Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER SIX

 

        It took me quite some time to find a job. Itís not easy when you possess a vague and not very useful degree like Celtic Studies and Folklore. In the cut-throat business world I was looked upon in profound disbelief. Like, who do you think you are, you uneducated pipsqueak. But I persevered. Dumb priest never got a parish and stuff. Determination alone fuelled me to endure the endless rounds of job centres and recruitment agencies, the snakes and ladders system to God knows where.

        I absolutely hate recruitment agencies. Gone are the days when you apply for a job, go to an interview and you either get the job or you donít. End of story. No big deal. Today the entire procedure for someone like me is one endless nightmarish odyssey. You canít get to the interview and pass go unless you go through some middle man in the recruitment agency. His is the hand that rocks the cradle, judging who is or isnít fit enough to go through the pearly gates. Talk about playing God! The communion between industry and humanity takes place in the dreaded recruitment agency.

        The agencies themselves are manned by smug jumped up graduates cashing in on a hungry labour market. These people can swallow you up and spit you out without wondering if they have hurt your feelings. In fact they have none and expect you to be the same. If your self esteem is low before you go in then be rest assured that afterwards it will plummet to below Zero. You donít stand a chance with their arctic interrogators, unless of course you are one of them.

        There are no frumpy secretaries or receptionists here. This is the Hollywood of job seek where image is everything and if you have a crap degree like mine you are nothing. The plush offices scream wealth and opulence. We are successful. You are not. We decide upon the chosen ones. Leather chairs adorn the waiting room, comfortable chairs giving you a false sense of comfort and dare I say optimism. Music plays softly in your ear as you are lulled into a false sense of security. This is the life or so you think. That is exactly what they want you to think.

        Once you enter the interview room be prepared to surrender yourself, mind, body and soul to the mercy of the interviewer. I discovered fairly lively that the personality attributes for a woman in this job are looks and the ability to strike terror-a melange between a bimbo and a Rothweiller. These women are impeccably groomed and blond but they are vicious with a capital V. Prepare for the death of the ego especially if you have an ethereal and vague qualification like mine.

        "Ahem" she says in her clipped Dublin four accent." Where have you worked before Anna?"

        Being honest and totally stupid I told the truth on the first few interviews

        "In a fish shop" I said

        The fake smile degenerates into a sneer that lasts for the entire interview. I am being frowned upon and disapproved of because of my previous employment. Even when I attempt to gain ground and say it was a very viable business they donít want to know. I guess there is nothing glamorous or respectable about working in a fish shop.

        There is also a procedure known as the group interview where each person is given the chance to sell themselves and declare their suitability for the job. If you havenít been to a group interview then you do not understand rejection. No way. You know we may look back in history and judge the blood -thirsty gladiators as being cruel and barbaric. But believe me we are no different today. We may hide beneath the veneers of civility but all weíve done is internalise the battle. The bludgeoning to death has been replaced by cerebral combat, as we battle for supremacy and power. Here qualifications and suitable degrees are the nouveau weapons and interrogation decrees who wins and who looses.

        "Why do you think you are suited to this type of work?"

        "What personal attributes would you bring to the company?"

        For my first group interview there were six of us present. Everyone but me had a suitable business degree so you could say I went into combat completely unarmed. The proverbial lamb to the slaughter. The discussion centred on financial planning and marketing strategies so I was in deep woods without a lifeline. What the hell was a marketing strategy? Every so often I interjected with the occasional "Yaw. Yaw" and nodded so profusely I thought they might think I was getting a fit so I stopped. I tried to feign interest and enthusiasm to make a suitable impression and I was smiling so much that my cheeks hurt and my eyes were going all oriental like. However I was still intact at this stage, still thought I was pretty cool until the dreaded grilling session began. This involved a series of brutal individual questions and answers. I was fucked and I knew it.

        I started to sweat profusely as the peroxide ice queen cast her perfectly made-up eyes at me. She could afford to be condescending to an intruder like me. I could anticipate in advance the shit hitting the fan at a zillion miles per second. Sweat trickled slowly down my back with twixed fear and nervousness.

        "Anna, Celtic Mythology and Folklore. How fascinating." Mona, the interviewer vacillated between scorn and absolute malice. Inwardly I recoiled and awaited the verbal onslaught.

        "Tell us how your degree gives you the necessary background to work in a business environment?"

        Her words immediately alienated me from the group. They stared at me in disbelief, an interloper wasting their precious time. Hey you guys I wanted to say, Iím your bit of comic relief. In vain I muttered something incoherent that must have sounded stupid to their superior and business trained ears. Two of the lads shook their heads in disapproval adding total insult to injury. The knife was sunk in and those creeps were helping to turn it. Suddenly I hated all them with their smug self satisfied fleshy faces that were in training for treble chins. In fact there was one guy whose pasty podgy face Iíd have loved to squash or operate on without an anaesthetic. If business degrees give you licence to be cruel and derogatory and judgmental then give me the world of fantasy any day.

        The final severing was reserved for last.

        "Anna I donít think you have the necessary thrust and aggression to succeed in the cut throat world of business. I Ďm sure you would be better suited to the humanities."

        So that was it, signed sealed and rejected. Just like that.

        On the outside I may not appear as the testosterone fuelled warrior princess but in a quite way I am determined and strong minded. What was construed as a lack of aggression really was paralysis. In a group situation I tend to feel rather intimidated, especially when I havenít got a clue what they are talking about. Iím not thick but my failure to react to intimidation reduces me to nothing but a dumb mutant. For that I am misjudged and grossly misunderstood. I wanted to cry or scream or do both. I wanted to refute their claims but I did nothing only nod in polite acquiescence. I knew I was beaten and not to surrender would have further dishonoured me.

        I figured out after a while that the more inflated the answer the greater the chance of being recommended. You only tell them what they want to hear and then and only then are you rewarded with instant approval. Play the game by their rules and you're in. The only thing that stood between me the pearly gates was of course my degree. Everyone else seemed to have either business or commerce degrees so that was a real problem where I was concerned.

        I was feeling very despondent until one guy gave me some rather invaluable advise. His name was Guy an economist graduate from Trinity guaranteeing him choices that I could only ever dream of. Guy liked me for some reason and was able to empathise with the futility of my situation. Over a cup of coffee and a ridiculously large chocolate ťclair Guy gave me a few useful tips. Bit like horse racing really. To win you need to have some inside information. He told me that the best time to go to the agencies is Friday afternoon. After a liquid lunch the world and all its applicants becomes a lot more brighter and eminently more suitable.

        I was putting myself in the driving seat and you know what it felt good. I dressed in one of Graceís figure hugging designer navy suits with a crisper than crisp and whiter then white Beniton shirt. I inhaled and exhaled confidence. No agent was going to beat me this time and so when it came to the dreaded question I was prepared.

        "Anna donít you think your degree in Celtic Mythology would be better suited to the arts or to research perhaps."

        "Being honest my studies involved a great deal of research with application to detail. I feel that this would be an asset rather than a hindrance in business. I can also use my imagination and interpersonal skills that I developed in the course of my studies."

        Bingo. I was in. All I had to do was sound good so I found myself being put forward for two interviews- one for the financial sector of the A.I.B and another for Pine Growth insurance. All I can say is Thank Crunchie itís Friday.

        I had a full weekend to transform myself into business woman of the year. As I had time to kill I decided to go buy some stockings in Dunnes. Browsing through one of the aisles I spotted a reduced white linen suit in my size and within my price range. Would it be hubris if I bought this one little suit for my future working life. I could always bring it back if I didnít get the job and exchange it for food.

        I had forgotten just how awful the Dunnes Stores changing rooms really are. No I am not being paranoid. This is the Ametyville horror of cellulite. The mirrors here seem to swallow your reflection and spit back the dimpled tragic look. Anna a lí orange Ė full fat. Oneís entire body is reduced to dimpled cheese like lumps that are magnified beyond belief. I mean there is cellulite and there is cellulite. In the Dunnes stores changing room it is an invasion. Usually there is some on the backs of my legs and buttocks but here not even my nose escapes. My arms are squirming lumps of orange peel and I have thin arms for Christ sake. My legs look white and literally covered in the big C. What man would want me. A teletubby yes. A husband no chance.

        I truly believe that cellulite is a crime against females. No matter how thin or toned you think you are it appears. For the rest of your life it is one life long battle against nature. Funny thing cellulite, itís just so utterly unpredictable. I once read about a guaranteed to produce results regime to shift cellulite. The advice was to drink copious amounts of water and eat nothing but fruit for the week. Eureka I thought smugly. Iíll starve that bastard cellulite out. So I starved for the week eating only apples and kiwis. I lost weight of course but what I lost in weight I seemed to gain in cellulite. The whole thing backfired leaving me very sceptical about strategies that promise itís instant demise.

        They really should have signs before you enter. Not suitable for those with heart defects or of nervous disposition. Beware - cellulite. They could have signs on the way out saying do not panic ring the special freephone ĖSamaritans will listen to your cellulite induced depression. This is not an exaggeration Ė this is cellulite at its advanced terminal stage. I canít figure why they donít just dim the light, introduce candles for Christ sake to make us feel good about ourselves. Oh no this is the harsh raw florescent lighting that amplifies every little quivering dimple, every spot, each stray grey hair.

        I dash out of the changing rooms to buy the suit and stockings. I make a mental note to invest in every anti cellulite cream and skin brush I can afford. After all I need to live in hope, however pathological that may seem. If I get a job soon I could take out a membership at the health club in Stillorglan and get some sessions on the sunbed. Tanned cellulite is just that little bit more bearable. Well just about.

        While Iím waiting for the bus I meet Sharon Foley. Of all the mortals to happen upon my path it would be her. Is today Friday the thirteenth by any chance? Sharon was in university the same time as me. She is also a Kerry woman but thatís all she in common with me. According to my mother who has gifted antennae for who has married whom and where and how many attended the reception informed me about how successful Sharon was. For Sharon married a barrister, allowing her to retire from her civil service job. She has two children, a boy and a girl. She would have the perfect family. Unfortunately Sharon sees me before I can avert my gaze. Please God let a meteor fall at this moment or let an earth quake swallow her up orÖ..

        "Anna Moran is that you? You havenít changed a bit "

        Iíve dropped a stone in weight since my college days, my hair is longer and I like to think Iím a lot more sophisticated. Not that sheíd notice or even remark upon if she did.

        "Hi Sharon " I manage to say weakly."Fancy meeting you here. I thought you lived in the other side of Dublin."

        "I do but I Ďm on my way to a La leche meeting in my friend Annabelleís house. Iím secretary of the club"

        "Oh right" I try to look enthusiastic and interested.

        "Well how are you Anna?"

        Immediately I feel myself going on the defensive. You have to with people like Sharon. Sheís like a bird of prey waiting to stalk her victim and poke out their entrails. The type of person who detracts as much information about your sad life while only revealing the icing layer of hers.

        "Iím fine," I say while forcing myself to smile.

        Whatever suicidal tendencies I might have had over my cellulite have instantly quadrupled.

        "What are you doing with yourself these days.?" She jumps in before I even get a chance to draw my breath.

        Think Anna. Think before you speak.

        "Iím job hunting Ė in fact Iíve been offered a job today."

        Sharon eyes me suspiciously as if I am totally unemployable.

        "Where?

        I rack my brains.

        "In a bank."

        "Which bank" She interjects without blinking.

        "The am am Ulster Bank in the city centre."

        Phew that seemed to satisfy her.

        "So how are you Sharon?" I say between clenched teeth.

