A Short Story from Smitten
When the sliding doors at McDonagh Station opened on that miserable August night, everybody stared at the girl in the blue raincoat. And she was soaked.
It all started when she looked at the photo of herself sliding half way down a hill in Venezuela with a terrified look on her face. She laughed so much that a big spurt of snot came out of her nose and she had to wipe it with the last of a fairly snotty tissue. It wasn’t funny at the time, oh no, ‘cos there was Claire doing a little dance at the edge of the trail on the mountain pass, celebrating how far along they climbed. Then before she knew it she started sliding down the side of the hill. Helpless, hopeless and spectacularly sliding. Looking at Pablo, the guide, with terror in her eyes. He just furrowed his brow and looked at her with his cigarette dangling from his lips. Then he took a photo of her. Everyone else just smiled at her. ‘I’m falling here!’ Claire screamed. ‘I’m gonna die!’ ‘Help me!’ No response from any of them. Then she realised that if she sank her boots into the soil with force they’d function as brakes. And so she did. And she stopped, about a quarter of a way down the side of the hill. Embarrassed, she just grunted and trudged back up to the path. They all snickered at her. She took her boots off and emptied the top soil onto the path, grumbling about her dirty socks.
See, now it’s funny but back then it was as funny as a dick in the arse. Wait, thought Claire, I don’t know what that actually feels like… no, no, I imagine it’s pretty sore. So yeah, that. She just remembered how helpless she felt as she slid away with everyone just staring at her apathetically while she freaked out for her life. That’s Claire for you though, making a big mess of everything and blowing it entirely out of proportion. But more than that, it sums up her, entirely. As a person of course. Just moving away, slowly and surely whilst everyone else stands still. And it reminds her of Kevin, sliding away from view.
That was Venezuela a year ago, when her life flashed very, very, very slowly before her eyes as she slid down that hill very, very, very, very slowly. Now it’s Kilkenny on a miserable August night and the rain pelts down on her bright blue raincoat. Her sister just dropped her off at McDonagh Station and things didn’t go to plan for Claire from the get go. After giving her sister a hurried thanks and goodbye she:
1. Couldn’t get the seatbelt off quickly enough. It was the seatbelts fault, obviously, so she furiously renamed it the ‘bastard cunt fucking cunt of a fucking seatbelt.’
2. Got her foot caught on the seatbelt after she had it released and tripped getting out the door of the car. She went head first into a puddle.
3. Whilst running up the steps into the train station she slips and cuts her leg off one of the steps. She shouts out ‘Ah ya fu-‘ but quickly realises there’s a man with a little girl waiting just underneath the cover and stops herself short.
4. The door slides open at the entrance of the train station and everybody waiting in there stops and looks at her. Then she slips in a puddle and falls. Right on her arse.
Struggling back to her feet amidst more snickering, she tries to pull her hood down and after yanking her matted wet hair back off her forehead, she gets it. Everyone is looking at the panicked, soaked girl in the raincoat, some still laughing. She doesn’t really care though, she’s much too busy letting her eyes dart around in the hope that they’ll quickly lock onto Kev’s green jacket. There’s no sign of him though. All she can see are daytripping families, weird looking old men holding plastic bags, heaps of tourists, little goths on the way back to Carlow and one beetroot faced drunk shouting at a timetable.
Panic sweeps over Claire. He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone, I’ve missed him, he’s gone. She rushes over to the doorway that leads out to the platform, nearly slipping in a puddle in the process. The train to Dublin is still there, rain pelting down on it louder than the train will probably chug along. With the rain blinding her, Claire runs along the windows, glaring at every person sitting in wait on the train. Some don’t notice the girl in the blue raincoat peering into their carriage, others wave, some are quite freaked out by the desperate looking girl peering in at them.
She can’t see him there at all. Not a sign. She curses under her breath. ‘Bollocks’ is what she says. The grand romantic gesture is going downhill and fast.
Like any great gesture of love in fiction, she would show up at the train station just before his train pulled off. He would be gazing forlornly out the window on that sunny summer’s eve, fist to chin, thinking of the girl he was leaving behind. Then, in a cloud of smoke, she would appear running on the platform calling out his name and he would see her waving and immediately he would call out ‘HALT! Halt train driver! Stop shovelling those coals my man! I must get out!’ Then he would jump from the train and they would embrace on the platform as the crowds peered from the carriage windows whooping and cheering.
Instead, Claire peered into a steamed up window, looking kinda cross eyed while some sham eating a Plowman’s sandwich stuck his middle finger at her up against the window.
And it’s not sunny, it’s lashing rain and nobody’s cheering. There’s just rain, everywhere.
She rushes back into the station to check the timetable. Everything was right. He should be on that train. What if he went earlier? Or what if he hasn’t gone yet? She thinks to herself that maybe there’s still time for that grand romantic gesture. Then she turns around and bangs into the drunk, spilling his opened can of Strongbow all over herself and he rasps the sentence’ You stupid fucking bitch’ at her. Claire mumbles an apology and just shuffles around on the spot, unsure of what move to make.
All she thinks about is sliding back down that hill in Venezuela and instead it’s Kevin standing there looking back down at her, disappearing from sight. She might have slid too far but she still reckons she can make out the faintest glimmer of a smile on his face.
Picture: John Morton and Maria Murray as Kevin and Claire.
Tickets for Smitten are on sale NOW in Rollercoaster Records, Kieran Street and they are €10. The show runs August 20 – 23 and starts 8pm nightly. For more information and updates, check out www.devioustheatre.com