Tuesdays afternoons was his slot on Blessington Row, Number 16, with the three sea-shell window boxes of heather. He liked us to be waiting in silence for his big arrival. He had to teach us how to wait so he thought, the right positions around the house, posture, costumes, all that. Caitlin already knew more about waiting than was good for her.

My body is in way too much of a hurry, she said when I found her pills in the cutlery drawer. Ever feel you have a totally different sense of time than all the other fucked-up losers?

The colours of inside a tree trunk, those fresh yellows and ambers and the winding darker strands, her hair was always long enough to cover her little hypersensitive breasts. She generally wore only a bikini top. And bandages on her hands when the eczema was bad.

Alexander was the handle he gave us to use for him if we ever got the chance of a word in. Before I heard proof on that altar in Chapelizod that he was officially a Bernard, we had also known him as Tully, Lavery and Marvin100. Parked outside the house in his grey two-year-old Yaris, elbow out the window, he would suck his way down a frugal spliff, a man in two minds about coming in, a man steeling himself, examining his tongue in the mirror. But it was the car doors we listened for, first the driver’s, then the back passenger door after he had stowed the taxi sign, and some afternoons the boot lid, hollow as the judge’s gavel.

Bernard didn’t like to knock so one of my jobs was door-opener. Caitlin in position at the bottom of the stairs in some scrap of a costume, a man’s denim shirt, a pink sari, a polka-dot bikini, her beautiful hair up or down or sometimes still wet from her bath. As soon as he was over the threshold she would take his shoes and socks off and hand them to me. Then it was time to follow him into the living room where he might warm the weird bulging red balls of his feet over the flames in our small grate for a minute or a lot longer before the recap began, where we were at, what had happened the previous week, who was being good and who was slacking. Some days he had notes with him on strips of paper from the car’s receipt machine—Caitlin used to keep them to stick in her book.

This kind of thing: It occurred to me during the week, kiddiewinks, and I made a note of it here, that this is a snakes and ladders sort of landscape we are ushering through. We push and push, individually and collectively, we keep rolling the dice and maybe if we’re lucky something gives and we surge forward and we’re skipping along across the squares and the walls are coming down but then (checking his notes)—Bollocks, I can’t find it. Bollocksville. I wrote the fucker down. And what the fuck do I mean by a glass catapult? Underlined and everything. Look. Glass catapult. Bollocks. Anyway, it’s not about the ladders it’s about the dice. The bones. Not just the muscles, the bones. So today, and I’ve put some thought into this, here’s what we’re going to do.

That was the kind of thing. He could be very serious about it all. He got better in my opinion, more instinctual. One Tuesday she was sucking him off and he switched to me suddenly, let me have a go with my mouth for the first time, and made a competition out of it. Who’s the best? Who will Mr Alexander give a treat to? Like somebody had told him it was the easiest way to get under Caitlin’s skin. She pushed me out of the way, left a scratch across my face when I stuck my head in again.

For a boss he was over-critical of himself and hard to follow but, as Caitlin put it, that didn’t make him hard to fathom. She’s a smart one, with her very own brand of the stuff. And she was probably bored with me a lot of the time, running rings around me, exasperated by that blush on my face of excitement and pride in how much I thought I was changing.

Did you learn absolutely nothing in prison? No wonder they threw you out early, she said to me once after we had been to see her father, and walked off.

It was her who clocked Bernard wasn’t too fond of the stairs: Why you ask? He’s a bungalow man, are you blind? He’s stuck on the ground floor with his Rumpelstiltskin porn and we’re stuck here with him until he finds a way to get us up there in the right order—who goes first, you, me, him, who goes second round the bend in the stair? He hasn’t figured it out yet. He’s more of a novice than you, my tattooed tower block saint.

She was mad to know the story behind every tatt. I’d be telling her about the trip into town with the money in my pocket, who was on the gun, how many sessions, the kind of stuff I remember, and her frustration would be rising like I was wandering off the subject: No, go back to when you had the idea. Why a flying fish? Was it a dream? Or the thorns around your ankles? Why? What gave you the idea? Why can’t you speak the truth? Or if I was telling her about being inside. Or, later on, trying to make her see all we could do together in London.

To keep the peace one day, I had taken her to see where I hit my teens full throttle in Inchicore. I pointed across the street at the plain 5-up block I had told her a lot about. She has a face that looks a bit cross most of the time—it’s her eyebrows I think, short and sharp-tipped and very pale and then her small dark eyes sheltering under a deep brow—but at that moment she was scowling at the flats like I had got the wrong address, that it couldn’t possibly be the place I had described to her, where I had loved and lost and gone down to hell.