        Sharon and her ilk have an incredible ability to soliloquise when spoken to. This was her cue to talk about herself and what a wonderful life she was having. Did she want to convince me or herself? I was told all about her coffee mornings, her manicures, her foreign holidays, her jewelleryÖ. Geoffrey, 15 years her senior, by all accounts has indulged her every whim allowing her to develop into a first class bitch. She went on about breast feeding so much you would think she had personally invented the tit. No saggy boobs for her. Taut and firm despite of or maybe because of the suckling.

        I try to change the conversation.

        "Are you working Sharon?"

        "Working?" She says incredulously.

        "Goodness no. I gave up when the babies arrived. Geoffrey likes to have a proper stay at home wife"

        Dear God is there any justice when women like her get husbands like Geoffrey. I watch her face as she speaks. Her lips are perfectly outlined. Her eye lashes tinted. Her hair is so perfectly coiffured it looks as if itís glued to her head. Her crispy pink shirt over her designer jeans does little to betray the fact that she is a stay at home wife. Ainít life a bitch?

        "Where are your children Sharon ?"

        "Children" she says as if she is pained to remember she has any.

        "Why theyíre with the au pair dear. Itís great I just express my milk and dash off." She retorts.

        I try to imagine a hungry baby being treated to a Sharon Expresso. Breast may better but for mammals like Sharon expresso is best. It is so typical of her to be able to dissociate herself from her children. Nobody and nothing destabilises her perfect existence. I can envisage her perfect family with its members like dutiful satellites surrounding their controller. Therein lies the advantage of being detached and unemotional. Not in the Zen Buddist mystical way but in the selfish way of people like Sharon. Her destiny is under her decision and control. Period.

        Her mother is the same. Rigid and unsentimental. She and her entourage of five daughters follow the rules and recipes of life to a tee. They never worry if they are on the right path or if they are following destinyís dreams. They donít think and for that they are rewarded with stability, security and utter smugness. After time spent in their company I feel grossly inadequate and totally pissed off. They seem to bring out the worst in me. Those like Sharon seem to need people like me to feel good about themselves and to somehow justify their superiority. They make me feel sad and worthless maybe because they fail to acknowledge the part of me that is worthwhile and valuable. These people are detractors and energy drainers and I hate them with a passion.

        In Sharonís eyes I was obviously lower than the low because she failed to invite me over to her home in Howth. Not that I want to, mind you. But I got the message loud and clear. Anna Moran you sad person are not good enough for Sharon the great. I watch her more closely as she speaks " I was just saying to Geoffrey that I need a break and he suggested a week in Tuscany with our friends Mario and Juliette." She sighs audibly.

        Seeing as I donít get a word in edgeways I look at her more closely. I notice a developing jowl that shakes and shudders causing her face to appear like a strangled turkey. Her nose seems to resemble a sloped beak. Yes I decide there is a God but he sure has a warped sense of who gets what on this planet. There is only so much of this I can take before I feel genuinely ill.

        "My bus is coming. Lovely to have seen you again Sharon. See you"

        I manage to say between clenched teeth.

        "Yeah see you around Anna. Bye for now."

        She leans towards me. Oh no please donít let her kiss me. What with my near death brush with cellulite I couldnít bear it. She kisses the air on either side of my face. Goodbye the Sharons of this world. I never want to lay eyes on you again either in this life or the next. I am adamant that if there is a heaven and it is inhabited by Sharon and her family I will not go in. I would prefer to burn in hellís fires and to kissed by the devils burning salty lipsÖÖÖÖ.

        I lean against the window on the bus. Only this morning I received an extract from Kerryís Eye from my mother. Every so often she sends me the just married section that is full of the countyís brides and grooms. My mother mission is to remind me what exactly Iím missing, which is not a lot actually. Nora Sugrue, daughter of Noel and Mary Sugrue, recently married Tom Falvey at St Maryís church Lixnaw. The reception was held at the Earl of Desmond hotel. The couple will reside in Lixnaw. Thatís it. The one big day of their lives where for at least a while they are somebody. I look at Noraís face as she gazes lovingly or stupidly into Noelís face. Sheís not too bad but he is brutal with a capital B. I decide that he must be some big fuck off farmer in the area. The master quite literally buys the dutiful slave. She shall bear his children and work on the farm til death them do part. Personally I would prefer to swim in slurry but thatís me.

        Apart from pregnancy outside marriage which is sin number one in my motherís book there is there is also the stigma of marrying beneath you My mother loves this one. She goes into full rant mode in the justification of her home truths. Take Alice Gorman a friend of mine from Killarney. She is a successful dentist ( a professional according to my mother) but she married a taxi driver. Now if my Mother had her way she would introduce the caste system into Ireland and taxi drivers and factory workers would be the untouchables. They would be made to walk on the other side of the road, live in shanty townsÖ..

        "A lovely girl like Alice will be dragged down to his level. Mark my words Anna. Her poor mother was sooo disappointed. Throwing away her life like that and for what. A taxi Driver." She almost spat out the words.

        The trouble with my mother is she does not think before she speaks and condemns. She cannot see the fact that Alice is a very plain girl with prominent teeth and humongous thighs. She has a distorted pear shape and this is being kind. Paul the taxi driver on the other hand is an Andy Garcia look alike. To me this is a very fair trade off The Beauty and the dental Beast. When I point out the fact that Jesus himself was a carpenter my mother huffily retorts that if universities were around in his day then he too would have been a professional. Subject closed.

        In some perverse way I enjoy getting the Just Married page. Itís a laugh to say the least.. My mother circles the pictures of girls whose ability to find suitable husbands is even beyond her limited perceptions. This week it is Josie Donaghue who has been given the red circle. There is an arrow saying --- if she can find a husband anyone can. Josie is 16 stone with false teeth and frizzy hair but deep down, . well maybe very deep down she may be a lovely person. I get very depressed at times looking at those who succeed in getting a husband. Do they take the first one that comes their way and asks? Is this their first choice or are they merely compromising? Are they really truly madly and deeply in love. I look into Josieís eyes and try to see the passion but all I can see is a smug fat face that says "Even I got a man". I decide there and then that it must be some primeval battle for the survival of the species. Josie is subconsciously programmed to go forth and multiply. Perish the thought. Perish the thought indeed. Iím getting too disillusioned in one so young.

        The interviews for the insurance job are being held in an office off Baggot street. I dress in a pale green linen suit with a lemon shirt. Elliot says I Ďd look great as a loop the loop ice lolly. He says I look good enough to lick which makes me laugh but also makes me wonder what that would be like. Now Anna I say to myself, you must stop these crazy thoughts because thatís all they are, crazy and zany. Not that Elliot isnít half bad. Heís not but heís Elliot. With I might add no worldly ambition, no money, a crap car and an unstable and nebulous future.

        "Anna you look beautiful today. I hope the interviewer is a man because heíll take one glance at you and youíre in. Heíll want to lick you all over and taste yourÖ"

        "Donít you ever think about anything other than sex Elliot" sneered Cecil as he religiously chewed his organic muesli about forty times.

        "I think about you Cecil and how Iíd like to see you want to lick a woman " laughed Elliot.

        Cecil huffed and continued to eat in silence while Elliot sang a song about girls wanting to have fun. He was in too good a mood for a Monday morning. I think he fancies Assumptaís friend Zoe and sheís been around here quite a lot these days. Aha he either has or has yet to be with the sexy if somewhat silly Zoe. She is incredibly beautiful and intelligent but hasnít one ounce of common sense or sensitivity to other peopleís feelings either. She asked Harry the other night if he was taking viagra and the poor guy nearly died on the spot. I donít know what that was about but Harry was visibly upset and left the room. Elliot hasnít seen this side of her so heís singing about the Zoe he wants her to be. Let him have his bubble til it bursts. See if I care. Huh!

        I hire a taxi to the office. I want to achieve the almost pressed and pristine look that usually evades me. Remember Anna image is everything and you are the image you want to be today. I remember my deep breathing exercises and how I must look the interviewer in the eye and speak clearly and confidently Ö

        Oh no. Oh God. Shit. Fuck. Shit. The interviewer is a woman. I canít handle this at all. Sheíll hate me. I know she will. Smile Anna. Stay calm. More smiles.

        "Anna Moran"

        "Thatís right" I say continuing to smile like a demented spider who is supposed to feign happiness as he struggles in the web. I try to relax and sink so far down into the leather chair that Mrs Hamilton has to lean over to see me properly. I struggle to sit up but I am sweating so much I feel glued to the chair. I am disobeying all the rules of etiquette but what the hell. I donít stand a chance anyway.

        Mrs Hamilton fires out the usual questions and I retaliate with what seems to be the right answers. Elliot had gone over these answers with me last night so they roll effortlessly off my tongue. The interviewer kept nodding and saying "Yes. Yes" So much so that I felt I was doing all the talking. Now when that happens I get nervous and when I get nervous I laugh. At myself I hasten to add. I made some silly remark about women in insurance and how they use their charm and wit to get people to sign on the dotted line. I started to picture myself with the buttons of my shirt open revealing a tempting breast to a potential client. I started not just to laugh but to guffaw very loudly. The tears rolled down my cheeks and I shook so much that even I thought I was getting a convulsion. I thought I had blown my chances until Mrs Hamilton began to laugh uncontrollably and nearly fell off the chair. Maybe she too was also thinking of the bare breast image. You never know with telepathy and all that weird psychic stuff.

        Whatever it was she loved me and I loved her for loving me. She said I would be like a breath of fresh air to a growing company such as theirs. I almost kissed her on the spot but drew back. I didnít want her to think I was too desperate. I got a phone call from the recruitment agency later on that day to say I had the job. I was to start staff training on the Thursday. At last I had managed to get a start on the corporate ladder starting with a salary of £20,000. Nice one Anna. Nice one. Today I am well and truly in love with myself. Je míaime. Je míaime beaucoup.

        To crown my good fortune Assumpta has gone on holidays to south Africa with her married lover Mickey I canít imagine for the world what his wife thinks.

        "Darling I need to entertain some clients in South Africa. No, no itís just work, work, work. Weíll take a holiday in June when the contracts are over. You take it easy while Iím away. Leave the children with their au pair and you go buy something nice to wear. Iíll miss you sweetheart, while Iím away."

        Meanwhile the lusty devil has planned to get some value from his mistress Asssumpta. Mistress. The word itself is redolent of expensive perfumes, secret candle lit dinners, stolen moments and kisses. It calls to mind sexy underwear, preferably see through racy red with suspenders or maybe a thong if youíre a cellulite free zone. Wife. The title, although sometimes hard earned evokes images of potato peelings, furniture polish and snotty kids. What about the passion, the excitement, the dream. Iím going in too deep and I do not like where this is going. Am I prepared to take the agony along with the ecstasy? Assumpta doesnít. Her philosophy du jour is why have bread when you can eat cake. It must be delayed euphoria what with the new job that is clouding my vision. I need a drink to lift me out of my cellulite and my relationship despondency. I want to be me. Knock, knock. Remember me Anna Moran the girl that used to be such a laugh and carefree. Well tonight is the night girl when youíre about to be resurrected if itís the last thing I do.

        I call into the seven to eleven and buy a bottle of red wine. Alcoholís future release grants me permission to indulge in a full fat pizza with no ham. When you say no ham they compensate with more cheese. Yipee say my cellulite cells, who are planning to reproduce at an alarmingly rate. The diet will begin tomorrow but for today I will rejoice and be the real full fat cellulite version. I once read somewhere that inside every thin person is a fat one longing to break free. You are out tonight Anna but tomorrow its back to jail and the only thing you collect is some extra pounds on those deadly white squidgy thighs.

