I had a therapist once who used an oil-burner to disguise his farts. Ylang Ylang puffing out on top of the marble mantlepiece in the dim room with crooked furniture in a period house on the northside. Eugene clearly ate too much of the wrong thing and was incredibly sincere. The right-on kind that bandied about unshaven on purpose, played indoor softball for relaxation, attempted stand-up comedy, a purveyor of women’s rights, you know the type. Though, like me, I sensed an anger there, a faulty pane in the glasshouse. Anyhow, it was love at first sight, with this open-toed sandal dude and me. 

Eugene warbled on about ‘the work’ in a pretty sanctimonious manner that I found particularly amusing. It was going to be very challenging, these months stretching in front of us. If I wasn’t in an intimate relationship, it’d be best not to get involved with anyone for the duration of our journey together. Psych-poison would hurl out as I unearthed my inner restorative capabilities, at significant cost. Therapy, he said, was analogous to sacred practice, whether you’re religious or not. 

I wasn’t spiritual at all, but sometimes felt things, believed in other energies at work, whether malevolent or benign. I joined a UFO enthusiasts’ group in my mid-twenties after seeing an ad in a health food shop. Great craic at first, sure, a way to ward off feelings of isolation after moving into an apartment on my own. We are not alone… I was also totally hot under the bonnet for one of the attendees, Donnacha. That cute little hand-knit of his with Aliens R Us embroidered on it. The group’s key focus was to seek out mobile phone footage of alien abductions, but when that failed to materialise, it all fell apart. I later dallied with a mediumship circle but left abruptly when I clocked that one of the participants from the dark North had murdered people. 

When it came to the more practical types of self-help, I told Eugene that I’d mainly relied on chit-chatting with bathroom mirrors as a way to self-actualise, to drive things out. I did it for years until the mirrors turned semi-hypnotic. As for the type of help you pay good money for, I’d been for a vibrational healing session at The Healing Hut in town, but the only thing that vibrated was my phone. 

My GP Vivienne in leafy Drumcondra had probably gotten a one-off emolument for me. I imagine something along the lines of a One-4-All voucher she’d cash in for decent underwear. Eugene and her were involved in community care up the coast three days a week where they had this Two of Pentacles-type sting on the go: balancing books, transferring money, profit, and loss. She was able to lob a few mentlers his way when he was back in the inner city in the evenings, taking it easy. Consequently, he was able to heal these ‘valued clients’, keeping them out of her practice by pressing them to talk themselves to death to appreciate the tranquility of the present tense. I could’ve said no, to her, to him. But in all honesty she’d made out that if I didn’t get better I’d probably hang myself, or worse. 

After his initial sales spiel, Eugene went for a ‘rested solemn’ theme for the first session, which made me nervous. Deep breathing like cats do when trying to drag you into their outlandish little realms. Glaring too. While still managing to be an intransigent dry arse. He did paraphrase one thing, come to think of it—life as cluttered tabletop with inexplicable items that could prove hazardous for people who didn’t know how to protect themselves. Persons without boundaries, emotional toddlers. He used his hands like a fairground claw to illustrate. 

‘Down comes the grip, see? And suddenly we think we have no choice.’ 

He claimed psychopaths were rare when I asked. I don’t know why I asked.

‘However, there are a lot of unwell people out there causing havoc,’ he explained. 

I took this to mean civil servants and the likes. The passive aggressive goings-on of bureaucrats always got me. People who’d a proper comfy time of it: permanent, pensionable jobs, golf habits, wives at home with shepherd’s pies, free weekends. And yet they were full of disgust for the rest of us who didn’t really have anything solid accentuating our life trajectories. 

In fact, if I was going to shoot a biopic of the quintessential Irish psychopath, I wouldn’t make it about politics and paramilitaries, like every lazy screenwriter has. I’d film my sociopath working in the Passport Office. Zoom in on an egg and onion sandwich for the opening scene. Gets watercress stuck in tooth, heads to toilet to roar, shoots the place up.