Why was I such a scumbag liar? Was I just stupid or was I trying to fuck with her head? This only came out hours and pints and many long silences later in town. I thought it was because the old flats were boarded up now, but the truth was this: I had shamelessly and malevolently failed to mention the blind obvious, a high-priority fundamental detail, which was that the block didn’t have verandas. The truth is a donkey turd on the moon, Bernard was one for saying, and the truth we had stepped in and were spreading across the pub carpet on our many trips to the taps, was that Caitlin had done some imagining of me back then in the flats, she had written about it in her book, killing the hours at a long crumbling balcony wall, night after night, dreaming of of escape from the violence and poverty, and all the lights of the city suddenly joining up to make a kind of pattern I knew I had to draw on my skin, to wrap myself in, she had written a whole chapter about it in her book.

And now the details were wrong.

There had never been a balcony.

And now she would have to score it out.

And it was the same with the sex we had together. There was the way I kissed her and touched her and the way I crossed into her, and what I said, all the obvious stuff, but the truth was more about what I didn’t dare do and didn’t say. I had to be more honest than I knew how to be. The more you owned up to the better, the wetter she got. Caitlin was a thin-skinned over-heating lie-detector and if I told the truth I was free.

It wasn’t easy to leave her in the early morning to go to work. I knew the danger in needing to know where someone is constantly. In the kitchens, I cracked open the cream gun cartridges, inhaled the Nitrous oxide and lifting the lid on one of the big pot washers, stuck my face into a back-draft of hot steam. I chopped and peeled the vegetables in my white apron. My hands were often in a worse state than Caitlin’s. Out on the fire escape every chance I got to call her. If we had nothing to say she would read out what she had been writing but I would be listening to the background noise, to be sure she was where she said she was.

So I went with her to meet her father the first time, taking another day off. She pushed him against a wall halfway through a public tour of the Dáil, furious as a fairy-tale princess on their efficient blue carpets, and flew out the window, and I’m nearly sure that Bernard was behind the wheel of the taxi we got into later, although he had a beard then.

He was more interested in Caitlin than me then too. It was me who sat on the stairs in the early days. As part of the initial deal struck between the three of us I was denied the right to ask questions. You go through this on your lonesome, bumfluff, Bernard said. So I went through it. The one time I put my ear to the door they were talking out in the kitchen, their voices low, chairs creaking in the long pauses, a slow spoon stroking a cup.

It’s like an interview, she told me. But he thinks he has come up with these trick questions to catch me out. And he’s so proud of them, I can’t bear to disappoint him. But do you know he has his own meanings for some words? He thinks poignant is something seedy and illegal.

Caitlin had more experience than me, a lot more—it was an easy one to win. Me, she let into her life by reading from her book, her novel about the girl in the private mental hospital. And her memories of being dragged around the country by her parents, the furniture wrapped in blankets, the new uniforms, the beds. And the search for more and more sex. Removal men, teachers, neighbours, lots of doctors, strangers, underage boys and two old poets at a wake but never any mention of what you would call a boyfriend. That’s where I came in I suppose. A boyfriend experiment. One pair of hands with pictures on the back. One curving cock.

She’s a posh poignant bitch, this one, Bernard said the first Tuesday afternoon I was invited into the living room. Caitlin over his knee, he was spanking her, making her confess what a spoilt slut she was, and Caitlin played along. She had Bernard and me hanging on her every word. I was made to stand by the window to keep an eye on the car because there were a few dodgy wetbacks on the street. Before that month was out, October, I had permission to watch her sucking him off or whatever was on the menu. So I went through that too, the new feelings you get, the suffocation, the smallness and the huge unbelievable surges.

I produce a lot of unnecessary skin, Caitlin said about her eczema.

It’s all in your head, Bernard said.

Yes, Mr Muiris Lavery.

Keep guessing. Have you always had it?

Not consistently.

You get time off?

Sometimes it goes away completely.

But not consistently?

So far never, Mr Vladimir Lavery.

Never? Exactly. Idealism, the destroyer of youth. There’s no such thing so don’t waste your time. It’s all in your pineapple.

By the time he bought Caitlin the wet-look gold bikini and the coral necklace, Bernard was turning his attention to me more. His ideas were changing, finally, Caitlin said, and it was her turn to watch now, giggle, sneer, egg him on, the foul-mouthed lazy beach girl on the sofa smeared with hydrocortisone, masturbating, her eyes sinking deeper under her frown. Me on my hands and knees over a dog bowl of tap water—a punter left it in the taxi he claimed, a sign, he said, never ignore the ordinary—then me spreading my own asshole for them while they discussed which dildo to use.