        Great thereís nobody at home for a change. The difference with Assumpta gone is nothing short of absolutely amazing. I can be the real me, messy, disorganized and hopelessly divergent. My sense of freedom is bordering on exhilarating. I exaggerate not. Imagine I can drop my coat where ever I want. I can sit and watch TV as I eat and not even think of crumbs. Iím so carried away I burst into song. This is like the first day of a holiday." Itís my party and Iíll cry if I want to, cry if I want to"

        I uncork the wine. Effortlessly I might add. Iíve had no alcohol for four weeks now. My cells are squeaky clean and hopelessly bored, bordering on smug. Theyíve been too good and hell thatís not normal. Oooh pizza. Messy, . cheesy and sooo wummy. I put on the television to watch this weeks Coronation street. This is the life. I put my feet up and start to tear into the pizza. No plates. No forks. This is me primitive style. I love the way the bits of melted cheese dribble down my chin waiting to be rescued by my tongue. Well done tongue. Tongueís taste buds are relishing this work."Yum. Yum." Says Mr Tongue."Look at what I can do " he says."I can relay messages to your brain to raise your pleasure chemicals, I can lick your nose and I used to, well I used to bring pleasure to so many people. Why arenít t I doing that any more?"

        "Shut up tongue" I say."Shut up and be happy with pizza. This is the best itís going to be. I give you one thing and you want more. Typical. Bloody typical."

        Is this the alcohol racing through my veins or am I going mad? I do want more. Donít I? I miss it you know. Itís not just the sex. Itís the closeness to another living breathing human being. So what if they usually were gone in the morning. I had the moment. I seized those moments. They made me feel wanted. Now I feel sexually redundant and emotionally bereft. What am I doing to myself?

        I know itís the alcohol thatís making me horny but it also makes me feel empty and alone. I tried before to quench the pain of loneliness with men. For a time I filled myself with their secretions. While it lasted I had something of someone else inside me. For the moment my chemistry included that of another. No longer just Anna but Anna and her shagee. For a short while I could step outside of myself through another human being. And now I am alone. Desperately alone. Itís like we all walk around in these bodies but each body is like a separate building. Is sex our only true way to get out of our separateness. I have heard that you can die of a broken heart but can you die of celibacy? Is it the same thing. Lovers come, lovers go. You mourn. You recover. New lover arrives. What if nobody comes. Do you then give up the will to live? Great. Death by celibacy. Anna Moran. R. I. P. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. What a fucking waste.

        We are encouraged to think about the joys that are ours in the next life. I swear I will seriously contemplate those joys when I have one foot in the grave but not now. Iím far too young. I can keep a lid on my sexuality but I cannot totally subdue it. Alcohol releases not only pleasure but also pain. Double edged sword. Have a good laugh and then drown in a vale of tears. I wish Elliot was here. He seems to make things seem ok. Itís his calm circumspect way of looking at things. When I told him my plans to head hunt a husband he didnít recoil in horror the way that Assumpta did. He listened and didnít judge. He said that sex and love if you are lucky enough to be able to unite them must be great. As a man he felt that it was the woman who guards the right to sex. That is her power. He thought that promiscuity was merely a throwback to our primitive selves. It was natureís way of propagating the species. Our problem is that sex and morality are precariously intertwined. On the one hand we have these three million year old primitive cells that give us the gift of lust but then we are also given a heart and a conscience that act as filters and brakes. So thou shalt fuck but the following morning thou shalt recall all the memories in Technicolor detail. Life sucks big time.

        I pour myself the final glass of wine. Too late. Cecil has returned. Cecil the accountant. Cecil the bore. Cecil who disapproves of any pleasure of the flesh and that includes pizza. I am in no mood for one of his many lectures. Why canít he just keep his facial expressions to himself. He frowns narrowly at the discarded pizza box as he bends down to put it in the bin. Then wait for it. He proceeds to put a coaster under my wine glass. I look at his peevish shrivelled face. With wine goggles he looks like the garden gnome my mother has at the bottom of the garden. Maybe heís not human. I donít say a word and neither does he. At least we know where we stand with each other. My sense of aloneness intensifies when confronted with the mean spiritedness of the species.

        I hate Cecil. No I abhor Cecil. How on earth did he gain access to the planet? Elliot once told me that that his parents are like Mary and Joseph, religious maniacs who smothered their virgin birth with their religious beliefs. See what religion can do. It can warp the soul with its God fearing deities and its unending list of thou shalt nots. Be born but whatever happens have a bloody miserable time while youíre here. Wear sunscreeen. Worse still wear a condom. Whatever you do try not to feel. Pleasure is a nasty eight letter word. Writhe in agony but whatever you do donít writhe with pleasure. Turn off all the lights and wait til the last day. Now hello. Is God warped or what ? I watch Cecil as he watches the flickering scenes on the box. His lips are pursed and his body appears rigid and tense. I would bet any money that he is a virgin. Maybe thatís whatís wrong with him. The slow death by celibacy. He seems to be utterly incapable of giving vent to any form of passion. What does he feel if at all? He is so shut up in himself and so cut off. So immune to any other form of reality other than routine and sterility. Does he ever long to break free and go on a picnic at midnight or fly a kite or go skinny dipping.

        Suddenly I pity him but that lasts for all of two seconds as I sense his beady eyes on me. Assumpta may be gone but she left behind her good and faithful servant who charts my every move to relay everything back to the queen herself. I vote to bring back hanging for espionage or death by lethal injection or hanging. Yeah public hanging for Cecil. Nah it would be too good for him. I go to bed devising various tortures for him. Keep him in a cell with Elliot. Donít allow him to clean for a month. Sleep with a bag lady. No be a bag lady.

        Very quickly I realise that Cecil is taking up too much of my brain space. Heís just not worth it. I pick up my bedside book of the moment. Would you believe it I am re reading Wuthering heights. I initially started to read it as I had nothing else to read but I also I must have had a deep rooted need to see what it was that actually drove Heathcliff. We read this novel in school but I never really understood it. For a start I think it raises some very interesting questions such as who would you choose as a husband. The dependable wealthy Edgar Linton or the wild passionate and sometimes cruel Heathcliff. I think your answer reveals more about what you want from a man than you will ever hope to admit. I do not even have to think for Heathcliff wins hands down for me. Why? Because I like a man to be a man. I couldnít bear the diluted version with their over developed feminine nature. I guess itís politically ok to be a wimp today and masquerade behind sensitivity. " Heís so nice. Heís so soft." Oh puke.. All this is backfiring on men you know. If they donít watch it theyíll be made redundant. We are the sensitive creatures. Not them. If we donít watch it we will dig our own graves. Not only will we have to cope with the before and after menstrual upheavals we will also have to pander to wimpish sentimental blokes and wonder if they are feeling ok. Sod that. Women like a man who is sensitive to their needs but not at the cost of their true nature. As the French would say: "Vive La Difference", and I sure as hell would second that. As I was saying I like a man to be a man. I want passion, a passion that consumes and bugger it if it ultimately destroys. I just cannot bear the lukewarm safe man, the type that I would, given my current desperation, need to marry.

        I go to sleep that night and dream of the rugged untamed moors. Through the window I see Edgar Linton stoking the fire and smoking his pipe. The epitome of safe domesticity and warmth. I turn around to face a biting evil wind and as I do so I see Heathcliff riding over the purple heather towards me. I am torn but I must decide. I must go with how I feel. How could I choose the ineffectual, insipid Edgar. HeathCliff. It has to be Heathcliff. He captivates my heart, my soul, my imagination in a way that Edgar Linton could not. As he whisks me up into his manly arms and we ride off against the wind and rain I feel I can be myself with this man. Wild, passionate, ultimately free and dare I admit it incredibly horny. If I donít watch it Iíll be needing something seriously electronic for my birthday. Damn thatís too far away. Easter perhaps? Replacement for the chocolate egg? I wonder if I could get something mail order. Best maybe to leave it until I'm really desperate, dangerously desperate.

 

next...

Contents

Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER SIX

 

        It took me quite some time to find a job. Itís not easy when you possess a vague and not very useful degree like Celtic Studies and Folklore. In the cut-throat business world I was looked upon in profound disbelief. Like, who do you think you are, you uneducated pipsqueak. But I persevered. Dumb priest never got a parish and stuff. Determination alone fuelled me to endure the endless rounds of job centres and recruitment agencies, the snakes and ladders system to God knows where.

        I absolutely hate recruitment agencies. Gone are the days when you apply for a job, go to an interview and you either get the job or you donít. End of story. No big deal. Today the entire procedure for someone like me is one endless nightmarish odyssey. You canít get to the interview and pass go unless you go through some middle man in the recruitment agency. His is the hand that rocks the cradle, judging who is or isnít fit enough to go through the pearly gates. Talk about playing God! The communion between industry and humanity takes place in the dreaded recruitment agency.

        The agencies themselves are manned by smug jumped up graduates cashing in on a hungry labour market. These people can swallow you up and spit you out without wondering if they have hurt your feelings. In fact they have none and expect you to be the same. If your self esteem is low before you go in then be rest assured that afterwards it will plummet to below Zero. You donít stand a chance with their arctic interrogators, unless of course you are one of them.

        There are no frumpy secretaries or receptionists here. This is the Hollywood of job seek where image is everything and if you have a crap degree like mine you are nothing. The plush offices scream wealth and opulence. We are successful. You are not. We decide upon the chosen ones. Leather chairs adorn the waiting room, comfortable chairs giving you a false sense of comfort and dare I say optimism. Music plays softly in your ear as you are lulled into a false sense of security. This is the life or so you think. That is exactly what they want you to think.

        Once you enter the interview room be prepared to surrender yourself, mind, body and soul to the mercy of the interviewer. I discovered fairly lively that the personality attributes for a woman in this job are looks and the ability to strike terror-a melange between a bimbo and a Rothweiller. These women are impeccably groomed and blond but they are vicious with a capital V. Prepare for the death of the ego especially if you have an ethereal and vague qualification like mine.

        "Ahem" she says in her clipped Dublin four accent." Where have you worked before Anna?"

        Being honest and totally stupid I told the truth on the first few interviews

        "In a fish shop" I said

        The fake smile degenerates into a sneer that lasts for the entire interview. I am being frowned upon and disapproved of because of my previous employment. Even when I attempt to gain ground and say it was a very viable business they donít want to know. I guess there is nothing glamorous or respectable about working in a fish shop.

        There is also a procedure known as the group interview where each person is given the chance to sell themselves and declare their suitability for the job. If you havenít been to a group interview then you do not understand rejection. No way. You know we may look back in history and judge the blood -thirsty gladiators as being cruel and barbaric. But believe me we are no different today. We may hide beneath the veneers of civility but all weíve done is internalise the battle. The bludgeoning to death has been replaced by cerebral combat, as we battle for supremacy and power. Here qualifications and suitable degrees are the nouveau weapons and interrogation decrees who wins and who looses.

        "Why do you think you are suited to this type of work?"

        "What personal attributes would you bring to the company?"

        For my first group interview there were six of us present. Everyone but me had a suitable business degree so you could say I went into combat completely unarmed. The proverbial lamb to the slaughter. The discussion centred on financial planning and marketing strategies so I was in deep woods without a lifeline. What the hell was a marketing strategy? Every so often I interjected with the occasional "Yaw. Yaw" and nodded so profusely I thought they might think I was getting a fit so I stopped. I tried to feign interest and enthusiasm to make a suitable impression and I was smiling so much that my cheeks hurt and my eyes were going all oriental like. However I was still intact at this stage, still thought I was pretty cool until the dreaded grilling session began. This involved a series of brutal individual questions and answers. I was fucked and I knew it.

        I started to sweat profusely as the peroxide ice queen cast her perfectly made-up eyes at me. She could afford to be condescending to an intruder like me. I could anticipate in advance the shit hitting the fan at a zillion miles per second. Sweat trickled slowly down my back with twixed fear and nervousness.

