Break an Exit V – The Arson Bells | Cassandra Voices

Break an Exit V – The Arson Bells

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Mumruinho has made it. My sister managed to sneak a pack of menthols into her shared room after managing to sneak herself into the hospital.

She had seduced one of the intensive care doctors, so she says.

Storytelling is a shield against loneliness and the unbearable weight of boredom. Truth does not exist, and if it does, then all storytellers are liars. And all storytellers are liars, though Rousseau might have argued that when you are loyal to yourself you are telling nothing but the truth.

Josep Pla claimed that any adult that reads fiction in its thirties is an idiot, meaning that fiction is a cheap lie, that you should be reading History or Philosophy instead – Boswell or Montaigne – anything but fiction.

My sister claims to have founded the doctor on Instagram and that seducing him didn’t take more than a few dripping hearts emojis plus a Leibnitz quote on duty —this being clearly a lie.

De Profundis Wraiter

Over the course of my writing existence I have mostly done what some ubiquitous Irish man told me once he had been doing with his own: boycott it as much as he could in order to avoid the writing moment. He was a writer who came close to winning the biggest award on the island for young fiction when he was seventeen. Joseph O’Neil, Sinead’s brother and now one of Ireland’s best-selling authors got the award instead.

Since then on he has embarked on all kinds of outlandish enterprises, became a filmmaker of subversive documentaries, and spent a lot of time building and then managing a massive house with no angles on top of hill, in Sligo, a place he claimed to be the enclave of a mythological pilgrimage —that being another sinewy lie.

I was doing the same thing before I met him. Unlike him I had published a little novel, buried the journalist and migrate to his island, where I became a waiter in some musical fashion: I gained an A and lost an R, if only to get one step closer to fluidity. I would call myself a Wraiter and nobody would get it.

Instead of serving Nazis sitting down vomiting words I started serving Nazis swallowing food and opening their mouths to call me Manuel.

My salary and tips as an Irish waiter doubled my salary as Spanish editor-in-chief and writer, so I saved some money, got myself a camera and started taking photos instead of writing words. It was while filming gutters and glittery scum on the Liffey waters when Eoin, the reluctant non-writer, filmmaker and architect found me. He saw me kneeling over a pile of rubbish, literally filming shit, and hired me on the spot as a cameraman.

He was directing a documentary on the Celtic Tiger ghost housing leftover in the counties of Leitrim and Sligo in the north of the Republic. We spent a week filming empty housing estates, half-built or leisurely overgrown in abandonment. It rained every day and the perennial foggy dew made the ocean inauspiciously dark blue.

During one of those drives through the unnerving architectural wasteland he told me that the only way he could possibly picture himself writing was from jail, a De Profundis dwelling he came close to ending up in many times; the closest after producing a documentary on the nasty oil business going on off the shores of the Republic. Last year his epic resistance came to an end and he published his first novel in thirty years on the same bloody dripping issue.

The Singing Blackout

Unlike him I had been in jail and wrote nothing but cheap poems.

I didn’t know him well and he had just hired me, so it might have been wise to avoid telling him the story. But then again he was an honest man speaking his truth, a sweet box of lies and storytelling diversions that was hard to keep track of, though utterly enjoyable.

I told him I was twenty-one when I got in, and ageless when I came out; that I had collected more holes and stories that I could recall, plus the fear and its blackout.

“Spooky”, he said.

I told him I had been lucky enough to burn all my pages under the flame of the last pipe: I had saved myself the embarrassment of reading them after. It just cost me a lighter.

I became real good at lighters from then on.

He didn’t ask for my felony, but I told him about it anyway.

He pulled out the car under the drizzle.

“Oh my God, that is so twisted and sad. How did you come up with that? I can’t believe that the singer forgave you but not the judge”.

“Yeah, it was one of those. In the end the singer could have made my life much worst”.

“To me everything is a lie and every lie a piece of truth,” the non-writer told me. “I believe we are all innocent liars retelling our own stories, that is why we are alive and Facebook thrives. No matter how miserable you think your life is there is always someone ready to turn it into some abusive or mythological narrative. It is in the gap that separates our telling where reality fucks over fiction, and life trumps literature. I’m happy to film while I don’t write”.

I wrote down what he said. He said many more things that I wrote down. This was my second favourite.

My Life, Your Book

From then on I decided that I would do nothing but become whatever narrative life wanted me to be. If I was to become the white page then life will write me, its travelling book printed on my skin across the untranslatable light of a moving horizon.

