"And so he's barred, I'm telling him you say... he's barred... from the house!" The beautiful girl hissed sibilantly from where she, on hands and knees, rubbed and swabbed at the floor with towels (all my store of towels!!!) Out in the hall her siblings, like galley slaves, sighed and groaned in sympathy, a row of bottoms swaying as they worked on an oil slick of washing up liquid splattered, no, poured, over the floors downstairs in our house.
... the party planning
Beauty, 21 at last, had thrown a party. And I had taken myself off on request until the morning after. After all, it was not her 18th? I mean, not another night of neophyte drinkers, no, scantily clad and all geared up for a bacchanal, not... this time. Now, they knew what they were about, they were seasoned in all sorts of ways you'd rather not go into. So, yeah, the afternoon before? I tore myself away from party preparations, locking away of valuables, that sort of thing, put it out of mind (with kind friends and strong drink)... entirely.
... the giddy anticipation..
On Sunday lunchtime, stepping tentatively though my front door, I picked my way past the swaying bottoms, climbed onto the sofa with the Sunday papers and hoped they wouldn't tell me how that happened.
....THE NIGHT BEFORE!!!
So they told me how that happened. Guess I was looking too detached (serene) for them, by then. They told me that and other things I didn't necessarily want to know. Some guy, Ryan take a bow!, brought in the withered Christmas tree from the garden, where it awaited the skip (hey, it's been a really busy year) and set it up in the kitchen in the middle of the revellers. Someone, Ryan take another bow!, then poured a fine layer of washing up (fairy) liquid on the floors. To set the scene I'm guessing, to up the ante, give it tone. The party carried on regardless. Like an Art Installation as it were, glistening, sylvan, interactive craic. And Ryan! not satisfied, feeling there was something more, planted a For Sale sign in our garden from next door.
"Right, yeah banned..." I say absently, "definitely, darlings. Eh, was there any more?"
Turned out the boy showed up with at least six sidekicks (he was allocated two) and commandeered the party space with uncouth louche behaviour, beauty went on, furiously wringing my best bath towel in a bucket of water as she did. And she was obliged to evict a number of them, screaming, because they drove the seasoned civilised invited into the living room for refuge from their shouty commandeering of the music.
"I said you'd said he couldn't have that many of them. Mother? Mother!"
"Yeah, appalling darling, untterly unacceptable, yeah"
" shut up shut up shut up!" the boy hissed from the hallway "the tree is back outside, and I'm working on this f***kin floor, and any way it was a party!"
AND THE CONQUERING NORMANS? THEY INTER-MARRIED........
Turns out it all turned out for the best of all possible worlds? The uncouth boys eventually mingled, the sophisticates put down their cool and let them into the party space. Like the invading Normans, they became more Irish than the Irish themselves, as you might say.
"Yeah, 7.00 am, I want to bed at seven?" beauty finished proudly, brushing a strand of long brown hair from her sweating brow, smiling at some sweet and private memory.
"Hmm, right, very good, ah, carry on" I murmur, turning on the sofa, stretching discreetly, carefully thinking nothing at all. It had nothing to do with me. I am (they are adults, 21 years old!) not responsible. Not responsible. Anymore. No one died, no (actual) bad thing happened. I am basically not responsible... anymore.
PUT DOWN YOUR JOB AND TAKE ME SHOPPING!!!
I see text flashes, peripherally, on my phone on Friday, as I wrestle with a case I have to make for someone anxiously hopeful on the outcome. Six texts I find, when I take a moment. Peremptory texts, from the boss who wants, she needs, to go, no, to be taken, shopping. Whenever. When, eventually, I make it home.
"I have nothing? to wear? for, you know, I'm going to a party? Will you/ won't you, take me? late night shopping? When you get, like, home?"
"Hello! Only take an hour?"
"Hello! yes or no?? Hello!"
"Just an hour? Yes or No?"
"Yes or no! Hello?"
No. I have hours and miles to go before I walk though my own front door and I won't be turning out again to buy some barely decent piece of clothing for a party. No. I text, no! distracted by the job at hand, and something else. A conversation I am having at the time with a random man about the little child who died, her lifesbreath sucked out slowly over four hours, strapped in a car on the hottest day of the year.
"Yeah. I mean the father? mother? Tragedy... awfulness.... of it..." I say to him incoherently.
He actually shudders "I know...I know. Awful, awful... but... still, how could he, what... was it?... to forget?... happens though, to...happens,...it happens...though..."
"Yeah, it does, it does..." I say not saying, neither of us saying, not wanting to, say, blame, judge, when some poor devil has lost a child. Knowing that country of Painandhorrorandguiltandshame the father lives in now. So we don't. Say.
(thinking of our own deficits, our lucky escapes... that time you lost the kid in the shopping centre,
fell asleep with the baby on your lap, your breast, your bed, small woebegone faces at the school gate when you were delayed at some meeting, caught in the traffic, distracted. Lucky...our lucky escapes...)
That's the thing though, about children. The weight of responsibility you bear is staggering, all encompassing, and the younger they are the heavier the loading. I vividly recall the haunting of being a mother of infants, my preocupation with wars, nuclear spills, electric pylons, hovering dangers, peril by virus, traffic, child stealers. The first child, the first experience of not caring, not being consumed by your own mortality, but only about this, this helpless scrap you cast out of your body, expelled, into a world of dangers. It's a whole other hell you don't anticipate when the blue line on the Pregnancy Indicator bathes you in a warm expectant glow.
Once, one sunny too bright summer's morning when my children were small, I woke up gasping, weeping, caught inside a most terrible dream. I dreamed I brought one of them to work with me, and, caught up in a work thing in a vast arching hall, let the infant in the pram outside fall out of mind, of knowing. When I finished, still full of the work, I found her outside violated in some obscure irrevocable way. Damaged, broken, toddling towards me silent, small face bloated with lonely tears.
My husband brought me many cups of tea that morning, puzzled, as I fought to pull back from a quagmire of guilt and shame and horror. "Only a dream" he told me "poor girl, only. A dream?"
A dream, from the place you go to have the feelings you can't contain in the waking day and hang on to the fine thread of sanity.
I surely hope the child's in heaven with angels as someone hopefully said. I hope that someone takes her father tea, kindwords, some shreds of solace. Her mother too. That, at least. I hope for them. I do.