Anne Marie Byrne has recently retired from working as a student advisor in Dublin City University. She has attended Tanya Farrelly’s creative writing workshops at Purple House in Bray, Co Wicklow where this piece of flash fiction was developed.
Her research interests include criminology, incarceration, education and the role of drama in prisons. Her M.Phil thesis (Trinity College, Dublin) focused on the Theatre Project in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin and her Ph.D (Dublin City University) explored education for juvenile offenders in Ireland.
Her leisure interests include theatre, photography, reading, travel, cookery, swimming and enjoying nature, especially in her native county Wicklow.
Out of Time
(prompted by Jack Vettriano’s painting All Systems Go)
‘I’m going away, I’m going away!’
She wriggled herself free of his grip, pushing him away so forcefully that he fell backwards onto the bed. He sighed and reached for his cigarettes. She shivered and pulled her coat around her shoulders, sobbing now, she winced as he lit up. He sighed again but remained silent. The rain was falling hard on the window pane, the wind whining bitterly around the contours of the building. A column of light streaked its way across the room, temporarily flickering and then disappearing quickly as a car rounded the corner outside.
‘Listen to that rain, you’re not going anywhere. I’m listening. Listening to you and listening to the rain. Tell me something. Tell me something but not that you are going away. Tell me something that’s true; tell me something I can believe in.’
Languishing on the bed he drew deeply on his cigarette and exhaled slowly.
‘What’s going on in your head? You never share what you are thinking anymore, it’s been a long time since we really shared our feelings. What’s been going on in your head? Tell me where we are going? I’m listening, I’m lying here listening. You have to tell me where we are and where we are going.’
‘We are not going anywhere. I’m going away and you are staying here.’ No longer sobbing she had regained her composure and was feeling resolute.
‘What do mean you’re going away?’
‘I mean I’m going away, going away on my own. Living how I want to, living on my own. Living where I want to live and how I want to live.’
‘And how and where is that?’ He asked.
‘It’s in the South of France’ she said. ‘In Antibes or Cannes or Juan Les Pins. I’ll get a little studio flat somewhere in an old stone building with yellow roses growing around the door. It will be sunny every day, it will hardly ever rain. I’ll wear dresses made of linen and a straw hat. I’ll shop in the market every day for fresh food, carrying a basket over my arm. I’ll speak to the stallholders in my hesitant French which will get better and better every day. My health will get better every day too, I’ll never be strong but the weather will suit me and I’ll function better there than here. Sunshine suits me. My aches will disappear, my skin will glow and my eyes will sparkle. I’ll become my true self. Every morning I’ll take a swim and I’ll take a walk every evening at the blue hour. In the afternoon I’ll rest on my balcony reading and slumbering. Sometimes I’ll go to a museum where I’ll study the works of Picasso or Matisse and they will mean something to me. I’ll believe in them. I’ll have a cleaner who comes in once a week. She’ll change the bedding, wash the floors and clean the bathroom. When she finishes her work I’ll invite her to stay for a coffee and we’ll have a little chat as if we are friends. She’ll tell me about her grandchildren and her husband who is a fisherman. Sometimes she’ll bring me some sardines or some red gurnard fresh off her husband’s boat that morning. But apart from the stallholders and the cleaner I’ll talk to no-one. No girlfriends or boyfriends, no confidantes, no lovers. It will just be me alone living my life on my own terms, enjoying the sun and believing in dead artists.’
There was no response only deep sonorous breathing coming from a now slumbering body. Indifferent to her outpouring he had turned to face the wall, curling his arms around a pillow. She picked up her handbag and an umbrella that was hanging on the back of the door. She did not look back as she headed for the street. On her way down the stairs she called for a taxi and as luck would have there was one close by. By the time she got to the corner of the street the taxi was waiting for her.