        "Anna, Celtic Mythology and Folklore. How fascinating." Mona, the interviewer vacillated between scorn and absolute malice. Inwardly I recoiled and awaited the verbal onslaught.

        "Tell us how your degree gives you the necessary background to work in a business environment?"

        Her words immediately alienated me from the group. They stared at me in disbelief, an interloper wasting their precious time. Hey you guys I wanted to say, Iím your bit of comic relief. In vain I muttered something incoherent that must have sounded stupid to their superior and business trained ears. Two of the lads shook their heads in disapproval adding total insult to injury. The knife was sunk in and those creeps were helping to turn it. Suddenly I hated all them with their smug self satisfied fleshy faces that were in training for treble chins. In fact there was one guy whose pasty podgy face Iíd have loved to squash or operate on without an anaesthetic. If business degrees give you licence to be cruel and derogatory and judgmental then give me the world of fantasy any day.

        The final severing was reserved for last.

        "Anna I donít think you have the necessary thrust and aggression to succeed in the cut throat world of business. I Ďm sure you would be better suited to the humanities."

        So that was it, signed sealed and rejected. Just like that.

        On the outside I may not appear as the testosterone fuelled warrior princess but in a quite way I am determined and strong minded. What was construed as a lack of aggression really was paralysis. In a group situation I tend to feel rather intimidated, especially when I havenít got a clue what they are talking about. Iím not thick but my failure to react to intimidation reduces me to nothing but a dumb mutant. For that I am misjudged and grossly misunderstood. I wanted to cry or scream or do both. I wanted to refute their claims but I did nothing only nod in polite acquiescence. I knew I was beaten and not to surrender would have further dishonoured me.

        I figured out after a while that the more inflated the answer the greater the chance of being recommended. You only tell them what they want to hear and then and only then are you rewarded with instant approval. Play the game by their rules and you're in. The only thing that stood between me the pearly gates was of course my degree. Everyone else seemed to have either business or commerce degrees so that was a real problem where I was concerned.

        I was feeling very despondent until one guy gave me some rather invaluable advise. His name was Guy an economist graduate from Trinity guaranteeing him choices that I could only ever dream of. Guy liked me for some reason and was able to empathise with the futility of my situation. Over a cup of coffee and a ridiculously large chocolate ťclair Guy gave me a few useful tips. Bit like horse racing really. To win you need to have some inside information. He told me that the best time to go to the agencies is Friday afternoon. After a liquid lunch the world and all its applicants becomes a lot more brighter and eminently more suitable.

        I was putting myself in the driving seat and you know what it felt good. I dressed in one of Graceís figure hugging designer navy suits with a crisper than crisp and whiter then white Beniton shirt. I inhaled and exhaled confidence. No agent was going to beat me this time and so when it came to the dreaded question I was prepared.

        "Anna donít you think your degree in Celtic Mythology would be better suited to the arts or to research perhaps."

        "Being honest my studies involved a great deal of research with application to detail. I feel that this would be an asset rather than a hindrance in business. I can also use my imagination and interpersonal skills that I developed in the course of my studies."

        Bingo. I was in. All I had to do was sound good so I found myself being put forward for two interviews- one for the financial sector of the A.I.B and another for Pine Growth insurance. All I can say is Thank Crunchie itís Friday.

        I had a full weekend to transform myself into business woman of the year. As I had time to kill I decided to go buy some stockings in Dunnes. Browsing through one of the aisles I spotted a reduced white linen suit in my size and within my price range. Would it be hubris if I bought this one little suit for my future working life. I could always bring it back if I didnít get the job and exchange it for food.

        I had forgotten just how awful the Dunnes Stores changing rooms really are. No I am not being paranoid. This is the Ametyville horror of cellulite. The mirrors here seem to swallow your reflection and spit back the dimpled tragic look. Anna a lí orange Ė full fat. Oneís entire body is reduced to dimpled cheese like lumps that are magnified beyond belief. I mean there is cellulite and there is cellulite. In the Dunnes stores changing room it is an invasion. Usually there is some on the backs of my legs and buttocks but here not even my nose escapes. My arms are squirming lumps of orange peel and I have thin arms for Christ sake. My legs look white and literally covered in the big C. What man would want me. A teletubby yes. A husband no chance.

        I truly believe that cellulite is a crime against females. No matter how thin or toned you think you are it appears. For the rest of your life it is one life long battle against nature. Funny thing cellulite, itís just so utterly unpredictable. I once read about a guaranteed to produce results regime to shift cellulite. The advice was to drink copious amounts of water and eat nothing but fruit for the week. Eureka I thought smugly. Iíll starve that bastard cellulite out. So I starved for the week eating only apples and kiwis. I lost weight of course but what I lost in weight I seemed to gain in cellulite. The whole thing backfired leaving me very sceptical about strategies that promise itís instant demise.

        They really should have signs before you enter. Not suitable for those with heart defects or of nervous disposition. Beware - cellulite. They could have signs on the way out saying do not panic ring the special freephone ĖSamaritans will listen to your cellulite induced depression. This is not an exaggeration Ė this is cellulite at its advanced terminal stage. I canít figure why they donít just dim the light, introduce candles for Christ sake to make us feel good about ourselves. Oh no this is the harsh raw florescent lighting that amplifies every little quivering dimple, every spot, each stray grey hair.

        I dash out of the changing rooms to buy the suit and stockings. I make a mental note to invest in every anti cellulite cream and skin brush I can afford. After all I need to live in hope, however pathological that may seem. If I get a job soon I could take out a membership at the health club in Stillorglan and get some sessions on the sunbed. Tanned cellulite is just that little bit more bearable. Well just about.

        While Iím waiting for the bus I meet Sharon Foley. Of all the mortals to happen upon my path it would be her. Is today Friday the thirteenth by any chance? Sharon was in university the same time as me. She is also a Kerry woman but thatís all she in common with me. According to my mother who has gifted antennae for who has married whom and where and how many attended the reception informed me about how successful Sharon was. For Sharon married a barrister, allowing her to retire from her civil service job. She has two children, a boy and a girl. She would have the perfect family. Unfortunately Sharon sees me before I can avert my gaze. Please God let a meteor fall at this moment or let an earth quake swallow her up orÖ..

        "Anna Moran is that you? You havenít changed a bit "

        Iíve dropped a stone in weight since my college days, my hair is longer and I like to think Iím a lot more sophisticated. Not that sheíd notice or even remark upon if she did.

        "Hi Sharon " I manage to say weakly."Fancy meeting you here. I thought you lived in the other side of Dublin."

        "I do but I Ďm on my way to a La leche meeting in my friend Annabelleís house. Iím secretary of the club"

        "Oh right" I try to look enthusiastic and interested.

        "Well how are you Anna?"

        Immediately I feel myself going on the defensive. You have to with people like Sharon. Sheís like a bird of prey waiting to stalk her victim and poke out their entrails. The type of person who detracts as much information about your sad life while only revealing the icing layer of hers.

        "Iím fine," I say while forcing myself to smile.

        Whatever suicidal tendencies I might have had over my cellulite have instantly quadrupled.

        "What are you doing with yourself these days.?" She jumps in before I even get a chance to draw my breath.

        Think Anna. Think before you speak.

        "Iím job hunting Ė in fact Iíve been offered a job today."

        Sharon eyes me suspiciously as if I am totally unemployable.

        "Where?

        I rack my brains.

        "In a bank."

        "Which bank" She interjects without blinking.

        "The am am Ulster Bank in the city centre."

        Phew that seemed to satisfy her.

        "So how are you Sharon?" I say between clenched teeth.

        Sharon and her ilk have an incredible ability to soliloquise when spoken to. This was her cue to talk about herself and what a wonderful life she was having. Did she want to convince me or herself? I was told all about her coffee mornings, her manicures, her foreign holidays, her jewelleryÖ. Geoffrey, 15 years her senior, by all accounts has indulged her every whim allowing her to develop into a first class bitch. She went on about breast feeding so much you would think she had personally invented the tit. No saggy boobs for her. Taut and firm despite of or maybe because of the suckling.

        I try to change the conversation.

        "Are you working Sharon?"

        "Working?" She says incredulously.

        "Goodness no. I gave up when the babies arrived. Geoffrey likes to have a proper stay at home wife"

        Dear God is there any justice when women like her get husbands like Geoffrey. I watch her face as she speaks. Her lips are perfectly outlined. Her eye lashes tinted. Her hair is so perfectly coiffured it looks as if itís glued to her head. Her crispy pink shirt over her designer jeans does little to betray the fact that she is a stay at home wife. Ainít life a bitch?

        "Where are your children Sharon ?"

        "Children" she says as if she is pained to remember she has any.

        "Why theyíre with the au pair dear. Itís great I just express my milk and dash off." She retorts.

        I try to imagine a hungry baby being treated to a Sharon Expresso. Breast may better but for mammals like Sharon expresso is best. It is so typical of her to be able to dissociate herself from her children. Nobody and nothing destabilises her perfect existence. I can envisage her perfect family with its members like dutiful satellites surrounding their controller. Therein lies the advantage of being detached and unemotional. Not in the Zen Buddist mystical way but in the selfish way of people like Sharon. Her destiny is under her decision and control. Period.

        Her mother is the same. Rigid and unsentimental. She and her entourage of five daughters follow the rules and recipes of life to a tee. They never worry if they are on the right path or if they are following destinyís dreams. They donít think and for that they are rewarded with stability, security and utter smugness. After time spent in their company I feel grossly inadequate and totally pissed off. They seem to bring out the worst in me. Those like Sharon seem to need people like me to feel good about themselves and to somehow justify their superiority. They make me feel sad and worthless maybe because they fail to acknowledge the part of me that is worthwhile and valuable. These people are detractors and energy drainers and I hate them with a passion.

        In Sharonís eyes I was obviously lower than the low because she failed to invite me over to her home in Howth. Not that I want to, mind you. But I got the message loud and clear. Anna Moran you sad person are not good enough for Sharon the great. I watch her more closely as she speaks " I was just saying to Geoffrey that I need a break and he suggested a week in Tuscany with our friends Mario and Juliette." She sighs audibly.

        Seeing as I donít get a word in edgeways I look at her more closely. I notice a developing jowl that shakes and shudders causing her face to appear like a strangled turkey. Her nose seems to resemble a sloped beak. Yes I decide there is a God but he sure has a warped sense of who gets what on this planet. There is only so much of this I can take before I feel genuinely ill.

        "My bus is coming. Lovely to have seen you again Sharon. See you"

        I manage to say between clenched teeth.

        "Yeah see you around Anna. Bye for now."

        She leans towards me. Oh no please donít let her kiss me. What with my near death brush with cellulite I couldnít bear it. She kisses the air on either side of my face. Goodbye the Sharons of this world. I never want to lay eyes on you again either in this life or the next. I am adamant that if there is a heaven and it is inhabited by Sharon and her family I will not go in. I would prefer to burn in hellís fires and to kissed by the devils burning salty lipsÖÖÖÖ.

        I lean against the window on the bus. Only this morning I received an extract from Kerryís Eye from my mother. Every so often she sends me the just married section that is full of the countyís brides and grooms. My mother mission is to remind me what exactly Iím missing, which is not a lot actually. Nora Sugrue, daughter of Noel and Mary Sugrue, recently married Tom Falvey at St Maryís church Lixnaw. The reception was held at the Earl of Desmond hotel. The couple will reside in Lixnaw. Thatís it. The one big day of their lives where for at least a while they are somebody. I look at Noraís face as she gazes lovingly or stupidly into Noelís face. Sheís not too bad but he is brutal with a capital B. I decide that he must be some big fuck off farmer in the area. The master quite literally buys the dutiful slave. She shall bear his children and work on the farm til death them do part. Personally I would prefer to swim in slurry but thatís me.