I had already been doing that for years, leaving Barcechina for Madrid and Madrid for Brazil and Brazil for Ireland, surfing the silver foil, zigzagging its subtle undulations, my black fingers trapped under deadly blue flames with critical accuracy.

Aikido came in handy at that stage: I discovered it was possible to get high without using any substance but your breath – only then becoming a junkie in reverse. Then I found the Inca Dog love and my breath became detoxified and my lips wet and my liver dry for almost a decade.

Over the years I’ve concluded that I’m useless when it comes to most things in life, except, perhaps, lighters.

I’m almost as useless as a waiter as a fiction writer. Somehow I have a hard time believing my own storytelling devices, Pla’s sense of plot idiocy reverberating at any given turn. Writing is a river and surfing your way along it demands a lack of silver foil and dead lighters. Dedication is the stream and conviction is the current where you are most likely to drown. Reaching the morning afloat is something you seldom do as a wraiter, especially when fond of lighters. Somehow I needed to burn all the lighters to realise that life is the ocean and literature its flame.

It doesn’t quite matter. Nothing does but noting gives. “Sea waves come and go, but the ocean stays”. The Zen masters know better than the Junkie ones, not that that is significant.

Reality is an accident and obedience is the end of mystery, especially when obeying governments, flags or institutions. At this stage I know that life is a dream and that tech dictators and capitalism are its nightmare. Murray Bookchin came up with many plans to question that order, and in The Ecology of Freedom set up the foundations of the dream of a free mankind organised around small communities and natural environments. Today his words resonate like thunderbolts, though it is still pretty unlikely that cleverness will take over idiocy.

Martial is the Ocean

Hanoi’s joke of a lockdown ends after two weeks of mental traffic: strands, junctions and back lanes jammed with drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, street traders, drunken toddlers, Lycra adults and old timers going for walks. Fishermen have suddenly disappeared from the landscape. Their absence is the main sign of abnormality. Everyone is masked like any other pandemonium-less day, though there is no social distancing whatsoever.

I contact an Aikido dojo a week before the end of the lock joke. They invite me over to practice, no questions attached. The dojo is on top of an indoor pool equally disobedient, swimmers thriving under its steamed up windows. Training in there goes under the name of Ki Aikido.

Techniques are slightly different though it is the same martial art. I get stuck with a patronizing white belt. He is stiff and awkward and seems to be digesting dog meat.

My Irish Sensei had told me before moving to Uruguay with the Inca Dog a couple years back, to never question the approach of other schools and to do as I was told. There is no such thing as past or memory in Aikido practice. The only truth is to be found on the present moment devoid of preconceptions: it is a budo training based on awareness.

I do as I’m told, though most things I’m told are incongruent and shouldn’t be told at all, and reek like overcooked dead dogs.

After two hour of sticky, death-flavoured burps and rolls, I get on my bicycle and get lost through back lanes and one-way streets that question my way, though my way is unquestionable: I aim to get lost and take pictures and find a place to sit down and have an iced passion fruit juice and keep reading Rebecca Solnit’s A Book of Migrations, a delightful and brilliant essay on Ireland, travelling, belonging, tourism, and the bastard history of the one place on Earth that I would call home.

The essay runs through many exhilarating rivers of metaphors and I’m currently swirling one involving the legend of The Wandering Jew, who according to her is what Leopold Bloom epitomises in Ulysses.

After a few wrong turns I found myself on the road that leads to the lake. I perform a U-turn in some local fashion: in any given populated city of South-East Asia driving is the closest to Aikido I would experience outside the dojo. It is an act of balance and only those who enter first have the leading edge, meaning that no matter where you are, you have to get yourself in without hesitation.

One second later a Grab bike driver crashes me from behind and goes down. I manage to keep my balance skidding gracefully on the wet asphalt. The motorbike slides fast towards my ankles and I elude it with a swift tenkan, Aikido’s basic pivotal movement.

My back mudguard is smashed and my blood is rushing and my guilt is the only traffic light now. I ready myself for the fight and approach the driver. He checks his body for cuts, rolls his trousers and shirt up and finds little patches of peeled skin. His head is lowered while I ask if he is ok. Eventually he lifts it up but shows no sign of violence. He says he is sorry instead and points at his steamed up glasses.

The rain has impaired an already short-sighted vision. I fix the mudguard, mount on my diplomatic bike and resume cycling. I’m grateful to be in one piece though embarrassed at my lack of martial awareness half an hour after training.

