Being caught and letting go
by Penny Barratt
At the age of 10 you played kiss chase through the Dublin back streets with Diarmaid Carey. He snagged your best coat running at full tilt, ripped the pocket and you skipped home to confess and get a taste of your Da’s belt.
At 12 you were still the better runner but you let the lad catch you anyway. It was safer for your clothes that way.
At 15 he followed you home from the youth club and you slid the latch and led him all quietly up to your room while Da, who had never liked Diarmaid or any of his kin, was next door in the bathroom, singing full tilt in the shower and not once suspecting what was going on.
When you had just turned 16 Diarmaid said he’d stick with you when the baby came and Da gave him a bloody nose right there in the street and told him how he’d kill the feckless can of piss if he ever clapped eyes on him again.
At five weeks your Mammy was freaking at the thought of what the neighbours were saying and that there was no place under her roof for harlots. You had to look the word up. Your Da said abortions were meant for mental health situations and you must have been mental to get yourself in that state in the first place. Sure any doctor alive would certify to that?
So at six weeks you found yourself in the clinic and you sat quiet and still while Mam shrieked and carried on so loud that the doctor thought that she was the suicide risk and that the abortion was for her. The receptionist shooed Mammy out of the surgery while the doctor looked at your pale milk face, asked all the wrong questions and filled in a form in triplicate.
At seven weeks you had to go back to the clinic twice. Twice you sat on a bed in a white room with a high window and a framed print of the Alps. You snapped the blister packs and took the pills, tiny, shaped liked hexagons, and stored them between your cheek and your lower jaw, two on each side, and let them dissolve, slowly, melting, disappearing over the course of one hour. You imagined they were sweets. Smarties. The nurse gave you a glass of water and a filthy look.
At 11.28am on the Tuesday you were back home and alone in the bathroom with the door bolted. A pain low down in your belly and a streak of blood and you could finally let go.
***This is the second piece of writing that Penny Barratt has had published that isn’t a feature or a news story, making her a regular contributor to Sick Lit Magazine. At the start of this year she took a vow to attend fewer creative writing classes, write more, get as many rejections as possible and finish at least one of the three novels she’s started.Three out of four achieved so far, with particular success at number three.***
*Featured photography by C.C. O’Hanlon*