        Apart from pregnancy outside marriage which is sin number one in my motherís book there is there is also the stigma of marrying beneath you My mother loves this one. She goes into full rant mode in the justification of her home truths. Take Alice Gorman a friend of mine from Killarney. She is a successful dentist ( a professional according to my mother) but she married a taxi driver. Now if my Mother had her way she would introduce the caste system into Ireland and taxi drivers and factory workers would be the untouchables. They would be made to walk on the other side of the road, live in shanty townsÖ..

        "A lovely girl like Alice will be dragged down to his level. Mark my words Anna. Her poor mother was sooo disappointed. Throwing away her life like that and for what. A taxi Driver." She almost spat out the words.

        The trouble with my mother is she does not think before she speaks and condemns. She cannot see the fact that Alice is a very plain girl with prominent teeth and humongous thighs. She has a distorted pear shape and this is being kind. Paul the taxi driver on the other hand is an Andy Garcia look alike. To me this is a very fair trade off The Beauty and the dental Beast. When I point out the fact that Jesus himself was a carpenter my mother huffily retorts that if universities were around in his day then he too would have been a professional. Subject closed.

        In some perverse way I enjoy getting the Just Married page. Itís a laugh to say the least.. My mother circles the pictures of girls whose ability to find suitable husbands is even beyond her limited perceptions. This week it is Josie Donaghue who has been given the red circle. There is an arrow saying --- if she can find a husband anyone can. Josie is 16 stone with false teeth and frizzy hair but deep down, . well maybe very deep down she may be a lovely person. I get very depressed at times looking at those who succeed in getting a husband. Do they take the first one that comes their way and asks? Is this their first choice or are they merely compromising? Are they really truly madly and deeply in love. I look into Josieís eyes and try to see the passion but all I can see is a smug fat face that says "Even I got a man". I decide there and then that it must be some primeval battle for the survival of the species. Josie is subconsciously programmed to go forth and multiply. Perish the thought. Perish the thought indeed. Iím getting too disillusioned in one so young.

        The interviews for the insurance job are being held in an office off Baggot street. I dress in a pale green linen suit with a lemon shirt. Elliot says I Ďd look great as a loop the loop ice lolly. He says I look good enough to lick which makes me laugh but also makes me wonder what that would be like. Now Anna I say to myself, you must stop these crazy thoughts because thatís all they are, crazy and zany. Not that Elliot isnít half bad. Heís not but heís Elliot. With I might add no worldly ambition, no money, a crap car and an unstable and nebulous future.

        "Anna you look beautiful today. I hope the interviewer is a man because heíll take one glance at you and youíre in. Heíll want to lick you all over and taste yourÖ"

        "Donít you ever think about anything other than sex Elliot" sneered Cecil as he religiously chewed his organic muesli about forty times.

        "I think about you Cecil and how Iíd like to see you want to lick a woman " laughed Elliot.

        Cecil huffed and continued to eat in silence while Elliot sang a song about girls wanting to have fun. He was in too good a mood for a Monday morning. I think he fancies Assumptaís friend Zoe and sheís been around here quite a lot these days. Aha he either has or has yet to be with the sexy if somewhat silly Zoe. She is incredibly beautiful and intelligent but hasnít one ounce of common sense or sensitivity to other peopleís feelings either. She asked Harry the other night if he was taking viagra and the poor guy nearly died on the spot. I donít know what that was about but Harry was visibly upset and left the room. Elliot hasnít seen this side of her so heís singing about the Zoe he wants her to be. Let him have his bubble til it bursts. See if I care. Huh!

        I hire a taxi to the office. I want to achieve the almost pressed and pristine look that usually evades me. Remember Anna image is everything and you are the image you want to be today. I remember my deep breathing exercises and how I must look the interviewer in the eye and speak clearly and confidently Ö

        Oh no. Oh God. Shit. Fuck. Shit. The interviewer is a woman. I canít handle this at all. Sheíll hate me. I know she will. Smile Anna. Stay calm. More smiles.

        "Anna Moran"

        "Thatís right" I say continuing to smile like a demented spider who is supposed to feign happiness as he struggles in the web. I try to relax and sink so far down into the leather chair that Mrs Hamilton has to lean over to see me properly. I struggle to sit up but I am sweating so much I feel glued to the chair. I am disobeying all the rules of etiquette but what the hell. I donít stand a chance anyway.

        Mrs Hamilton fires out the usual questions and I retaliate with what seems to be the right answers. Elliot had gone over these answers with me last night so they roll effortlessly off my tongue. The interviewer kept nodding and saying "Yes. Yes" So much so that I felt I was doing all the talking. Now when that happens I get nervous and when I get nervous I laugh. At myself I hasten to add. I made some silly remark about women in insurance and how they use their charm and wit to get people to sign on the dotted line. I started to picture myself with the buttons of my shirt open revealing a tempting breast to a potential client. I started not just to laugh but to guffaw very loudly. The tears rolled down my cheeks and I shook so much that even I thought I was getting a convulsion. I thought I had blown my chances until Mrs Hamilton began to laugh uncontrollably and nearly fell off the chair. Maybe she too was also thinking of the bare breast image. You never know with telepathy and all that weird psychic stuff.

        Whatever it was she loved me and I loved her for loving me. She said I would be like a breath of fresh air to a growing company such as theirs. I almost kissed her on the spot but drew back. I didnít want her to think I was too desperate. I got a phone call from the recruitment agency later on that day to say I had the job. I was to start staff training on the Thursday. At last I had managed to get a start on the corporate ladder starting with a salary of £20,000. Nice one Anna. Nice one. Today I am well and truly in love with myself. Je míaime. Je míaime beaucoup.

        To crown my good fortune Assumpta has gone on holidays to south Africa with her married lover Mickey I canít imagine for the world what his wife thinks.

        "Darling I need to entertain some clients in South Africa. No, no itís just work, work, work. Weíll take a holiday in June when the contracts are over. You take it easy while Iím away. Leave the children with their au pair and you go buy something nice to wear. Iíll miss you sweetheart, while Iím away."

        Meanwhile the lusty devil has planned to get some value from his mistress Asssumpta. Mistress. The word itself is redolent of expensive perfumes, secret candle lit dinners, stolen moments and kisses. It calls to mind sexy underwear, preferably see through racy red with suspenders or maybe a thong if youíre a cellulite free zone. Wife. The title, although sometimes hard earned evokes images of potato peelings, furniture polish and snotty kids. What about the passion, the excitement, the dream. Iím going in too deep and I do not like where this is going. Am I prepared to take the agony along with the ecstasy? Assumpta doesnít. Her philosophy du jour is why have bread when you can eat cake. It must be delayed euphoria what with the new job that is clouding my vision. I need a drink to lift me out of my cellulite and my relationship despondency. I want to be me. Knock, knock. Remember me Anna Moran the girl that used to be such a laugh and carefree. Well tonight is the night girl when youíre about to be resurrected if itís the last thing I do.

        I call into the seven to eleven and buy a bottle of red wine. Alcoholís future release grants me permission to indulge in a full fat pizza with no ham. When you say no ham they compensate with more cheese. Yipee say my cellulite cells, who are planning to reproduce at an alarmingly rate. The diet will begin tomorrow but for today I will rejoice and be the real full fat cellulite version. I once read somewhere that inside every thin person is a fat one longing to break free. You are out tonight Anna but tomorrow its back to jail and the only thing you collect is some extra pounds on those deadly white squidgy thighs.

        Great thereís nobody at home for a change. The difference with Assumpta gone is nothing short of absolutely amazing. I can be the real me, messy, disorganized and hopelessly divergent. My sense of freedom is bordering on exhilarating. I exaggerate not. Imagine I can drop my coat where ever I want. I can sit and watch TV as I eat and not even think of crumbs. Iím so carried away I burst into song. This is like the first day of a holiday." Itís my party and Iíll cry if I want to, cry if I want to"

        I uncork the wine. Effortlessly I might add. Iíve had no alcohol for four weeks now. My cells are squeaky clean and hopelessly bored, bordering on smug. Theyíve been too good and hell thatís not normal. Oooh pizza. Messy, . cheesy and sooo wummy. I put on the television to watch this weeks Coronation street. This is the life. I put my feet up and start to tear into the pizza. No plates. No forks. This is me primitive style. I love the way the bits of melted cheese dribble down my chin waiting to be rescued by my tongue. Well done tongue. Tongueís taste buds are relishing this work."Yum. Yum." Says Mr Tongue."Look at what I can do " he says."I can relay messages to your brain to raise your pleasure chemicals, I can lick your nose and I used to, well I used to bring pleasure to so many people. Why arenít t I doing that any more?"

        "Shut up tongue" I say."Shut up and be happy with pizza. This is the best itís going to be. I give you one thing and you want more. Typical. Bloody typical."

        Is this the alcohol racing through my veins or am I going mad? I do want more. Donít I? I miss it you know. Itís not just the sex. Itís the closeness to another living breathing human being. So what if they usually were gone in the morning. I had the moment. I seized those moments. They made me feel wanted. Now I feel sexually redundant and emotionally bereft. What am I doing to myself?

        I know itís the alcohol thatís making me horny but it also makes me feel empty and alone. I tried before to quench the pain of loneliness with men. For a time I filled myself with their secretions. While it lasted I had something of someone else inside me. For the moment my chemistry included that of another. No longer just Anna but Anna and her shagee. For a short while I could step outside of myself through another human being. And now I am alone. Desperately alone. Itís like we all walk around in these bodies but each body is like a separate building. Is sex our only true way to get out of our separateness. I have heard that you can die of a broken heart but can you die of celibacy? Is it the same thing. Lovers come, lovers go. You mourn. You recover. New lover arrives. What if nobody comes. Do you then give up the will to live? Great. Death by celibacy. Anna Moran. R. I. P. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. What a fucking waste.

        We are encouraged to think about the joys that are ours in the next life. I swear I will seriously contemplate those joys when I have one foot in the grave but not now. Iím far too young. I can keep a lid on my sexuality but I cannot totally subdue it. Alcohol releases not only pleasure but also pain. Double edged sword. Have a good laugh and then drown in a vale of tears. I wish Elliot was here. He seems to make things seem ok. Itís his calm circumspect way of looking at things. When I told him my plans to head hunt a husband he didnít recoil in horror the way that Assumpta did. He listened and didnít judge. He said that sex and love if you are lucky enough to be able to unite them must be great. As a man he felt that it was the woman who guards the right to sex. That is her power. He thought that promiscuity was merely a throwback to our primitive selves. It was natureís way of propagating the species. Our problem is that sex and morality are precariously intertwined. On the one hand we have these three million year old primitive cells that give us the gift of lust but then we are also given a heart and a conscience that act as filters and brakes. So thou shalt fuck but the following morning thou shalt recall all the memories in Technicolor detail. Life sucks big time.

        I pour myself the final glass of wine. Too late. Cecil has returned. Cecil the accountant. Cecil the bore. Cecil who disapproves of any pleasure of the flesh and that includes pizza. I am in no mood for one of his many lectures. Why canít he just keep his facial expressions to himself. He frowns narrowly at the discarded pizza box as he bends down to put it in the bin. Then wait for it. He proceeds to put a coaster under my wine glass. I look at his peevish shrivelled face. With wine goggles he looks like the garden gnome my mother has at the bottom of the garden. Maybe heís not human. I donít say a word and neither does he. At least we know where we stand with each other. My sense of aloneness intensifies when confronted with the mean spiritedness of the species.