‘What you’ve come back from Audrey is akin to returning home from Vietnam.’ 

His metaphors were bloody awful. 

‘Here’s an interesting fact about Vietnam,’ I said. ‘Three quarters of those who fought weren’t drafted, they volunteered. No one forced them to do it.’

Week Two I was loaded with adrenaline because I knew for certain myself and Eugene had been married before. 

[Cue earnest smile]

My estimation was 174 years ago or thereabouts, based on the searing cold, zero electricity, sackcloth clothes, blatant lack of nutrition, the bizarre, interbred faces on the men I could see, some had square heads and huge, elephant-like ears.

[Cue finger tapping]

I wanted past-life Eugene to know that since then, in this dimension, I’d pushed myself as much as I could. Worked hard, been educated against the odds, lived independently, and most importantly I’d enough innate sense of direction to find him again. I scribbled it down on the 83 bus: on such and such a date, I met my husband, though not for the first time. That man is YOU.

‘You have a BA and a Postgraduate Diploma?’ he said. ‘Impressive, not easy.’

‘I’m hoping to go on and do a master’s eventually but I’d need to shag someone with money as I’m all out of grants.’

[Cue raised eyebrow]

‘Is that something you’d do? Let men use you like that?’ Eugene asked.

‘Yes, the way housewives all over the country do.’

[Cue smirk]

Visions began milliseconds after I left his office. There we were, sweaty as hell in the nineteenth-century mud-floor cottage, having just done the business. Adjacent to our steamy conjugal bedchamber sat his big-boned leather-faced turnip-obsessed mother. Every day this bag wreaked havoc because she could. 

Women had two defined spaces then: at the crossroads twirling their fertility all over the place, and later: abandoned when the baby-making years were up, doomed to awkward familial house-shares where even the spiders resented the intrusion. She despised me, this woman. 

Outside, Eugene’s lackies were pacing with pitchforks like in a crass low-budget movie about old Ireland. They seemed to be waiting on Eugene before they could do something, anything. What dreadful fools. And of course they reviled me for deflecting attention from their beloved ringleader. 

[Cue staring out French doors]

Being in a room with Eugene on Tuesday evenings at 7pm (sharp) was a wondrous new stability that had made me want to laugh out loud, as if I had a bag of marbles in my throat. Or cack myself; he made my guts giddy every time he spoke. Even stranger than déjà vu when the other person didn’t recognise you. You stared and stared and, voilà! Nothing registered. Eugene said fear and love were on one axis, anger and sadness on the other. Both, a chassis wedged under your life. I knew he said the same thing to every one of his clients but I didn’t care, I still wanted to hear it.

[Cue frown]

‘You’re stronger than you think Audrey,’ he said, when I put forward a few stray things. The dead cat incident. The time I rented a bath in an attic to sleep in after my flatmate Tina attacked me with a knife. How my family back in Dublin only contacted me to check if I was alive after IRA bombs went off.

‘I should warn you, recovery can be rocky, you’ll need to keep an eye, all your life.’

[Cue long frown]

On Week Four I told him that my dad drank a lot. The way I phrased it was, ‘Everyone’s da drank when they were growing up, it’s no biggie.’

‘Is that so?’ Eugene replied.

The damage from an alcoholic home was deep rooted, he claimed. There might be something in that as all my mates had cotton-wool shrinks. 

[Cue pursed lip]

Psychotherapy happened to Ireland during the boom, same time as lunchtime plastic surgery became trendy. It led to a lot of mind-zapped people wandering around Dublin undrunk, with blowjob lips. No longer cool to sit in pubs during the day losing your shit with strangers. Everything had to be processed ‘the right way’. I was lucky Eugene had taken me on. 

‘Do you remember in the eighties, real worry about rabies, and piles of white dog shit on the pavements?’ I said.

‘Can’t say I do.’

[Cue sigh]

‘Of course you do!’ 