SamurIan

I keep pedalling by the lake until I find a bunch of coffee places by its waters. I sit on the last one, by the lakefront, with almost no people around, except for a couple of kids sitting behind me. Right after I sit they ask if we can swap seats.

I tell them no way: my seat is on the lakefront. I wonder why they didn’t sit there before my arrival and I conclude their decision-making is based on some algorithmic sense of acting. It is the history of mankind after all: imitate what you see and repeat it, which it is also the foundation of culture and Instagram, for that matter: to-do-as-they-like, which is the exact opposite to the history of literature, thank Dog.

They insist and I resist.

They seem disappointed and I offer them to sit by my side. They accept just like data, and my romance with Rebecca gets instantly blown apart.

My Aikido comes handy at this point: plans are cracked illusions, same for expectations.

‘The more you want the poorer you are’, read one of José Mujica’s favourite quotes. You just need to flow the fuck out.

The lake waters sway hypnotically and I wonder for how long the murky liquid might have been here, if there is any hope for its stalled stream and caustic smell, or if there still might be corpses underwater. Reeks like it. In my next reading, Wanderlust, Solnit’s compares the history of walking to Heraclitus’s river metaphor meaning that you never swim twice in the same river.

Solnit would say that you won’t ever walk twice along the same trail, and Kundera that man is the only animal who trips over the same stone twice, mainly due to a lack of memory.

We tend to forget everything. Like freedom or disobedience or the pleasure of social distancing. Hanoi’s lakes are one of those places on earth that would question that argument. If you swim here you’d be forever swimming here.

My water-like stream of consciousness comes to an end with the most boring question of them all.

“How long are you in Vietnam”?

Since the end of hugs, you’d rather be careful when answering that.

“Forever.”

They don’t quite follow.

“Years”?

“Centuries”.

“What is your name”?

“Homer. Yours”?

“Ian”, says the one with a tattoo on his forearm: it is a dragonfly fucking a turtle.

“Bong”, says the seemingly younger one. A fringe and a mask on his face, the sides of his temples just shaved.

 

Orion Light Head

Done with.

I resume my lake contemplation and then notice out of the corner of my eye that Bong has produced something from under the table. I feign a severe cough to disturb the unearthing ritual, and stare shamelessly at them. They couldn’t care less.

Next thing, I see Ian holding a large bamboo stick in the shape of a didgeridoo. I have seen a few all over the place, mostly in the hands of barefoot old timers. Bong produces an envelope from his left pocket, grabs a little amount of something and inserts it on the lower end of the pipe. I can’t help but look. Then I talk and they smile.

“What is it?”

“Vietnamese tobacco”, says Ian.

Bong smiles.

“You wanna try”?

I produce half a grimace.

“Just tobacco”?

“Yes, Vietnamese tobacco.”

They smile.

I do as they like.

Ian burns the tobacco and inhales. A big cloud comes out. He only manages to absorb half of it and extends me the pipe right away, smoke still emerging from its huge diameter. I bow my head and inhale and sense the memory of an acrid flavour. Ian holds the instrument pointing at me and gets ready to light it up again.

When he does it, the sparkle of its lighter produces a nuclear explosion and then sound, vision, perspective and any other known form of perception collapse. I was slightly shifting towards the pipe to get a proper go, but the explosion makes me rear back in slow motion. My mouth is suddenly dry, my eyelids are leeches sucking vision, my pulse is a dragonfly fucking a turtle… What the fuck!!!!!!

I don’t have the slightest clue of who I am, what I’m doing here, where the fuck I come from or if there is somewhere I fucking live, not to mention what my fucking damned name is.

I’m a time abortion, some drifting space aberration, the Wandering Irish. It is fucking unreal.

I recall to myself that I’ve taken all drugs in the alphabet, so there is no reason to panic, though I can’t recall anything resembling this instant blow. I look ahead towards the silver lake and the silver skyscrapers start moving like jelly at the end of the horizon, visuals encircling them like purple snakes farting tiny asteroids. I blink, blank, blink, blank, bloom and die. There is nothing more I need to know to realise that I’m way past life. Or death.

The lake waters move with incoherence, my balance is a broken faith and my stomach, legs, arms, head and the rest of the joints of my body are remote planets orbiting three hundred millions years ahead or ago, I have no fucking clue.

“Are you ok,” I hear someone asking

I can barely manage to focus or turn my head, though turning my head seems easier than to focus. I see Bong mask and his black fringe and I wonder if he might be the Wandering Irish, the last piece of my intelligence’s rubble.