        I hate Cecil. No I abhor Cecil. How on earth did he gain access to the planet? Elliot once told me that that his parents are like Mary and Joseph, religious maniacs who smothered their virgin birth with their religious beliefs. See what religion can do. It can warp the soul with its God fearing deities and its unending list of thou shalt nots. Be born but whatever happens have a bloody miserable time while youíre here. Wear sunscreeen. Worse still wear a condom. Whatever you do try not to feel. Pleasure is a nasty eight letter word. Writhe in agony but whatever you do donít writhe with pleasure. Turn off all the lights and wait til the last day. Now hello. Is God warped or what ? I watch Cecil as he watches the flickering scenes on the box. His lips are pursed and his body appears rigid and tense. I would bet any money that he is a virgin. Maybe thatís whatís wrong with him. The slow death by celibacy. He seems to be utterly incapable of giving vent to any form of passion. What does he feel if at all? He is so shut up in himself and so cut off. So immune to any other form of reality other than routine and sterility. Does he ever long to break free and go on a picnic at midnight or fly a kite or go skinny dipping.

        Suddenly I pity him but that lasts for all of two seconds as I sense his beady eyes on me. Assumpta may be gone but she left behind her good and faithful servant who charts my every move to relay everything back to the queen herself. I vote to bring back hanging for espionage or death by lethal injection or hanging. Yeah public hanging for Cecil. Nah it would be too good for him. I go to bed devising various tortures for him. Keep him in a cell with Elliot. Donít allow him to clean for a month. Sleep with a bag lady. No be a bag lady.

        Very quickly I realise that Cecil is taking up too much of my brain space. Heís just not worth it. I pick up my bedside book of the moment. Would you believe it I am re reading Wuthering heights. I initially started to read it as I had nothing else to read but I also I must have had a deep rooted need to see what it was that actually drove Heathcliff. We read this novel in school but I never really understood it. For a start I think it raises some very interesting questions such as who would you choose as a husband. The dependable wealthy Edgar Linton or the wild passionate and sometimes cruel Heathcliff. I think your answer reveals more about what you want from a man than you will ever hope to admit. I do not even have to think for Heathcliff wins hands down for me. Why? Because I like a man to be a man. I couldnít bear the diluted version with their over developed feminine nature. I guess itís politically ok to be a wimp today and masquerade behind sensitivity. " Heís so nice. Heís so soft." Oh puke.. All this is backfiring on men you know. If they donít watch it theyíll be made redundant. We are the sensitive creatures. Not them. If we donít watch it we will dig our own graves. Not only will we have to cope with the before and after menstrual upheavals we will also have to pander to wimpish sentimental blokes and wonder if they are feeling ok. Sod that. Women like a man who is sensitive to their needs but not at the cost of their true nature. As the French would say: "Vive La Difference", and I sure as hell would second that. As I was saying I like a man to be a man. I want passion, a passion that consumes and bugger it if it ultimately destroys. I just cannot bear the lukewarm safe man, the type that I would, given my current desperation, need to marry.

        I go to sleep that night and dream of the rugged untamed moors. Through the window I see Edgar Linton stoking the fire and smoking his pipe. The epitome of safe domesticity and warmth. I turn around to face a biting evil wind and as I do so I see Heathcliff riding over the purple heather towards me. I am torn but I must decide. I must go with how I feel. How could I choose the ineffectual, insipid Edgar. HeathCliff. It has to be Heathcliff. He captivates my heart, my soul, my imagination in a way that Edgar Linton could not. As he whisks me up into his manly arms and we ride off against the wind and rain I feel I can be myself with this man. Wild, passionate, ultimately free and dare I admit it incredibly horny. If I donít watch it Iíll be needing something seriously electronic for my birthday. Damn thatís too far away. Easter perhaps? Replacement for the chocolate egg? I wonder if I could get something mail order. Best maybe to leave it until I'm really desperate, dangerously desperate.

 

next...

Contents

Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER SIX

 

        It took me quite some time to find a job. Itís not easy when you possess a vague and not very useful degree like Celtic Studies and Folklore. In the cut-throat business world I was looked upon in profound disbelief. Like, who do you think you are, you uneducated pipsqueak. But I persevered. Dumb priest never got a parish and stuff. Determination alone fuelled me to endure the endless rounds of job centres and recruitment agencies, the snakes and ladders system to God knows where.

        I absolutely hate recruitment agencies. Gone are the days when you apply for a job, go to an interview and you either get the job or you donít. End of story. No big deal. Today the entire procedure for someone like me is one endless nightmarish odyssey. You canít get to the interview and pass go unless you go through some middle man in the recruitment agency. His is the hand that rocks the cradle, judging who is or isnít fit enough to go through the pearly gates. Talk about playing God! The communion between industry and humanity takes place in the dreaded recruitment agency.

        The agencies themselves are manned by smug jumped up graduates cashing in on a hungry labour market. These people can swallow you up and spit you out without wondering if they have hurt your feelings. In fact they have none and expect you to be the same. If your self esteem is low before you go in then be rest assured that afterwards it will plummet to below Zero. You donít stand a chance with their arctic interrogators, unless of course you are one of them.

        There are no frumpy secretaries or receptionists here. This is the Hollywood of job seek where image is everything and if you have a crap degree like mine you are nothing. The plush offices scream wealth and opulence. We are successful. You are not. We decide upon the chosen ones. Leather chairs adorn the waiting room, comfortable chairs giving you a false sense of comfort and dare I say optimism. Music plays softly in your ear as you are lulled into a false sense of security. This is the life or so you think. That is exactly what they want you to think.

        Once you enter the interview room be prepared to surrender yourself, mind, body and soul to the mercy of the interviewer. I discovered fairly lively that the personality attributes for a woman in this job are looks and the ability to strike terror-a melange between a bimbo and a Rothweiller. These women are impeccably groomed and blond but they are vicious with a capital V. Prepare for the death of the ego especially if you have an ethereal and vague qualification like mine.

        "Ahem" she says in her clipped Dublin four accent." Where have you worked before Anna?"

        Being honest and totally stupid I told the truth on the first few interviews

        "In a fish shop" I said

        The fake smile degenerates into a sneer that lasts for the entire interview. I am being frowned upon and disapproved of because of my previous employment. Even when I attempt to gain ground and say it was a very viable business they donít want to know. I guess there is nothing glamorous or respectable about working in a fish shop.

        There is also a procedure known as the group interview where each person is given the chance to sell themselves and declare their suitability for the job. If you havenít been to a group interview then you do not understand rejection. No way. You know we may look back in history and judge the blood -thirsty gladiators as being cruel and barbaric. But believe me we are no different today. We may hide beneath the veneers of civility but all weíve done is internalise the battle. The bludgeoning to death has been replaced by cerebral combat, as we battle for supremacy and power. Here qualifications and suitable degrees are the nouveau weapons and interrogation decrees who wins and who looses.

        "Why do you think you are suited to this type of work?"

        "What personal attributes would you bring to the company?"

        For my first group interview there were six of us present. Everyone but me had a suitable business degree so you could say I went into combat completely unarmed. The proverbial lamb to the slaughter. The discussion centred on financial planning and marketing strategies so I was in deep woods without a lifeline. What the hell was a marketing strategy? Every so often I interjected with the occasional "Yaw. Yaw" and nodded so profusely I thought they might think I was getting a fit so I stopped. I tried to feign interest and enthusiasm to make a suitable impression and I was smiling so much that my cheeks hurt and my eyes were going all oriental like. However I was still intact at this stage, still thought I was pretty cool until the dreaded grilling session began. This involved a series of brutal individual questions and answers. I was fucked and I knew it.

        I started to sweat profusely as the peroxide ice queen cast her perfectly made-up eyes at me. She could afford to be condescending to an intruder like me. I could anticipate in advance the shit hitting the fan at a zillion miles per second. Sweat trickled slowly down my back with twixed fear and nervousness.

        "Anna, Celtic Mythology and Folklore. How fascinating." Mona, the interviewer vacillated between scorn and absolute malice. Inwardly I recoiled and awaited the verbal onslaught.

        "Tell us how your degree gives you the necessary background to work in a business environment?"

        Her words immediately alienated me from the group. They stared at me in disbelief, an interloper wasting their precious time. Hey you guys I wanted to say, Iím your bit of comic relief. In vain I muttered something incoherent that must have sounded stupid to their superior and business trained ears. Two of the lads shook their heads in disapproval adding total insult to injury. The knife was sunk in and those creeps were helping to turn it. Suddenly I hated all them with their smug self satisfied fleshy faces that were in training for treble chins. In fact there was one guy whose pasty podgy face Iíd have loved to squash or operate on without an anaesthetic. If business degrees give you licence to be cruel and derogatory and judgmental then give me the world of fantasy any day.

        The final severing was reserved for last.

        "Anna I donít think you have the necessary thrust and aggression to succeed in the cut throat world of business. I Ďm sure you would be better suited to the humanities."

        So that was it, signed sealed and rejected. Just like that.

        On the outside I may not appear as the testosterone fuelled warrior princess but in a quite way I am determined and strong minded. What was construed as a lack of aggression really was paralysis. In a group situation I tend to feel rather intimidated, especially when I havenít got a clue what they are talking about. Iím not thick but my failure to react to intimidation reduces me to nothing but a dumb mutant. For that I am misjudged and grossly misunderstood. I wanted to cry or scream or do both. I wanted to refute their claims but I did nothing only nod in polite acquiescence. I knew I was beaten and not to surrender would have further dishonoured me.

        I figured out after a while that the more inflated the answer the greater the chance of being recommended. You only tell them what they want to hear and then and only then are you rewarded with instant approval. Play the game by their rules and you're in. The only thing that stood between me the pearly gates was of course my degree. Everyone else seemed to have either business or commerce degrees so that was a real problem where I was concerned.

        I was feeling very despondent until one guy gave me some rather invaluable advise. His name was Guy an economist graduate from Trinity guaranteeing him choices that I could only ever dream of. Guy liked me for some reason and was able to empathise with the futility of my situation. Over a cup of coffee and a ridiculously large chocolate ťclair Guy gave me a few useful tips. Bit like horse racing really. To win you need to have some inside information. He told me that the best time to go to the agencies is Friday afternoon. After a liquid lunch the world and all its applicants becomes a lot more brighter and eminently more suitable.

        I was putting myself in the driving seat and you know what it felt good. I dressed in one of Graceís figure hugging designer navy suits with a crisper than crisp and whiter then white Beniton shirt. I inhaled and exhaled confidence. No agent was going to beat me this time and so when it came to the dreaded question I was prepared.

        "Anna donít you think your degree in Celtic Mythology would be better suited to the arts or to research perhaps."

        "Being honest my studies involved a great deal of research with application to detail. I feel that this would be an asset rather than a hindrance in business. I can also use my imagination and interpersonal skills that I developed in the course of my studies."

        Bingo. I was in. All I had to do was sound good so I found myself being put forward for two interviews- one for the financial sector of the A.I.B and another for Pine Growth insurance. All I can say is Thank Crunchie itís Friday.

        I had a full weekend to transform myself into business woman of the year. As I had time to kill I decided to go buy some stockings in Dunnes. Browsing through one of the aisles I spotted a reduced white linen suit in my size and within my price range. Would it be hubris if I bought this one little suit for my future working life. I could always bring it back if I didnít get the job and exchange it for food.