I began to like her bandages scratching the skin off my back in the morning. Or pressing down on my chest like two big paws. I was on my last warning at work.

Caitlin was licking his balls the first time he found the nerve to go into me. After

it, we lit the fire and got stoned together—another first because Bernard insisted we should be clean for him. Maybe some night I’ll come round and stay over, he said.

Wow. Upstairs? Caitlin laughed.

What’s the opposite of vertigo?

She thought for a moment and said, Gravity. Fear of gravity.

But he shook his head sadly. Vertigo is about the past. You two are too young to even know what the past is yet. Live in the moment for as long as you can, that’s my advice kids. Forget about the past. Do you think I should shave my balls?

We need to make a sacrifice, Caitlin said. That’s how they used to do it back in the misty forests.

Suddenly Bernard’s nose burst. He had a nose bleed. Too much of this cheap weed, he said.

His nose had a funny tip, melted you would think, melted and pinched into a crooked witchy point. And he had these crafty eyes like a child with three mothers.

The eyes and the disgraced cop’s beard in the driver’s mirror the first time we got into the cab. Caitlin and I had a sort of a game then. It was still in the early stages and we didn’t know what it meant yet. We had been unlucky with the driver the other times we tried it. One ignored us and one was ready to kill us with whatever he had under the seat. We might have easily forgotten it, given it up. Maybe the row with her father on the balcony of the Dail brought it back into her mind.

Caitlin would wave a cab down, get in and act the chatty and vulnerable new pair of heels in town. I would be further up the street looking for a cab too.

All of a sudden she would tell the driver to pull in, lean out the window and say something like, Want to share a cab? I’m going northside. Do you know the Blessington Basin?

I sham surprise for the driver’s benefit, then go, Sure why not, and dip in beside her.

Hi there, she says, I’m Pam. A hand pressed against her chest to control her breathing, the excitement, blushing with the power of her own boldness.

I read about this in a book, she says.

And, You could be anybody, couldn’t you? I saw you and thought he looks cute with his gloomy tattoos. Perhaps even a little dangerous.

And, This is intense isn’t it? When I woke up this morning I decided to do something I’ve never done before. Actually, I was wondering if I should get a tattoo.

And, I haven’t really made any friends yet so I just have to put myself out there more, don’t you think? What would you say if I invited you in?

I show I’m game, and summoning all her courage, she reaches for my hand and carries it through the air and places it high on the inside of her thigh, her long thigh, and I give the drooling driver my best lucky day grin.

I’d say I had the same grin on my face the day we took the helicopter ride over Dublin with her father. We followed the motorway into the city, then the river until we veered off into the sun over Phoenix Park. Our shadow came and went over Blanchardstown. We found the river again at the Leixlip reservoir and headed into a rainbow over Rathcoole. There was some major gridlock around Tallaght hospital and then this sudden change in air pressure and light and and space and we were up over the mountains. We saw deer and kestrels and the raw yellow side of a valley where hundreds of trees had just been cut down. We came back in along the bay, Greystones to the city docks. I’d never been up in the air before but I kept it to myself. The pilot started making jokes and Caitlin and her father were bickering on the headsets but they couldn’t ruin it for me, the rocky shoreland, the lines of roofs like sharp shells, the random mossy patches of parks, the mineral streaks of the road and the traffic and people moving like skinny water-skating insects. Dublin was a shallow rock pool, and the tide might come in again any day now.

At the lunch afterwards in the airport VIP lounge, I was still laughing about it, probably too much but the jibes and the taunting were more ridiculous than usual between father and daughter. Mr Andrew Bennett usually hid his swelling body behind a lot of loose dark linen and his eyes behind at least six different pairs of glasses he was continually swapping about or looking for in his pockets. He used to phone Caitlin every evening at 8.30, and the few times he showed up at the front door he wasn’t allowed in. If this daddy wanted to see his daughter he had to agree to her demands which came to her on the spur of the moment and didn’t mean much, like forcing him to meet her at that fetish club near Connolly station or have his palm read at the Smithfield horse fair.

He was telling me he would have been on the Concorde flight which crashed in Paris a few years before only he had to come back to Ireland on an emergency. Caitlin went rigid beside me, froze stiff. A family emergency, he added. He crossed himself and said something along the lines of every cloud has a silver lining and Caitlin flew at him across the table, ripping the glasses off his face.