He is sitting two inches to my right hand side, and next to him there is a guy with a dragonfly fucking a turtle in his forearm. That rings a bell and the bell rings a siren and the siren red lights and the red lights fear and emergency rooms.

Basic Channel, Chain Reaction.

The Wandering Irish

I feel my blood thumping, acidity’s fear, the reckless dehydration, my lips and my eyes melting like half fried eggs in a cooker that just ran out of gas.

In A Book of Migrations, Solnit writes that Irish ‘travellers tell sometimes a story akin to that of the Wandering Jew in which they are the descendants of the metalworker who made the nails for the Crucifixion and for that deed were sentenced to wander the earth until the end of time.”

Its echoes are resounding in my flat belly like Arson Bells tolling for my own fucked sake.

“What the hell, the body of Christ and his fucking nails. What da fuck did you just give me motherfuckers”?

I try to raise my voice, though my voice is an independent crackling device, some childish frequency that I can’t relate to myself at all.

I’m a Muppet, an incongruently heavy feather, the yawn of a dinosaur, dead metal, limbo’s emperor, the Wandering Irish, Aikido’s nightmare.

My head keeps going in circles though I can’t tell if I’m moving it. I’m creeping to life with every numbed particle of my dissolved self, panic pulsing like Aphex Twin on a bad acid, fingers buttered, veganism concealed, brain fucking mayo.

It is then when Mumruinho’s words hit me.

It is the perennial message she sends every time I travel, merely changing the name of the country or city. Argentina, Uruguay, Ubud or Hanoi or whatever it is.

“I’ve just read an article about Spaniards being raped and stolen after having their drinks spiked where you are.”

Though my drink was not delivered before inhaling, that is the only fact I seem to know, my only bond to reality. Everything else has been blown away in some outrageous, Wandering manner. I consider how easily I could be stolen, raped or used in whatever random way such a useless piece of blinking blank flesh could be used. I could be sold as seafood in a Chinese market only then to be freed.

I picture myself floating in the murky waters and hold my knees with my twisted hands and my eyebrows with my expanding tongue. I’m some unfuckable monster, though there are millions to be had in my wallet, a diplomatic fancy bike unlocked behind me, my camera, my laptop, my fucking ring.

I look again at the guys. They seem underage. I can’t manage to shake off Mumruinho’s text. It keeps coming back in little arsehole waves, where Boris Johnson is broadcasting the War of the Worlds in his castrato —meets Kate Winslet— voice.

Chit Fuck You Chat

I try to chit-fuck-you-chat Bong.

I ask how old is he, the skyscrapers are slumping down the horizon like glitter swopping Orion now.

“I’m sixteen,” he says. “You?”

“I could be your grandpa.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but don’t worry, I’m not”.

“Are you ok?”

“That could be a grandson question.”

I don’t think he understands. Then I realise he is my friend John, from Donegal. I can’t believe my eyes, never quite did anyway.

“Dude, it is so great to see you in here. Fuck man, did you have a go as well? It is some powerful stuff. I have a Valium in my handbag, just across the table. Would you mind reaching it for me”?

Bong John looks now like Nick Drake’s grimace after Rizzla’s last five announcement on an early morning, 1974.

I keep going, convinced that Bong is John, Bongis Johnson that is, and that Bongis Johnson could be Nick Drake.

I wonder how did he end up coming to Bali.

He shakes his head like Hazy Jane.

Are we in Bali though? Or is this Donegal?

The water is dark and the moon is pink. It has to be Donegal, though why the fuck do I have my bike parked behind? I can see it at an angle, unlocked.

“I wonder if this is Irreversible or Bicycle Thieves. They are both great movies, don’t you think? I mean, Irreversible starts with that beast of a line: ‘Times destroys everything’, remember? And then the whole script goes backwards, a remarkable advance in reverse, while Bicycle Thieves, well, Bicycle Thieves goes forward, it is a walking, excruciating chase towards some irreversible end, which is exactly what Irreversible is about.”

Bong’s head is rotating like a dead young planet, my life experience is zeroing itself up, his shoulder blades failing to keep his head balanced, mine’s playing jelly acrobatics, Silicone Valley this is it.

I wonder why John looks suddenly Eastern and why Nick’s damaged silhouette forms itself everywhere, and I keep talking, which is the only thing I can do to stop the creeping high from erasing my entire self.

Then Bongis Johnson Drake says it.

“Plitz, plitz, plitz”.