        I had forgotten just how awful the Dunnes Stores changing rooms really are. No I am not being paranoid. This is the Ametyville horror of cellulite. The mirrors here seem to swallow your reflection and spit back the dimpled tragic look. Anna a lí orange Ė full fat. Oneís entire body is reduced to dimpled cheese like lumps that are magnified beyond belief. I mean there is cellulite and there is cellulite. In the Dunnes stores changing room it is an invasion. Usually there is some on the backs of my legs and buttocks but here not even my nose escapes. My arms are squirming lumps of orange peel and I have thin arms for Christ sake. My legs look white and literally covered in the big C. What man would want me. A teletubby yes. A husband no chance.

        I truly believe that cellulite is a crime against females. No matter how thin or toned you think you are it appears. For the rest of your life it is one life long battle against nature. Funny thing cellulite, itís just so utterly unpredictable. I once read about a guaranteed to produce results regime to shift cellulite. The advice was to drink copious amounts of water and eat nothing but fruit for the week. Eureka I thought smugly. Iíll starve that bastard cellulite out. So I starved for the week eating only apples and kiwis. I lost weight of course but what I lost in weight I seemed to gain in cellulite. The whole thing backfired leaving me very sceptical about strategies that promise itís instant demise.

        They really should have signs before you enter. Not suitable for those with heart defects or of nervous disposition. Beware - cellulite. They could have signs on the way out saying do not panic ring the special freephone ĖSamaritans will listen to your cellulite induced depression. This is not an exaggeration Ė this is cellulite at its advanced terminal stage. I canít figure why they donít just dim the light, introduce candles for Christ sake to make us feel good about ourselves. Oh no this is the harsh raw florescent lighting that amplifies every little quivering dimple, every spot, each stray grey hair.

        I dash out of the changing rooms to buy the suit and stockings. I make a mental note to invest in every anti cellulite cream and skin brush I can afford. After all I need to live in hope, however pathological that may seem. If I get a job soon I could take out a membership at the health club in Stillorglan and get some sessions on the sunbed. Tanned cellulite is just that little bit more bearable. Well just about.

        While Iím waiting for the bus I meet Sharon Foley. Of all the mortals to happen upon my path it would be her. Is today Friday the thirteenth by any chance? Sharon was in university the same time as me. She is also a Kerry woman but thatís all she in common with me. According to my mother who has gifted antennae for who has married whom and where and how many attended the reception informed me about how successful Sharon was. For Sharon married a barrister, allowing her to retire from her civil service job. She has two children, a boy and a girl. She would have the perfect family. Unfortunately Sharon sees me before I can avert my gaze. Please God let a meteor fall at this moment or let an earth quake swallow her up orÖ..

        "Anna Moran is that you? You havenít changed a bit "

        Iíve dropped a stone in weight since my college days, my hair is longer and I like to think Iím a lot more sophisticated. Not that sheíd notice or even remark upon if she did.

        "Hi Sharon " I manage to say weakly."Fancy meeting you here. I thought you lived in the other side of Dublin."

        "I do but I Ďm on my way to a La leche meeting in my friend Annabelleís house. Iím secretary of the club"

        "Oh right" I try to look enthusiastic and interested.

        "Well how are you Anna?"

        Immediately I feel myself going on the defensive. You have to with people like Sharon. Sheís like a bird of prey waiting to stalk her victim and poke out their entrails. The type of person who detracts as much information about your sad life while only revealing the icing layer of hers.

        "Iím fine," I say while forcing myself to smile.

        Whatever suicidal tendencies I might have had over my cellulite have instantly quadrupled.

        "What are you doing with yourself these days.?" She jumps in before I even get a chance to draw my breath.

        Think Anna. Think before you speak.

        "Iím job hunting Ė in fact Iíve been offered a job today."

        Sharon eyes me suspiciously as if I am totally unemployable.

        "Where?

        I rack my brains.

        "In a bank."

        "Which bank" She interjects without blinking.

        "The am am Ulster Bank in the city centre."

        Phew that seemed to satisfy her.

        "So how are you Sharon?" I say between clenched teeth.

        Sharon and her ilk have an incredible ability to soliloquise when spoken to. This was her cue to talk about herself and what a wonderful life she was having. Did she want to convince me or herself? I was told all about her coffee mornings, her manicures, her foreign holidays, her jewelleryÖ. Geoffrey, 15 years her senior, by all accounts has indulged her every whim allowing her to develop into a first class bitch. She went on about breast feeding so much you would think she had personally invented the tit. No saggy boobs for her. Taut and firm despite of or maybe because of the suckling.

        I try to change the conversation.

        "Are you working Sharon?"

        "Working?" She says incredulously.

        "Goodness no. I gave up when the babies arrived. Geoffrey likes to have a proper stay at home wife"

        Dear God is there any justice when women like her get husbands like Geoffrey. I watch her face as she speaks. Her lips are perfectly outlined. Her eye lashes tinted. Her hair is so perfectly coiffured it looks as if itís glued to her head. Her crispy pink shirt over her designer jeans does little to betray the fact that she is a stay at home wife. Ainít life a bitch?

        "Where are your children Sharon ?"

        "Children" she says as if she is pained to remember she has any.

        "Why theyíre with the au pair dear. Itís great I just express my milk and dash off." She retorts.

        I try to imagine a hungry baby being treated to a Sharon Expresso. Breast may better but for mammals like Sharon expresso is best. It is so typical of her to be able to dissociate herself from her children. Nobody and nothing destabilises her perfect existence. I can envisage her perfect family with its members like dutiful satellites surrounding their controller. Therein lies the advantage of being detached and unemotional. Not in the Zen Buddist mystical way but in the selfish way of people like Sharon. Her destiny is under her decision and control. Period.

        Her mother is the same. Rigid and unsentimental. She and her entourage of five daughters follow the rules and recipes of life to a tee. They never worry if they are on the right path or if they are following destinyís dreams. They donít think and for that they are rewarded with stability, security and utter smugness. After time spent in their company I feel grossly inadequate and totally pissed off. They seem to bring out the worst in me. Those like Sharon seem to need people like me to feel good about themselves and to somehow justify their superiority. They make me feel sad and worthless maybe because they fail to acknowledge the part of me that is worthwhile and valuable. These people are detractors and energy drainers and I hate them with a passion.

        In Sharonís eyes I was obviously lower than the low because she failed to invite me over to her home in Howth. Not that I want to, mind you. But I got the message loud and clear. Anna Moran you sad person are not good enough for Sharon the great. I watch her more closely as she speaks " I was just saying to Geoffrey that I need a break and he suggested a week in Tuscany with our friends Mario and Juliette." She sighs audibly.

        Seeing as I donít get a word in edgeways I look at her more closely. I notice a developing jowl that shakes and shudders causing her face to appear like a strangled turkey. Her nose seems to resemble a sloped beak. Yes I decide there is a God but he sure has a warped sense of who gets what on this planet. There is only so much of this I can take before I feel genuinely ill.

        "My bus is coming. Lovely to have seen you again Sharon. See you"

        I manage to say between clenched teeth.

        "Yeah see you around Anna. Bye for now."

        She leans towards me. Oh no please donít let her kiss me. What with my near death brush with cellulite I couldnít bear it. She kisses the air on either side of my face. Goodbye the Sharons of this world. I never want to lay eyes on you again either in this life or the next. I am adamant that if there is a heaven and it is inhabited by Sharon and her family I will not go in. I would prefer to burn in hellís fires and to kissed by the devils burning salty lipsÖÖÖÖ.

        I lean against the window on the bus. Only this morning I received an extract from Kerryís Eye from my mother. Every so often she sends me the just married section that is full of the countyís brides and grooms. My mother mission is to remind me what exactly Iím missing, which is not a lot actually. Nora Sugrue, daughter of Noel and Mary Sugrue, recently married Tom Falvey at St Maryís church Lixnaw. The reception was held at the Earl of Desmond hotel. The couple will reside in Lixnaw. Thatís it. The one big day of their lives where for at least a while they are somebody. I look at Noraís face as she gazes lovingly or stupidly into Noelís face. Sheís not too bad but he is brutal with a capital B. I decide that he must be some big fuck off farmer in the area. The master quite literally buys the dutiful slave. She shall bear his children and work on the farm til death them do part. Personally I would prefer to swim in slurry but thatís me.

        Apart from pregnancy outside marriage which is sin number one in my motherís book there is there is also the stigma of marrying beneath you My mother loves this one. She goes into full rant mode in the justification of her home truths. Take Alice Gorman a friend of mine from Killarney. She is a successful dentist ( a professional according to my mother) but she married a taxi driver. Now if my Mother had her way she would introduce the caste system into Ireland and taxi drivers and factory workers would be the untouchables. They would be made to walk on the other side of the road, live in shanty townsÖ..

        "A lovely girl like Alice will be dragged down to his level. Mark my words Anna. Her poor mother was sooo disappointed. Throwing away her life like that and for what. A taxi Driver." She almost spat out the words.

        The trouble with my mother is she does not think before she speaks and condemns. She cannot see the fact that Alice is a very plain girl with prominent teeth and humongous thighs. She has a distorted pear shape and this is being kind. Paul the taxi driver on the other hand is an Andy Garcia look alike. To me this is a very fair trade off The Beauty and the dental Beast. When I point out the fact that Jesus himself was a carpenter my mother huffily retorts that if universities were around in his day then he too would have been a professional. Subject closed.

        In some perverse way I enjoy getting the Just Married page. Itís a laugh to say the least.. My mother circles the pictures of girls whose ability to find suitable husbands is even beyond her limited perceptions. This week it is Josie Donaghue who has been given the red circle. There is an arrow saying --- if she can find a husband anyone can. Josie is 16 stone with false teeth and frizzy hair but deep down, . well maybe very deep down she may be a lovely person. I get very depressed at times looking at those who succeed in getting a husband. Do they take the first one that comes their way and asks? Is this their first choice or are they merely compromising? Are they really truly madly and deeply in love. I look into Josieís eyes and try to see the passion but all I can see is a smug fat face that says "Even I got a man". I decide there and then that it must be some primeval battle for the survival of the species. Josie is subconsciously programmed to go forth and multiply. Perish the thought. Perish the thought indeed. Iím getting too disillusioned in one so young.

        The interviews for the insurance job are being held in an office off Baggot street. I dress in a pale green linen suit with a lemon shirt. Elliot says I Ďd look great as a loop the loop ice lolly. He says I look good enough to lick which makes me laugh but also makes me wonder what that would be like. Now Anna I say to myself, you must stop these crazy thoughts because thatís all they are, crazy and zany. Not that Elliot isnít half bad. Heís not but heís Elliot. With I might add no worldly ambition, no money, a crap car and an unstable and nebulous future.

        "Anna you look beautiful today. I hope the interviewer is a man because heíll take one glance at you and youíre in. Heíll want to lick you all over and taste yourÖ"

        "Donít you ever think about anything other than sex Elliot" sneered Cecil as he religiously chewed his organic muesli about forty times.

        "I think about you Cecil and how Iíd like to see you want to lick a woman " laughed Elliot.

        Cecil huffed and continued to eat in silence while Elliot sang a song about girls wanting to have fun. He was in too good a mood for a Monday morning. I think he fancies Assumptaís friend Zoe and sheís been around here quite a lot these days. Aha he either has or has yet to be with the sexy if somewhat silly Zoe. She is incredibly beautiful and intelligent but hasnít one ounce of common sense or sensitivity to other peopleís feelings either. She asked Harry the other night if he was taking viagra and the poor guy nearly died on the spot. I donít know what that was about but Harry was visibly upset and left the room. Elliot hasnít seen this side of her so heís singing about the Zoe he wants her to be. Let him have his bubble til it bursts. See if I care. Huh!