Still, she got her money before we left. We went out that night and right through the next one, blew every red cent of it.

One Thursday afternoon, nearly dark, Bernard turned up at the door on Blessington Row without any arrangement. There had been bits of snow that day but he was only wearing a T-shirt. He said he had parked the car on the next street and there was somebody else in it who wanted to meet us. He made it sound like a threat. He was angry. New dice, I was thinking. Then he forgot about it, started barking orders, eyeballing the walls, stamping on the floor. Before the shoes were off, he had his cock out. He wanted it done in a hurry, No talking you pair of dossers. Bernard was a big fucker in more ways than one. I was even wondering what we had in the house if he got out of order.

Caitlin wasn’t fazed at all by the aggression. The threat in his eyes didn’t worry her. In fact, she gave him more attention than usual. She actually managed to let herself go. It disappointed me to feel the jealousy as bad as ever seeing her engrossed like that, sitting astride him on the sofa, Bernard glaring over her slim shoulder at me. I waited my turn, impatient for what he would do to me after.

Caitlin had always said Bernard would run out of ideas for us one day. She saw through him. I don’t remember him asking for what happened that afternoon. It wasn’t an instruction. I can see Caitlin cross-legged on the floor and she’s rubbing Bernard’s lower back. He’s lying belly down, his head in my lap. Caitlin and I have been staring at each other for a long time but it’s as if our faces are masks, smooth, expressionless. It seems to be the end of the road.

Then I realise Caitlin has a finger or two in his ass.

It had always been out of bounds. It didn’t even exist.

Bernard gasps, gripping my knee.

Then Caitlin has switched position, his head is at her chest now and I’m kneeling up behind him, holding his strong stiff hips, going in carefully, a touch and a touch more, patient, staggered, fierce.

It seemed to take hours.

Bernard roared and sobbed. An hour later he was lying in the same spot, a broken man in a pool of tears. Caitlin and me stayed out of the way in the kitchen. Something important had happened—it was a first time for me too—but Caitlin played it down so much so I wondered if it had been what she really wanted all along. To see me take another man. I had so many questions: Did she think Bernard had been secretly after this all along, the boss dragged out of his office and raped? Or was it me, waiting and plotting my revenge on him? Caitlin acted as if she was more interested in whether we were going out later.

I went in to talk to Bernard. He wouldn’t get up off the floor. He was still crying, choking on his snot. It was getting worse.

We didn’t go out that night. Caitlin threatened to go by herself but she stayed upstairs in the end. Bernard grew quieter but he didn’t know where he was or who I might be some of the time. He was scared, cornered. I managed to move him on to the sofa and threw a blanket over him, forced some of Caitlin’s sleeping pills into him. Then I went to bed. Caitlin was pretending to be asleep, her breathing was too shallow and fast.

I’m sorry, I said, in case I was supposed to.

I had one of my bad dreams, woke up and her side of the bed was empty apart from a ribbon of bandage. The window was open as if she had flown away. On the way down the stairs—and I took my time, one narrow step at a time—some part of me didn’t expect to find either of them. They would be laughing in the back of his taxi somewhere. I would be the loser in a game I had never understood. Opening the door, stepping into the square of the living room, what I did find was Caitlin leaning over Bernard with a pair of scissors.

Get him out. Get this whinger out of my house or I won’t be responsible for what I do. Then she did this thing with the scissors, cutting around her own outline, like she was a picture in a book.

*

By the morning, the situation hadn’t changed much. Every light on in the house and the windows bravely holding back the rain. Neither of them was speaking to me. I felt they were waiting on me now to make a decision. Caitlin floated in the bath. Bernard’s tongue hung out of his mouth. I could see he was in a bad way but was I supposed to drag him out the door by the ankles and leave him on the street? Or call a doctor? I didn’t want to land him in trouble. After everything we had done, him and Caitlin, me and him, him and me, the three of us, I knew nothing about his life outside of our place, other than his taxi driving stories, that he wasn’t from Dublin and his opinions on the merits of Chinese versus Eastern European escorts.

Caitlin spent the day on our bed, in her boots and coat, writing in her book and running baths.

I rang work and that was it, the heave-ho.

Then it was dark again. Rain came down the chimney. The main thought was I would have to stay awake all night to keep them apart. The other thoughts were about what they wanted me to do. They were waiting on me. Expecting me to come up with something big and they would obey. It was my turn to roll the dice.

Caitlin was disgusted by the delay.

