Now can you understand my shock horror and surprise at hearing my fatherís suggestion. We can only bury the past if we promise never ever to resurrect it. Instead of a nuclear confrontation.my mother was suddenly all in favour of me living in Dublin with Assumpta. Her lips were restored to their former glory as she furiously plotted my future.
As Assumpta is a radiographer in the Mater hospital, my mother started raving about all the lovely suitable rich doctors I could meet through her. Poor Uncle Jimmy had suddenly slid way down the agenda. I had a choiceÖalbeit Hobsons choiceÖ. Stay in Dingle to fester and decay or join Assumpta in the city. Stay or go ..why not play Russian roulette. I had so desperately wanted to be in the driving seat, in charge of my own destiny but there were forces at work much stronger than you or I could even imagine. The die was cast as I was firmly placed on my path by the gods that be.
Tralee railway station is like a morgue at the best of times. I plunge deeper into my duffel coat cocooning myself against the biting wind that invariably frequents disgruntled passengers en route to God knows where. There are no bright lights or fancy shops here to immunise against the lonely cold wind that bores into your very soul.
The platform is littered with subdued weekenders who appear lost in a no manís land of no real fixed abode. I wish I had secured my ticket in advance so that I donít have to face the woman behind the ticket desk as she barks out an extortionate price for a single ticket to Dublin. People behind these desks are picked for their dour unaccommodating natures. I am made to feel like a criminal before I even dispose of my money." £30.50 " she barks as I fumble in my purse for the extra 50p. I only have it in twos and fives. The woman at the ticket desk huffs and puffs viciously as I try to give it to her. I notice that sheís married with two rings practically embedded into her finger. Tightly permed hair highlights her moon shaped face giving her the appearance of a tortured blow -fish. I find it hard to imagine her having another life away from endless tickets, queries and small change. Some people lend themselves to be set in stone and she looks as if she only belongs here as a dutiful C.I.E. employee. For someone like me with an over developed and at times a warped imagination I canít for the life of me picture her husband. For instance where did she meet him?
"Can I have a ticket to Dublin and would you like to go for a drink?"
Or is he the boy next door who knows that deep down she is a wonderful, worthwhile person. Yes I am convinced that it was fate that got her a man But how does divine providence decide? Is it like the lottery? She looks bitter and disgruntled so maybe fate gave her an alcoholic or an adulterer or perhaps some man whose idea of passion and excitement is angling.
I join a queue of passengers shuffling their way towards a train that is so well past its sell by date that it should be condemned. Kerry people really are too tolerant and too god damn blasť to object to the total unfairness of it all. As I am pre menstrual I feel melancholic about just everything and now itís the train. I turn around to hug Edwina and to cling to the final vestiges of sisterly warmth. My throat feels constricted and suddenly very dry as I manage to croak goodbye. Edwina hugs me one more time, a reassuring hug that gives me some hope that somehow I will survive.
The ticket collector only allows me to go through which is a struggle considering my amount of luggage. Goodbye Kerry. Adieu my past. I am now facing a whole new future full of infinite possibilities.
I put my luggage into the shelves before I look for a seat in the no smoking carriage. Please let me sit beside someone normal. No psychos or nose pickers or mobile phone addicts. Ah an empty seat at last. I sit in and scatter a few magazines to make it seem as though I am not alone. Peace. I close my eyes and allow sleep to rescue me from prospective demented thoughts.
I am now less aware of the hardness of the seat and the stale smells of the many bodies that have once been and left their mark- a damp musty smell whose layers bear witness to aeons past, each voyager with their own history. Sleep grants me access to a labyrinth of bitter sweet images that indiscriminately seep from the recesses of my unconscious mind. I am floating now over the hills, caressed by golden clouds that feel like a combination of silk and Marks and Spencerís cotton. On one cloud I see Assumpta who beckons me to join her. I reach over and as our finger tips touch I feel like I am coming home. Our fingers interlock like the missing pieces of a jigsaw that I thought were lost forever. Assumpta tries to speak. What is it? "Damien. Damien." She cries. At once the spell is broken and gravity takes its toll. I plummet to earth with this horrible sinking feeling .The past revisited has returned to haunt and torment me.
I wake up bleary eyed to feel two pairs of eyes monitoring my every move. I weakly smile in polite acknowledgement and close my eyes in the faint hope that I am still in my dream world. Momentarily I am oblivious to the fact that I am seated opposite two nuns . As I open my eyes once more they take this as an opportunity to quiz me.
