enough to dull the screams of terror inside her head. My past; her present, suddenly collide. Then I momentarily float. I merge into her mind. I can hear everything. Yet I am also observing her body from the outside as if I am the third person. The question penetrating her most was her doubt. Her sheer lack of belief in herself. The repetitive chant; “I’m terrified knowing that I am dying inside, the devastating strain of being here.” She slips through the skinny door, entering the pub–into the old bar. Watching her check everyone’s reaction in the room to her thoughts. An insignificant smile passes her lips to pacify herself. The fear of someone knowing how she felt was equally frightening as the thought itself. She scans the room quickly, ; efficiently with a dart of her eyes. Lowering herself quietly into a corner.
She could see all the smiles and chatting around her. As she peered upward, her demeanour remaining passive. Her head pounding with self mutilating contradictions. She hoped that they could not hear her thoughts or read her face, for she knew that if they could, it would be fatal.
As the gentle sounds of the guitars struck up, she fell into her own private interior observation and focused intently on each chord that was being played by the musicians. She reminded herself to remember “that” chord when she went home, “something new to learn” she says to herself. Taking herself through each step, each move, before each action. Only a few months had passed since she picked up all her courage. (A temporary state of action.) All of her unconscious wisdom propelled into instinctive motion. All to protect her children from him. Everyone knew what he was “up to”. Everyone wise to his game. The coward who bullied his way out. She was the last one to face the firing squad, even though it was she who pulled the trigger.
I watch her get up from her chair and say good night to those sitting close to her. They were all kind faces. They were all faces she no longer knew. The whole endurance of pushing herself there was important. She felt re-assured that this was a safe place to be, at least for now. It was only recently that she felt safe to go home to where her children were now sleeping soundly.
As she softly slips out through the skinny door of the pub. She walks toward her car, heading for home. I travel a short while with her in her car. Turning into the long narrow boreen toward home. The dimmed head light tracked the crossing of a few hares. They knew exactly where they were going. Her eyes travelling with them. I sympathetically view her profile, as I slowly start to fade from her journey. The rain pushing harder against the windscreen, she silently knew that she was only surviving, moment to moment. The idea of a grand plan was even too formidable for her to contemplate. Let alone think of one. My lucid moment terminates. She has melted into the black night. I am back in the shadows of the present.
I inhale the last of my home rolled cigarette and look up to the now flooded sky. I wondered. Would I have noticed her? I wondered whether I would even speak to her. Perhaps not. She was almost invisible. A faint shadow that slipped through.
Do I have empathy for that woman I once knew? Yes, I do. Yet; she is no longer familiar to me. She is just a faint memory, a story. She made it through the skinny door with one head light on her car. She followed the hares with her eyes and released herself into the ether. She is Free.
I drop the end of my cigarette to the ground, and watch the heavy rain drops ravage the red embers, instantly savaged; swallowed; extinguished. I exhale the last drag. I stick out my tongue to gather a collage of rain drops from the past. I taste them in my mouth. There was no residue of regret mixed in my saliva. No bitterness in its taste.
I marched toward the sound of music playing. I entered through the skinny door. My head held high. My joy palpable. My stride strong. I look into those faces with assured warmth. Greeting everyone who is delighted to see me.
A long overdue entry from the shadows of the past.