        I hire a taxi to the office. I want to achieve the almost pressed and pristine look that usually evades me. Remember Anna image is everything and you are the image you want to be today. I remember my deep breathing exercises and how I must look the interviewer in the eye and speak clearly and confidently Ö

        Oh no. Oh God. Shit. Fuck. Shit. The interviewer is a woman. I canít handle this at all. Sheíll hate me. I know she will. Smile Anna. Stay calm. More smiles.

        "Anna Moran"

        "Thatís right" I say continuing to smile like a demented spider who is supposed to feign happiness as he struggles in the web. I try to relax and sink so far down into the leather chair that Mrs Hamilton has to lean over to see me properly. I struggle to sit up but I am sweating so much I feel glued to the chair. I am disobeying all the rules of etiquette but what the hell. I donít stand a chance anyway.

        Mrs Hamilton fires out the usual questions and I retaliate with what seems to be the right answers. Elliot had gone over these answers with me last night so they roll effortlessly off my tongue. The interviewer kept nodding and saying "Yes. Yes" So much so that I felt I was doing all the talking. Now when that happens I get nervous and when I get nervous I laugh. At myself I hasten to add. I made some silly remark about women in insurance and how they use their charm and wit to get people to sign on the dotted line. I started to picture myself with the buttons of my shirt open revealing a tempting breast to a potential client. I started not just to laugh but to guffaw very loudly. The tears rolled down my cheeks and I shook so much that even I thought I was getting a convulsion. I thought I had blown my chances until Mrs Hamilton began to laugh uncontrollably and nearly fell off the chair. Maybe she too was also thinking of the bare breast image. You never know with telepathy and all that weird psychic stuff.

        Whatever it was she loved me and I loved her for loving me. She said I would be like a breath of fresh air to a growing company such as theirs. I almost kissed her on the spot but drew back. I didnít want her to think I was too desperate. I got a phone call from the recruitment agency later on that day to say I had the job. I was to start staff training on the Thursday. At last I had managed to get a start on the corporate ladder starting with a salary of £20,000. Nice one Anna. Nice one. Today I am well and truly in love with myself. Je míaime. Je míaime beaucoup.

        To crown my good fortune Assumpta has gone on holidays to south Africa with her married lover Mickey I canít imagine for the world what his wife thinks.

        "Darling I need to entertain some clients in South Africa. No, no itís just work, work, work. Weíll take a holiday in June when the contracts are over. You take it easy while Iím away. Leave the children with their au pair and you go buy something nice to wear. Iíll miss you sweetheart, while Iím away."

        Meanwhile the lusty devil has planned to get some value from his mistress Asssumpta. Mistress. The word itself is redolent of expensive perfumes, secret candle lit dinners, stolen moments and kisses. It calls to mind sexy underwear, preferably see through racy red with suspenders or maybe a thong if youíre a cellulite free zone. Wife. The title, although sometimes hard earned evokes images of potato peelings, furniture polish and snotty kids. What about the passion, the excitement, the dream. Iím going in too deep and I do not like where this is going. Am I prepared to take the agony along with the ecstasy? Assumpta doesnít. Her philosophy du jour is why have bread when you can eat cake. It must be delayed euphoria what with the new job that is clouding my vision. I need a drink to lift me out of my cellulite and my relationship despondency. I want to be me. Knock, knock. Remember me Anna Moran the girl that used to be such a laugh and carefree. Well tonight is the night girl when youíre about to be resurrected if itís the last thing I do.

        I call into the seven to eleven and buy a bottle of red wine. Alcoholís future release grants me permission to indulge in a full fat pizza with no ham. When you say no ham they compensate with more cheese. Yipee say my cellulite cells, who are planning to reproduce at an alarmingly rate. The diet will begin tomorrow but for today I will rejoice and be the real full fat cellulite version. I once read somewhere that inside every thin person is a fat one longing to break free. You are out tonight Anna but tomorrow its back to jail and the only thing you collect is some extra pounds on those deadly white squidgy thighs.

        Great thereís nobody at home for a change. The difference with Assumpta gone is nothing short of absolutely amazing. I can be the real me, messy, disorganized and hopelessly divergent. My sense of freedom is bordering on exhilarating. I exaggerate not. Imagine I can drop my coat where ever I want. I can sit and watch TV as I eat and not even think of crumbs. Iím so carried away I burst into song. This is like the first day of a holiday." Itís my party and Iíll cry if I want to, cry if I want to"

        I uncork the wine. Effortlessly I might add. Iíve had no alcohol for four weeks now. My cells are squeaky clean and hopelessly bored, bordering on smug. Theyíve been too good and hell thatís not normal. Oooh pizza. Messy, . cheesy and sooo wummy. I put on the television to watch this weeks Coronation street. This is the life. I put my feet up and start to tear into the pizza. No plates. No forks. This is me primitive style. I love the way the bits of melted cheese dribble down my chin waiting to be rescued by my tongue. Well done tongue. Tongueís taste buds are relishing this work."Yum. Yum." Says Mr Tongue."Look at what I can do " he says."I can relay messages to your brain to raise your pleasure chemicals, I can lick your nose and I used to, well I used to bring pleasure to so many people. Why arenít t I doing that any more?"

        "Shut up tongue" I say."Shut up and be happy with pizza. This is the best itís going to be. I give you one thing and you want more. Typical. Bloody typical."

        Is this the alcohol racing through my veins or am I going mad? I do want more. Donít I? I miss it you know. Itís not just the sex. Itís the closeness to another living breathing human being. So what if they usually were gone in the morning. I had the moment. I seized those moments. They made me feel wanted. Now I feel sexually redundant and emotionally bereft. What am I doing to myself?

        I know itís the alcohol thatís making me horny but it also makes me feel empty and alone. I tried before to quench the pain of loneliness with men. For a time I filled myself with their secretions. While it lasted I had something of someone else inside me. For the moment my chemistry included that of another. No longer just Anna but Anna and her shagee. For a short while I could step outside of myself through another human being. And now I am alone. Desperately alone. Itís like we all walk around in these bodies but each body is like a separate building. Is sex our only true way to get out of our separateness. I have heard that you can die of a broken heart but can you die of celibacy? Is it the same thing. Lovers come, lovers go. You mourn. You recover. New lover arrives. What if nobody comes. Do you then give up the will to live? Great. Death by celibacy. Anna Moran. R. I. P. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. What a fucking waste.

        We are encouraged to think about the joys that are ours in the next life. I swear I will seriously contemplate those joys when I have one foot in the grave but not now. Iím far too young. I can keep a lid on my sexuality but I cannot totally subdue it. Alcohol releases not only pleasure but also pain. Double edged sword. Have a good laugh and then drown in a vale of tears. I wish Elliot was here. He seems to make things seem ok. Itís his calm circumspect way of looking at things. When I told him my plans to head hunt a husband he didnít recoil in horror the way that Assumpta did. He listened and didnít judge. He said that sex and love if you are lucky enough to be able to unite them must be great. As a man he felt that it was the woman who guards the right to sex. That is her power. He thought that promiscuity was merely a throwback to our primitive selves. It was natureís way of propagating the species. Our problem is that sex and morality are precariously intertwined. On the one hand we have these three million year old primitive cells that give us the gift of lust but then we are also given a heart and a conscience that act as filters and brakes. So thou shalt fuck but the following morning thou shalt recall all the memories in Technicolor detail. Life sucks big time.

        I pour myself the final glass of wine. Too late. Cecil has returned. Cecil the accountant. Cecil the bore. Cecil who disapproves of any pleasure of the flesh and that includes pizza. I am in no mood for one of his many lectures. Why canít he just keep his facial expressions to himself. He frowns narrowly at the discarded pizza box as he bends down to put it in the bin. Then wait for it. He proceeds to put a coaster under my wine glass. I look at his peevish shrivelled face. With wine goggles he looks like the garden gnome my mother has at the bottom of the garden. Maybe heís not human. I donít say a word and neither does he. At least we know where we stand with each other. My sense of aloneness intensifies when confronted with the mean spiritedness of the species.

        I hate Cecil. No I abhor Cecil. How on earth did he gain access to the planet? Elliot once told me that that his parents are like Mary and Joseph, religious maniacs who smothered their virgin birth with their religious beliefs. See what religion can do. It can warp the soul with its God fearing deities and its unending list of thou shalt nots. Be born but whatever happens have a bloody miserable time while youíre here. Wear sunscreeen. Worse still wear a condom. Whatever you do try not to feel. Pleasure is a nasty eight letter word. Writhe in agony but whatever you do donít writhe with pleasure. Turn off all the lights and wait til the last day. Now hello. Is God warped or what ? I watch Cecil as he watches the flickering scenes on the box. His lips are pursed and his body appears rigid and tense. I would bet any money that he is a virgin. Maybe thatís whatís wrong with him. The slow death by celibacy. He seems to be utterly incapable of giving vent to any form of passion. What does he feel if at all? He is so shut up in himself and so cut off. So immune to any other form of reality other than routine and sterility. Does he ever long to break free and go on a picnic at midnight or fly a kite or go skinny dipping.

        Suddenly I pity him but that lasts for all of two seconds as I sense his beady eyes on me. Assumpta may be gone but she left behind her good and faithful servant who charts my every move to relay everything back to the queen herself. I vote to bring back hanging for espionage or death by lethal injection or hanging. Yeah public hanging for Cecil. Nah it would be too good for him. I go to bed devising various tortures for him. Keep him in a cell with Elliot. Donít allow him to clean for a month. Sleep with a bag lady. No be a bag lady.

        Very quickly I realise that Cecil is taking up too much of my brain space. Heís just not worth it. I pick up my bedside book of the moment. Would you believe it I am re reading Wuthering heights. I initially started to read it as I had nothing else to read but I also I must have had a deep rooted need to see what it was that actually drove Heathcliff. We read this novel in school but I never really understood it. For a start I think it raises some very interesting questions such as who would you choose as a husband. The dependable wealthy Edgar Linton or the wild passionate and sometimes cruel Heathcliff. I think your answer reveals more about what you want from a man than you will ever hope to admit. I do not even have to think for Heathcliff wins hands down for me. Why? Because I like a man to be a man. I couldnít bear the diluted version with their over developed feminine nature. I guess itís politically ok to be a wimp today and masquerade behind sensitivity. " Heís so nice. Heís so soft." Oh puke.. All this is backfiring on men you know. If they donít watch it theyíll be made redundant. We are the sensitive creatures. Not them. If we donít watch it we will dig our own graves. Not only will we have to cope with the before and after menstrual upheavals we will also have to pander to wimpish sentimental blokes and wonder if they are feeling ok. Sod that. Women like a man who is sensitive to their needs but not at the cost of their true nature. As the French would say: "Vive La Difference", and I sure as hell would second that. As I was saying I like a man to be a man. I want passion, a passion that consumes and bugger it if it ultimately destroys. I just cannot bear the lukewarm safe man, the type that I would, given my current desperation, need to marry.

        I go to sleep that night and dream of the rugged untamed moors. Through the window I see Edgar Linton stoking the fire and smoking his pipe. The epitome of safe domesticity and warmth. I turn around to face a biting evil wind and as I do so I see Heathcliff riding over the purple heather towards me. I am torn but I must decide. I must go with how I feel. How could I choose the ineffectual, insipid Edgar. HeathCliff. It has to be Heathcliff. He captivates my heart, my soul, my imagination in a way that Edgar Linton could not. As he whisks me up into his manly arms and we ride off against the wind and rain I feel I can be myself with this man. Wild, passionate, ultimately free and dare I admit it incredibly horny. If I donít watch it Iíll be needing something seriously electronic for my birthday. Damn thatís too far away. Easter perhaps? Replacement for the chocolate egg? I wonder if I could get something mail order. Best maybe to leave it until I'm really desperate, dangerously desperate.

 

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Works by Nell Sullivan