"Are you tired dear?" "Where have you come from?" " All the way from Dingle." "You must be exhausted and hungry" Yeah I would be if I had to personally walk from the town but there were nil calories expended on my part. One talks and the other nods approvingly. Sr Claude and Sr St john have been visiting a sister convent in Ballybunion and are now on their return journey to Peru. My monosyllabic replies do little to deter the zealous interrogation .Sr Claude obviously loves her own voice so the questions come thick and fast. I feel like a prisoner in the dock awaiting sentence. Would they please shut up. I start to feel hot and sweaty and make my excuses to go to the loo.
On the corridor the wc sign tells me someone else had the same idea. I stand for a while feeling the countryside rip before my eyes. A mixture of diesel and slurry assault my senses. Iíve just remembered why I hate trains. I start to feel queasy as the train rattles its way into Charleville station. The WC occupant makes his entrance just as the train comes to a stand still. I donít care about the stupid rule that we canít go while the train is at a standstill. This is an emergency so there. There is only just enough room to manoeuvre myself into position. I hover precariously over the toilet seat, trying to aim as best as I can while the train starts to move again. I fall back onto a seat that is wet and squelch. All good and conscientious mothers warn their daughters to hover as the toilet seat can harbour every type of disease imaginable. Well S.T. D clinic here I come. The flushing peddle works but I have to step furiously on the other one to get a trickle of water. I use it to wash my face and end up drying it with some scratchy loo roll. I am beginning to feel almost human again.
Sr Claude and Sr St John are in mid picnic as I descend upon my seat. I am given no choice but to partake in this feast. A vast mound of sandwiches is pushed before me. Ham and tomatoes with some pickle and cress. Thereís also a mug of flasked tea which always manages to taste synthetic and bitter. Still I am not complaining for at least there is a verbal cease fire. I nibble slowly, painfully aware that two eyes are soaking in my etiquette. Sr Claude who must eat a lot judging from her ample bosom produces a fruit cake that she viciously attacks with a pen knife. She looks as if she is thriving on her mother hen image as she feeds her chicks. So far I am still not complaining as I bask in her maternal aura. Mercifully the food has dulled her powers of interrogation and she retreats behind her St Martin magazine. I flick through Best and loose myself in the story of the woman who had six husbands and murdered five of them . There is also a feature on a before boob job and an after boob job. The girl, a seventeen year old was distraught with the size of her 34 b bust. Her boyfriend offered to pay for the augmentation. As if anyone would do that for me. Anyway with her new tits her confidence has soared and sheís happy. Is it really that simple or is she simple? I do not want to ponder on the craziness of her life as I could meander into my own.
Mallow produces a greater variety of passenger, some of which are good-looking and even hunky. I think of my resolution but it does not apply to fantasy and thoughts. Aha I spy what seems to be a rugby team. Tall, well proportioned and absolutely fabulous. I shove in making a space for destiny. "Excuse me is this seat taken?" The nuns look him up and down while I unhesitatingly say no. This God- like creature is my insurance policy against their prying ways. It is a well known fact that nuns glow in the presence of a male so thank you God for delivering on time. After disposing of his luggage on the overhead rail he slides in beside me. I mutter "Hiya " and he recriprocates with "Hi" which sounds a lot better than my bog arab greeting.
I am painfully aware of him invading my personal space. Iíve no room to move my legs or elbows and suddenly I want to be able to stretch all over the place. I can smell his maleness Ė the familiarity of it fills me with twixed fear and excitement. Am I mid ovulation or what? I gaze at the hairs on his strong capable hands and I want to touch and explore the spaces between his fingers and thumb. Iím trying desperately not to stare so I try to concentrate on the wart at the end of Sr Claudes nose. I will her to speak and true to form she begins.
"Are you coming from Cork?" "Are you going to Dublin?" "Iím Sr Claude and this is Sr St John and Ö."Anna" I say weakly. "Iím Jonathan." He looks like a Jonathan, suave, sophisticated and a face to die for. Oh why are the Gods taunting me? My hormones are razor sharp. Calm, breath in and out slowly to the count of ten. There must be something mentally wrong with me if I can consider having sex with a stranger. Hi weíve only just met but do you fancy a shag? Perhaps deprivation is the first step to depravation. But lets face it, hell must be being good all the time. Maybe its because I smell of the train and its ancestral occupants that my resolve is weakening. Iím beginning to think of what Iíll be missing. . No more sweet caresses as he talks the knickers off me. I close my eyes and recall the rush of anticipation that would course through my body. And now nothing, absolutely nothing lies between me and this celibate abyss.
What will I do? How will I retrain my thoughts to be pure and lofty. Itís no big deal I half-heartedly persuade myself. I just think of the rewards that are within reach if I play my cards right. I have so much to gain, respectability, nice girl image, catch of the year of as a suitable wife. Lovely big house, two cars, 2.4 children . Hold onto the vision Anna, otherwise how will it happen girl, how will it happen?