[Cue glare]

‘Women looked to the church and Valium for comfort; inflation was sky high; the nation’s daddies drunk-drove home from work, young girls put their unwanted babies into plastic bags, dumped them in ditches, sand dunes, laneways. Smog, rain, tins of vegetable salad. It was bloody dismal. We grew up in grimness, of course we were affected as fuck.’

[Cue smirk]

‘You’re racing a bit there, Audrey,’ he said.

I loved how he said my name, elongated like a movie star’s: Audreeeeeeee.

[Cue lip bite]

‘I’m not impervious to the effects Eugene. Still doesn’t account for why I’m so sad now, why nothing works out for me.’ 

‘Self-pity is understandable, but not very useful,’ he said. 

‘I suppose you’re going to tell me to piss on my guilt next?’ 

[Cue long sigh]

‘Hey, do you remember when everyone started milling into astronaut food without knowing it was astronaut food, Cadbury Smash, etc?’

‘You’re in those dodgem cars inside your head now, Audrey.’

[Cue smirk]

‘Not at all, I actually liked Smash, especially mixed with spring onions and parsley.’

‘We’ll get to real work next week.’

[Cue exhale]

On the way out he handed me a book about kids of alcos. Keep up the good work brother, said the inscription inside. My guess was he’d written it himself as a kind of: he’s good, this one, take him seriously. It’d be hard to take him seriously when he also had Harry Potters on the shelf.

‘Lull over the pages,’ he said, smugly, finishing with: ‘mind yourself.’

[Cue door slam]

All week long up until the next session I minded myself. I could not leave myself alone.

In addition, I wrote down my own observations about Eugene and posted them to his house-cum-office with a photograph of me as a baby gripping the corner of a brown velvet curtain. 

  • Leaving a box of fags in your top shirt pocket isn’t a good look. 
  • I heard someone sneaking along the exposed floorboards upstairs, really off-putting if a third party is listening in. 
  • You sigh a lot, do I just fucking bore you? 
  • When your sister and niece overstayed their welcome clashing with my timeslot, you said my name out loud when you opened the front door, and your niece giggled, surely that’s unethical? 

I finished by letting him know that we’d been involved in a previous life cycle but that I was okay with it. 

‘Did anything come up for you,’ he said, the following week, while blatantly ignoring my correspondence. I found this slightly odd as he was the one who’d suggested I might write things down if it helped hunt down clarity.

[Cue finger tapping] 

‘You mean, like, issues in my tissues? I told you already you won’t be getting tears out of me.’

[Cue sigh]

‘After you left here, Audrey; EMOTIONS, the next day, or the day after that, what did you feel?’

I began to laugh uncontrollably. Emotions! 

‘What are you laughing at?’ he asked. 

Whatever he thought was around the corner of common sense sounded drastic. Especially as all I could see was a small metal bed with us rolling in it. Not the giant white mass-produced ones that star in amateur porn of shared wives, no, this was proper brass, with stains no one thought of rubbing off. Brass like his farmer’s neck. 

‘I thought you were going to ask if I looked at my shit before flushing it,’ I said.

‘Why would I ask such a thing?!’

[Cue smirk]

‘Isn’t that what psychology is, essentially?’

‘Dealing with shit, not looking at it.’ 

‘Right,’ I said, and I began to pull on the loose thread on the badly sewn-in button on the left arm of the chair.

‘Do you know anything about humanistic and integrative psychotherapy?’ he asked.

‘Is it like wanting a mobile home but getting a yurt instead?’

This was the first time he laughed. And the last time he laughed.


‘Women still hate each other by proxy, even these days, don’t you find that odd?’ I said at the next session. 

I felt increasingly embarrassed looking Eugene in the eye after all the wild sex we’d had. There were times when that old bed took such a bashing his seething mother would start banging a pot on the hearth. 

‘They have different challenges to men, that much I do know,’ he replied.