She said, It’s always fear with you isn’t it? You can’t tell the difference between fear and desire like every other excuse for a man.

I went through it, kept the watch. On them. On me. On the house. So it hit me as being completely impossible when I went up to the bedroom to tell her Bernard was a bit better and saw she was gone. She couldn’t have got out of the house without me hearing her. I would have known if I had been asleep, wouldn’t I? The girl is hiding, I twigged next, and started to search the house, under the beds, even opening drawers and cupboards, the back yard. After that I rang her phone in every room like I would catch her. Maybe because there was someone in the house behaving crazier than he was now, Bernard somehow managed to pull himself together again, made us a pot of tea and sat me down.

The man talked and talked for the rest of the day. I got his full life story. He steered away from what had happened in the front room and instead, the big issue was his fiancée. Yes, Bernard was meant to be getting married, only for the past few months, apart from what he was doing in Blessington Row with us, he was paying for sex with three or four women a day. He couldn’t stop. The man had spent a fortune, run up some major debt. He was sinking and kept on shagging, eight women in one day he claimed. 800 euro including petrol. And when the bills went unpaid, and the fiancée finally confronted him, he let her have it, the truth. And that brought him to our door the day before. And his wife-to-be had a couple of brothers who were not amused.

At least now it’s out in the open, he said, waiting for me to agree.

I had to find Caitlin. She would give herself away to anybody the first chance she got. I saw her flushed frowning face under a pile of men’s bodies. The jealousy was worse than ever. Bernard wanted to lend a hand but I was glad to be rid of him when the taxi arrived to pick him up.

Don’t be too hard on her, he said. Look how much that girl has done for you. She’s a sweetheart.

I hit the streets, the city centre. When you are searching for somebody in the crowds, or running in and out of places, appearing in all that CCTV footage, you realise everybody you see is hiding, disguised, timid, they look at you as if it’s them you are after, for a split second it’s written on their faces, Me?, oh no is it me you want, are you the one I dread? And when they read in your face that they are not the one, not today anyway, the relief melts into a sneer and you become one of the lunatics they laugh at and ignore. I was ready to hit one of them when I remembered Caitlin’s book. Had she brought it with her? She wouldn’t go far without it, no way. So I crossed the river again for about the tenth time that night and headed back.

She was home with another guy, some student with a fringe. One smile from me and he legged it down the street. That was the night I told her, revenge is the only word for it, to show her how much she didn’t know about me no matter how many questions she asked or how many pages she wrote in her mad greedy book, that it wasn’t drugs I had done time for. I had beaten up some asshole from Inchicore who I thought had slept with my girlfriend. Then I went and found her and kept her hostage for four days.

I threw it into the river anyway, Caitlin said. My book.

The endings never stop and the beginnings are scarce. The endings are obvious and exhausting between two people but the beginnings flicker and die easily. Over the next few weeks we rarely left the house. We spoke in low voices and lost confidence in how to touch each other. She was talking about going back to college. I went out hunting for another job and read some of the books she was always lecturing me about. One day, I was in a barber’s on Capel Street, under a black bib, seeing myself in the mirror with my head bowed and the barber puffing the talc on the back of my neck—and the idea came to me.

Why London? Caitlin scoffed but anywhere else I suggested the next day or the next didn’t catch her fancy either. London was cheap to get to and had the same language, that’s all. Somewhere nobody knew me or gave a damn. Somewhere my body would feel different and my voice sound unfamiliar to me. There it was, the new start, the key, the magic leap, but she couldn’t see it. In fact it had the opposite effect. She was eaten up by suspicion. I wanted rid of her was the accusation, I wanted to go by myself really and was just too much of a sap to pack a bag and clear off. She banged about the house acting as hurt as if I had already left. I may as well have been a shirt in the wardrobe, a ring on the sink, a painful reminder. She was going to see her father one day—ice-skating this time—and I opted out at the last minute mainly because I didn’t want to keep falling on my arse in front of him. I listened to the commotions of the bracelets on her wrists while she fixed her hair in the hall mirror. She was taking a long time about it. Then a long stunning silence before she appeared in the living room and threw my new passport at me, cut along the spine, one piece at a time.

Within the hour she was back with her father and a bottle of wine. She made a sign to me she was desperate for a smoke and disappeared upstairs, leaving me alone with him. It was a set-up and we both knew it. If he was under orders from Caitlin to say something in particular to me while she was getting stoned above us, he didn’t manage it. Or maybe he was just playing along with his daughter’s whims without really knowing what she expected of him, hoping he wouldn’t say the wrong thing if I asked his opinion or advice. Whatever he was really thinking, Mr Bennet picked up a John Lennon CD and told me a pretty decent yarn about how he was only two blocks away from the man’s building in New York on the night Lennon was shot.