It is kind of pleasant sound, though everything is unsettling and disturbing.

“Zut the zut up”.

“ZZ Top? I fucking loved them as a teenager dude. Fuck John. It is the only good thing about dying —to have you here. Can you hear the dub techno coming out of the lake? Man, you really look like an Eastern version of Nick Drake tonight”.

“Pliz, pliz, pliz, Zut the zut up”.

“Dude. Is that a white butterfly spread-eagling on your face? Oh, wait a minute. Is it a mask”?

John seems to have issues understanding me so I start talking real slow. Only then I realise he is not John. I’m actually talking to an underage local kid as if he were retarded. I feel disgusted with my condescending racism.

I apologise.

“Pliz, pliz, pliz. Iur mut. Zut it up!”

Bong incorporates his tiny self from the triple red bucket he seems to be sitting on. His face is kind of epic looking now, the wind blowing his cropped hair as if it were the mane of a lion. It is also incongruent, but everything now is, except the sound of the lake: it is a Basic Channel old reference.

Colossal Dissociation

The dub techno emerging from the waters will be the only source of comfort over the next forty minutes. I would spend it trying to decipher the mechanism to articulate my arm to reach my handbag. Though I would still need a mouth to swallow or a hand to grab it.

It is some colossal dissociation, I can’t manage to understand that my body is connected to my brain or that my self is a disposable wandering matter.

I wish I had never said yes and then I forgot what I wish for and where Bali is or if Hanoi belongs to Qatar or my disrupted tongue to life on earth. Slowly, very fucking slowly, I do manage to decipher the mechanism that articulates my arm and reach my handbag. My camera is there, my laptop, the millions —and then again I’m still a virgin with a bike I can’t ride, and a camera I can’t use.

I tell myself I’m better than that, though I don’t know what that is.

I unearth the camera and struggle to operate it. I know I need to record this moment, perhaps for repatriation and prosecution purposes, and then I recall I live with a diplomat and that I’m potentially fucking with his reputation, though I can’t recall who the diplomat is or why I am staying at his place. I also recall there is a thing called bed and that I long to curl into it, though I have no idea where the fuck it is.

Eventually I happen to make sense of the camera and point it disguisedly to Bongis Johnson and Ian only to find out that both have passed out. I cancel the covered operation and shoot shamelessly. I can’t see the screen. It’s pitch dark except for a string of colourful bulbs wanly glowing about their underage heads, looped over a tree. I remember the Valium and I’m blessed again and I shoot them like the fallen angels they are. Seeing them unconscious eases up a bit Mumruinho’s media induced paranoia and having a Valium on my veins was never so convenient.

What’s the Story?

My vision starts to adjust quietly and I reach my phone and manage to unlock it. I’m about to record a voice memo for prosecution, repatriation and memory loss purposes, when an in-coming WhatsApp flashes up.

It is Mumruinho texting on our family group. It is a group that I had named Fuckmily. Mumruinho didn’t like that and my sister changed the name to Ommmmmmmmmmmm. The group has become a recipient of messages that read: Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning plus rows of emojis.

It is useless data at its max, the epitome of how idiotic our smart devices have turned us.

Right now, though, the pattern has changed. The text reads:

“How is Vietnam?”

Convention might recommend typing good morning and a number of emojis, but I’m a non-emoji friendly WhatsApp writer that has just managed to retrieve the cracked pieces of his brain.

I’m inevitably grateful and hyper when I reply:

Good, real good, here I am, in the cool air, under the influence of an underage local pair. One is called Ian, the other Bong. They smoke a native bamboo cylinder resembling the hubble-bubble pipe of a large basketball player. It makes you feel like Philip K. Dick on a slightly mental night. It is astounding, like inhaling history, opium’s memory and its Wandering offspring of soft heads and eyelids ajar, the selfless empire of the highest dragon chase.

You’d see the pipes all over the place and those who smoke them claim to be smoking tobacco. But then again I’m after performing a complimentary inhale and seeing my mind depart towards the dark lake and some distant skyscrapers covered in visuals. My consciousness has been stolen and retrieved over the last hour, and your sudden appearance, now, oh dear Mumruinho, is the closest to Mother’s love I can recall. I’ve loved you through the darkest tunnels and I might have asked for your forgiveness.

Jesus Mumruinho. It’s been emotional. It wasn’t great at the start like most great things.