[Cue small groan]

In mid-nineteenth-century Ireland women were taught The Loathing by their own nasty mothers. Brashness and baseness was all there was. It takes a long time for history to iron context out. No woman was ever good enough for another woman’s son, etc. Eugene’s mother refused to look me in the eye, or talk to me, the whole peculiar time we were married. 

When I did whisk up the courage to tell him everything about our married life, he sat there like dazed roadkill exhaling its last breath. It was as if he’d heard the same lurid lunacy from every desolate female he allowed into his space. 

‘I bet male clients are more thrilling?’ I said. ‘Plucked straight from the courts, fiery as fuck.’

[Cue raised eyebrow]

It made me miserable that he didn’t believe me.

‘My clients could not be more varied, you’d be surprised, Audrey, how people choose to live, the things they do to each other.’

‘Yeah, but stifled violence, that there is gold, sociological research in real time… more useful to you than the likes of me.’

‘What does the likes of you entail?’ 

There was nothing much wrong with me bar some stress at work, residual sadness. 

Though I was fed up. Fed up eating stir-fries, renting DVDs, having no one to love, nowhere to go, fed up with the therapy, it didn’t seem to be doing me much good.

Eugene thought it might help to talk tarot when I told him I liked to play a few nights a week, a relatedness there. He wanted to add a bit of spice. 

‘For the record I’ve never (ever) dreamt of hanging myself,’ I told him, straight up. 

The Hanged Man was more about change of view, or a pause, than moving out on a limb.

[Cue cough]

‘I’m guessing sanctimonious Vivienne said I was dripping with the signs then?’

‘Our confidentiality clause means I cannot discuss anything you say here with your doctor unless I feel you’re a genuine risk to yourself.’ 

‘Vivienne thinks I suffer from high moods, as opposed to high hopes, which would be how I’d look at it. I told her there wasn’t much wrong apart from my boss being a bin-kicking bully with an alabaster head, bleeding state of him.’

‘And do you find it difficult to cope at work?’

‘Not exactly, I have trouble sleeping, which would be the Nine of Swords.’

As far as I was concerned, hanging was just more skewed male entitlement. Vivienne had got it wrong.

[Cue long exhale]

‘How did she react when you told her that?’ Eugene asked.

‘She looked horrified, which I felt was very unfeminist of her.’

[Cue ear scratch]

Vivienne had the kind of head that would look great completely severed and placed neatly in the third drawer of a filing cabinet, eyes up at the harried world above her.

‘Let me put it this way Eugene, why is it always men who leave such cruel lasting messages?’ 

[Cue frown]

‘I’ll tell you why, it tells loved ones: don’t hold me accountable for a gambling habit I can’t be bothered to control or leaving the family home on a whim or robbing my kids or bonking another man or this is what you get for your efforts… That’s what a hanging says. Zero compassion.’ 

[Cue door click]

Vivienne in all reality couldn’t wait to shove meds into me the second I bashed through her door, while Eugene was flagrantly against that sort of thing. 

‘No shame,’ she’d said, ‘half of Ireland is on them, even politicians.’ 

After the serotonin monkeys had begun to swing wildly on the vines inside my head I was to go see Eugene, The Magician, cured in six months, guaranteed. The man worked wonders on anyone she tossed his way, personable and kind. A veritable Houdini of the mind, with a sure-fire get-out clause. 

Now he was suggesting I go back to her to get off the meds so I could talk openly with him.

She’d also suggested I join Weight Watchers, as it teaches you how to eat properly. Another reason not to hang myself, so. Imagine that kind of embarrassment, two broken knees.

‘Psychosis,’ Eugene acknowledged, eight months in, when I asked what might be wrong. 

I could tell straight away he regretted saying it. Madly irresponsible. He was jaded, I got that, yawning through sessions.

[Cue yawn]

I did my best to shake him up. I informed him someone attached was going to the fast checkout with breast cancer, and he wasn’t getting enough psychological supervision himself. 