He’s full of shit, Caitlin said later on but she had her head over the toilet, vomiting, until there was nothing left in her. She had a bad spell after her smoke, a full-blown whitener. What was funny though was that Bernard turned up the next evening, in an ’07 Yaris in the same grey and invited us to his wedding. Yes, he had been forgiven. He was back in the saddle, the hair cut short, pumped up from the gym, refreshed, calm. Caitlin kept her nose in a book, ignoring him and shrugging like she didn’t care when he asked me down the road for a pint. I told him about the London idea and his advice was get over there, get set up, and send her the address. She doesn’t know how to believe in it yet. Tomorrow never comes for some people, he said.

What was funny was that his fiancée wanted a Lennon song, ‘Imagine’, on the speakers as she walked up the aisle.

The day of the actual wedding, the eczema was rife again and so bad on her ears and around her eyes Caitlin wouldn’t get out bed. I had a few goes at changing her mind until I began to think she was enjoying the anger rising in me, the way she lay there staring at the ceiling. She wanted me to lose the rag, wanted to see it. You’re doing it on fucken purpose—she was dying to hear me say those words and feel them wash over her sores. So the voice in my head was trying to convince me. I ironed my shirt and polished my shoes. I wrapped my hands in cellotape to lift the fluff off my jacket. I brought her up a cup of tea to tell her I was going.

You’d look good in London like that I bet, she said, and sat up in the bed, brighter, trying to be enthusiastic. The lust in her eyes was real. Whatever it was, had lifted from her. And the mention of London I took as a sign she was at least thinking about it now as an option, being away together, and I couldn’t ask for more. If I played it right, didn’t push her, didn’t crowd her, let her find her own way to a decision, then there was a good chance it would happen. She cried for a bit which was rare for Caitlin, a big cry which soaked through my shirt but there was a good feeling afterwards, another shift, a new space.

There’s one thing missing, she said. She gave me a major blow job and sent me out of the door with a fancy smile on my face.

Even so, I stopped at the end of the street, and thought about going back. It was cold and dusty in the wind, and the chaotic flashes of sunlight bouncing off the windows and cars made it hard to think. And I was keeping an eye for a gap in the traffic to cross the road, buy some fags in the shop and wave down a taxi. Just as I was about to make a run for it, a guard on a motorbike flew by pointing at me with his black glove, ordering me back on the pavement. Then another one, identical, and four after that, a formation. Then a black Volvo S80 and right behind, a government Merc, spotless, sleek, silent, but they had forgotten to roll up the window and the back seat was empty. Last was another Volvo, moving much slower to keep the traffic back.

I was late, missed the bride’s arrival and Lennon singing her up to the altar. The Chapelizod pews were stuffed with colourful hats and shaved scalps. Bernard—so the priest called him—had a lot more friends than I would have given him credit for. His wife had short hair the colour of cranberry and wore an ivory silk dress and had a laugh which came down the nave further than the choir. I was near the glass doors at the back, underneath the organ balcony, sending texts to Caitlin each step of the ceremony.

I got to shake Bernard’s hand after it, the confetti blowing over the wall into the river. Him and the best man sported pink ties and cufflinks.

Go easy on her, slick, he said, his big arm around my shoulder, the hand patting my chest. God knows why but she would go to the ends of the earth for you, that one.

I decided to skip the afters and do the long walk back to her in Blessington Row. I was feeling down. Sick. A fraud. I needed to tell her I was sorry if I had been punishing her but I was afraid how I would feel if she believed me. And then if that became the truth what I would have to do to make myself believe it too and not forget, ever. I didn’t believe in anything—that was the only fucken truth. I was sham underneath. I wanted to be empty like the back seat of that limo. And that she was right about London too—it was a stupid idea.

I heard her voice as I opened the front door, recognised the tone of it and thought she was reading out loud to herself.

I went straight up to the bathroom. I felt poisoned, the guts twisting, like I didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth.

I got ready to tell her about the wedding in lots of detail—that would keep us busy for a while. She was at the table, reading from the book she said she had thrown away. Her father sitting at the far end by the back door

Caitlin, I said.

The kitchen knife was rammed deep in her father’s eye.

Caitlin.

She didn’t look at me. She was busy reading to him, getting it all out.