I’ve only inhaled half its leftovers and I’ve lost my mind. I’ve just retrieved it and I’m just after travelling back to that Xmas dinner night when you told us the story of ending up in some dodgy premises down on Paral-lel street, in Barcechina. Remember? You were invited to a party in some tiny warehouse and got there with two male friends and your girlfriend Gina, and as soon as you crossed the metal shutters and saw the little velvety desk you heard whines inside. I have remembered you sitting between two cars five minutes later, outside the underground orgy, in a hectic effort to retrieve the phone number of whatever cab company you could recall, so helpless and frightened.

I’ve just felt close to that moment of panic, sitting between two underage unregistered kids, about to be marinated, dried, fucked and smoked. Your previous text messages, “be careful with your drink being spiked”, having bloomed to a sensational paranoid effect after I’ve inhaled the thing.

All of a sudden I’ve become the Wandering Irish drowning in the ocean of neglect, your bloodlike avatar. Couldn’t move my body for a while. I’ve been close to understanding the Vanishing Orphanage, that longed realm where you were stationed, the empty quarters of your early days, where your life was taken away from you before you could operate its joystick.

I had a Valium, my joystick, in my bag but was unable to move my body to get it. It’s been a nightmare, though now I can channel the deserts and the dragon chase through infinite valleys, silky smoke sifting through silver cliffs and opium pebbles, the ancient Eastern pyramids, its snowy peaks, the cusp of highness, the centuries, your love.

Oh dear Mumruinho, I can’t write what I wish though what I wish I’d never know. The love word belongs to you and us now. Right now I’m just pleased to have found a soft corner of the world where people have been locked for centuries in dark rooms lit by Chinese lanterns and sparkling pipes, smoking away the heavy and deadly centuries of a dissolved self.

I don’t miss you anymore.

 

Stan

On the last day of our ghost housing filming gig, Eoin drove me to a tiny village on top of some northern corner of Leitrim. We were to interview an eco-architect who was after being reported for the collapse of most of the roofs he had built. He lived on a nice wooden house with a working roof we sat down in his fancy furnished living room. I set up the camera and within a minute Eoin was pumping out gold from his ginger mouth.

The situation inevitably lead to a confrontation, but Eoin had the means and the diamond grins —as Kevin Barry would write— to have his interlocutor hypnotised. The man seemed to sway between anger and remorse, and eventually did apologise for the mess, though he named a number of politicians who should also be accounted for. It was convoluted and less tense that it could have been, and after capturing his whole downfall on camera we gulped down our teas and parted gently.

Ginger mouth was quietly crying and his house seemed to shrink as we bid our farewells.

Once inside the car, Eoin produced more diamond smiles and informed me that next thing was dinner at the house of a lovely old couple.

“Stanislaus and Caitrín”, he said. “You’d love them”.

It was the first time since landing that I had came across that name.

“I can relate that name to one writer, ” I said. “Is it that common in Ireland”?

“Nah. I’d say every time you’d meet a Stanislaus in this country you are meeting Joyce’s descendants.”

He said that but never developed on it, in typical Irish fashion. Irish are great at referring to things without mentioning them, and they are also prone to leave conversations hanging in creative grammar clouds, where you have a hard time distinguishing when fiction starts or reality resumes.

Eoin said nothing else and I uploaded myself into the Joyce cloud.

We drove for an hour through evergreen forest and he said we were on the edge of the North, though still South, and it felt kind of reassuring.

It was an ancient stone house resting on top of a hill, quite close to the Shannon’s waters.

Stanislaus and Caitrín were smooth like wool, flannelled elegant and dust jacket wise. They had cooked a vegan stew and were reading in their living room before our arrival. They opened a bottle of fancy red wine as we entered the room, books, prints, maps and mobiles floating like dust planets over and around a huge glowing fire. Breaking the ice never felt easier.

The first bottle was the first of a number, emptied promptly as the conversation’s swift motion, suspension and radiance covered an overwhelming range of subjects, that I would find it difficult to link properly.

The three of them did know what they were talking about, either literature, stone housing or the political nuances of a country they claimed to have lost and recovered, if only in tatters.

At some stage the conversation turned to Travellers, and Stanislaus said that there was no such thing as Travellers, but happy wanderers, and went on a disarmingly brilliant dissertation on the limits of freedom. I would remain totally at a loss, hanging in there like a half emptied phrase in the Irish book of magic, until my romance with Rebecca made those words bloom fifteen years after in an unexpected continent.

The book keeps writing itself on my skin, fiction fucking around with reality in any given ditch, anywhere you find yourself — if you wish it.

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