He’d go on to live in a house with high walls; die in a car crash in his late sixties; but that for now he had a seven-year-old son and a bloated toddler with such crazed hair I couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy, crackling mess of static. 

[Cue blank stare]

His mother from the previous time (his this-life mother had already croaked) was frequently in the room with us, hovering, to the left of the oil burner, which now billowed out deep musky sandalwood.

[Cue fart]

‘Imagination is a terrific distraction,’ he said.

‘Like periods are the bane of every lesbian’s life?’ I said. ‘You can use that in one of your sets if you like.’

[Cue long sigh]

‘Transference has its place,’ he said. ‘But there comes a time when we shove past that, you know, actually get authentic…’ 

[Cue fist bang on chest]

‘What about counter-transference?’ I said. 

The way he stared at me when my mind fell into the silent cracks. The way he got irritated when I challenged him. The way he’d stopped mentioning or discussing my letters. The way he asked me to stop texting him, for my own good.

‘You need to get to the point where I am of no use to you anymore, where you don’t need me, where I’m basically made redundant on your watch.’

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Just, wow.’

Sessions often ended abruptly. Frosty glares, deep breaths. No problem throwing my aura in the dustbin, readjusting his glasses for the next sucker glowing purple with sixty quid to spare. I made sure to turn and face him at the front door when our hour and ten minutes was done. It unnerved him. He gazed up the road hoping I wouldn’t catch sight of the next sad dumpy soul moseying along with a trademark lack of confidence. Standing there like that, I’d use periphery vision to clock items on his console: car keys, air freshener, telephone, diary, trinket box (female), ashtray (male), ethnic wild man ornament (well-travelled), potpourri (female, older than him). I did the same with the bathroom on the first-floor return located over his right shoulder. Green and black outline of Original Source Mint and Tea Tree Shower Gel, flung clumsily on the sink. I wished I’d the guts to insist on a pee, just to see if he was fucking someone else.

‘Mind yourself.’

[Cue door slam]

In the pub afterwards I sat listening to Paudy & Co. chatting away. My view via the elongated mirror in the bar was mostly stained with gilded Guinness advertisements and those dreadful mock-Irish road signs tourists loved without knowing why. 

These fellas were riddled with superstitions, but at the same time reminded me of a fabulous hipster ensemble who’d the potential to travel America playing groovy instruments made from kitchen implements. 

Paudy, a fisherman, had a lot more going on upstairs than his pals. He knew how to snatch herrings from the water, squirrelling them away for supper, when the rest were busy handing over graceless veg to maniacal English landlords. If it wasn’t the devil coming for them, it was mermaids pissing on the spuds, causing them to go black. 

‘Are you okay there love?’ the barman asked, as I gave the nod for another Guinness. Four was my limit before things got sloppy.

‘Sorry Paudy, what were you saying?’ 


‘You’re not going to believe me when I tell you this Paudy,’ I said. ‘In a future Ireland, there’ll be approximately 2,987 chippers as they’re called, all making a stellar living selling the humble potato, deep fried in cheap Russian vegetable oil, and at least half the country is morbidly obese.’

Paudy explained that Eugene was planning a spectacular insurrection and they needed me to calm the hatches. I was draining their ringleader of the violent momentum needed to turn the course of history around. 

‘It’s not right that you’re being accused of indolence, carelessness,’ I said. ‘I’m on your side, but cut me some slack, I’m not responsible for Eugene’s shortcomings.’ 

‘They need to turn back on themselves with those blasted Corn Laws or we’re for it,’ Paudy said. I agreed. The tariffs on imported grains kept the price of bread artificially high, adding to the suffering out there, Queen Vic’s fault. At the same time, I was bug sick of women being blamed for everything all of the time. The only enduring insurance we had was our wombs, otherwise men everywhere would’ve smashed our heads in like seals centuries ago.

‘Eugene might not be the great man you think he is,’ I said. 

‘That’s as may be, but it can’t help that your lot are nothing short of witches.’

He was referring to my two great-great aunts who lived in the parish since 1808, they predicted all of it. Warned of demonic yells ringing in ears for years to come… privations the poor would suffer if relief funds weren’t put in place. They warned of mass wretchedness on a scale previously unseen; human beings and their clayey habitations melting down into the earth. They were written off as bats for their trouble. 

‘If the English continue to burn our roofs down, we’ll meet like with kind,’ Paudy warned. 

I went back to Vivienne to get the pill. 

‘How are you getting on with Eugene?’ she asked.

‘I think he prefers the more obvious clients, the self-cutters, the abused women too weak to report anything.’ 

‘A good therapeutic relationship is a blessing,’ she said, shifting in her chair that still had the manufacturer’s plastic on it.

‘He’s great though,’ I lied, reassuring her. ‘I’m learning a lot.’

‘Good,’ she said, ‘that’s really great to hear.’

What I wanted to say was Eugene preferred dealing with men who were soft as boiled eggs. And teenage boys who felt Ireland owed them a girlfriend and a job and a flat, and if they didn’t get that package deal ASAP they’d drive someone’s car into a wall.

I made sure to tell Eugene in person that Vivienne asked how we were getting on, knowing he’d be bothered by the interference. 

‘Her heart is in the right place,’ was all he could offer up. 

I asked if he thought psychic ability was a load of tosh, and if so why did he have all those books on shamanism?

‘We don’t know if it is rubbish,’ he said. ‘I keep an open mind.’

[Cue little grin]

‘It’s in my family for sure,’ I said, ‘going back generations. My grandmother read the flames in the fire in Inchicore during the Second World War. Though too many didn’t heed her advice.’

[Cue long sigh]

‘What we do know is that trauma and memory are passed on in the cells.’ 

‘Yikes, need to stop you there, pal. That was chucked out as junk science.’ 

He may have been too busy to have kept up to date with his Journal of Abnormal Psychology subscription.

Anytime Eugene felt momentarily defeated, he’d shuffle in his chair, creaking the stiff leather as if it were a little carpet burn he was giving you, then a long-exaggerated sigh to illustrate ennui. Which, if you think about it, is quite hurtful for someone who’s supposed to be giving you primal hugs. 

‘Would you like me to explain?’ I asked.

‘I’ve a feeling you’re about to do just that, anyway.’ 

[Cue staring out French doors] 

‘Do you know what, I can’t be arsed,’ I said.

This angered him so much he ended the session fifteen minutes early. 

[Cue door slam]

On this occasion he trailed me to the pub up from his house, staying a good bit behind so as not to be completely obvious. It scared me. He stood intimidatingly with those big, tattooed arms folded, watching me yank the door and head inside. 

I didn’t feel comfortable talking to Paudy after that. 


The next time we were in those bloody chairs, I decided to reward Eugene with something juicy. 

‘My father used to slap me across the face, pretty hard actually,’ in a crinkly young person voice. 

He looked horrified. Then I saw that he was crying, only slightly, but there was H2O in those big olive eyes. 

‘I’m so sorry Audrey…’

[Cue head in hands]

‘… you were just a little girl, that should not have happened you, that man is a prick.’ 

I didn’t appreciate the word he used to describe my father, even if the man was brutal at times, so I started laughing as if I’d made it all up. 

‘I knew that’s what you wanted to hear.’

It didn’t take much for Eugene to explode, his faulty pane shattering. 

[Cue leather chair creak]

‘You’re going to have to decide if you want this or not… if you are prepared to do the work. It might be easier for you to go to a female counsellor if you have such awful trouble with men, you seem really determined to ruin this, you could be left in a bad way, do you want to deal with this alone?’

‘I think I need a break from the whole thing for a while,’ I said, genuinely meaning it. Thinking I might mean it.

[Cue heel banging on wooden floor]

‘If you take a break, we will have to start all over again.’

[Cue door slam]

I buried my parents even though they weren’t dead yet, I deliberately stopped visiting them. 

I regretted every decision I made the minute I made it. I stopped going out with friends. 

I stormed out of the marketing job I detested, maxing out two credit cards to pay the rent. That way I could pour vodka down my gullet and enjoy daytime TV for the first time since I was a teenager. 

In the hours and days after seeing Eugene, I was particularly bad: sobbing uncontrollably, vomiting, roaring into the hell’s bells of night. I prayed for typhus, Asiatic cholera, plain old consumption, anything that would do the job for me. 

I had no way to impart how terrible and terrified I felt except to write it down.

He relentlessly ignored my letters or absorbed them as falsehoods. 

His mother carried on cackling in the background, the crazy cow. 

I watched through the landing window on the garage roof. Eugene and a dark-haired woman with spider legs. Babbling away, reams of steamy Chinese takeaway on the mahogany coffee table. It was summer and all the internal doors of the house were flung wide. 

Eugene ate like a voracious savage while she barely picked at an abysmally greasy spring roll. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure he was bitching about me, telling her what a fuck-up I was. 

Funny how these profoundly earnest men never end up with someone ordinary, chubby, or moderately ugly. Spiderwoman was exceptionally good looking, had to be said. I wanted to cry. When he started chasing her around the house with a fly swatter, I’d had enough.

When the root fails, the whole fabric tumbles to pieces and the civilised world rings with woes.

He texted on Monday to say sessions were cancelled as there’d been a fire at the house. 

‘I know,’ I texted back. 

After that, all hell broke loose. 

I emailed the umbrella group that self-governs the likes of him to say I felt his practice was completely dodgy. I was in a much-worsened emotional state than before. ‘Let’s just say, if it were a McDonald’s menu, he’d be the McVague Burger, the guy doesn’t offer any advice or salve, barely communicates except aggressively, a total control freak.’ 

The Guards arrived and I told them straight up what I knew about the fire: zilch. 

‘Those people, they’ve been egging me on to do myself in for ten months. Standing outside my balcony on the lawn making cutthroat gestures, waving up at me, snickering, unreal. Several of the neighbours here can vouch for me. The man in particular is a hardcore nut, and the doctor wagon, she just backs him up by proxy. I’m completely at my wit’s end.’ 

They’d send someone around in the morning to see if I was okay. I confirmed that I wanted to go ahead with a counter complaint regardless.

The moon was whole, my love was gone, they carried his beaten bones home over the ryegrass. I wailed for three days, and longer through the nights. Ships were coming. The graveyard in which he lies is a deep-drilled potato field, where the seed gets no chance to come through to the fun of the sun. The tongue in his mouth, the root of the yew. Silence, silence. The story, our story, is done. 

I strolled out to the balcony to hang my clothes on the rope washing line, a great burden having been lifted. 

June Caldwell

June Caldwell is a writer of fiction, essays, biography, poetry, and journalism. Her collection of short stories Room Little Darker was published in 2017 by New Island Books and 2018 by Head of Zeus. Her debut novel Little Town Moone is forthcoming from John Murray. She is a prize winner of The Moth Short Story Prize.

About [Cue happiness]: I wanted to write about neurosis in Ireland during the boom, through the prism of one woman not coping. With an excess of jobs, and with mortgages being dished out like fortune cookies, struggle reverted inwards: who will you magic yourself into? What will you become? With all this fabulousness came a sense of collective guilt, of dislocation. To be truly successful you had to rid yourself of “psych poison”. Diagnosis became sexy and everyone seemed required to have a counselling habit. People became loud, arrogant, splintering their connection with more simple ways of being.

My protagonist is not fitting in. She’s lost, lonely, itching for a bit of havoc. But communication between human beings can be difficult—sometimes impossible—and where logic fails, the body can be left to take over the task. As such, I wanted to explore what body language ‘cues’ might mean between two people trying to communicate completely different things in a claustrophobic atmosphere. Thinking that through gave me a better scaffold to tell the story, though I also learnt that I had no control over the main character!