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Long Way ‘Round by Cathy Power | music: Ambient P by Jason Bolte

So, he says he’s off. And you say, “Will you be home for dinner?” and he says, “Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t I be?”

And you think you’d be better off saying nothing, but still, you say: “Grand, just…I wish you’d let me know, at least, when you’re not coming in. That way I won’t be expecting you.”

“Well, I will,” he says.

So, you make the full dinner. You don’t do a pizza like the kids want anyway, and you don’t tell the kids their da’ll be late. They set the table the same as if ours was a normal family on a Friday night.

You just want him to come home and eat his dinner and then, when the kids are in bed, asleep, he can do what he likes, bring drink home, get langered, whatever, as long as he’s safe at home and not in the car.

But he doesn’t come home. You lie to the kids and you tell them that he rang and said he was delayed at work. They say: “Ahhh! Agaaaain? He said he’d read me a story.

So you say, “Sure, he will tomorrow.”

And they say can they wait up another while because he might be home and you say, no, and you’re cross with them. Better to get them to bed, because the later it gets, the more chance there is of them being awake when he arrives.

He might be drunk already. He might have left work early. It’s payday after all. You have no money left and if he doesn’t come home, he might not be making much of a contribution to the bills this week, but you’re used to that by now.

So, you get the kids to bed and you read them a story, pausing now and then to stop breathing and listen to the sound of a car outside, in case it is him.

When they go asleep, you wash up and tidy the kitchen, leave his dinner on a plate ready for the microwave. You have still managed not even to ring him, although, not even for a minute, did you stop worrying.

It is nine o’clock. You watch the news and decide that you won’t ring him until it’s over, before the Late Late Show.

But during the ad break in the news, you ring, because once you sit down, you can’t relax. He doesn’t answer. You ring again immediately, as if that’ll make him answer.

When the ads before the Late Late Show are on you ring again. He answers. You can hear the pub noise in the background and he says “What?”

You keep it light. “Just wonderin’ where you are? You said you’d be in for your dinner.

“I did not,” he says, cross. “It’s Friday for fuck’s sake, can’t I have a pint without you startin’?”

“No, no, I’m not saying anything. I was just wondering where you were”

“Well, I won’t be long, alright?”

“Grand, see you so.”

You hang up, none the wiser. You don’t know if he is on the way to oblivion or just drunk enough to drive and get caught or to crash.

Ryan Tubridy is talking to a woman whose child is dead. And you thought you had problems. What’s your problem? Your husband is out for a pint on a Friday night.

You try to concentrate on the band, in town for a gig at the O2, and now there is a weekend away for everyone in the audience. The audience is laughing with delight at their luck.

You think about the last weekend away: a disaster in Cork when you spent the whole time in the room either minding the kids while he got drunk in the bar or else helping him nurse his hangover, bringing the Solpadeine and Motilium and fizzy Vitamin C and pretending that this is a stomach bug because he says he didn’t actually drink that much at all, but telling the kids that daddy isn’t well, so we can’t do the things we planned today.

You were awake until four in the morning, afraid to leave the kids in the hotel room on their own, to go look for him, but worried about what he might be at, in the residents’ bar or lying somewhere on a stairs or a corridor, or even worse in a toilet.

Then he fell in the door. He was annoyed that he had had to stop drinking when everyone else went to bed and they asked him to finish up. 

He had a naggin with him, a gift from the tired barman who wanted to get rid of him.

He poured it into a glass from the bathroom and swayed around the room slugging it, with that sideways look, that said it was all your fault. He pissed in the wardrobe that night and you cleaned it up so the kids didn’t see it and so you didn’t have to face the cleaner, mortified. It was your last weekend away and that was two years ago. There was no holiday since then either. He can get drunk as well at home as away.

The Late Late is over and there is still no sign. You put up the fireguard and turn out the lights, except in the hall, you leave that on for him. It is half eleven. He is well drunk by now and Jesus, he has the car.

There is a knot in your stomach. You go to bed, but just once, you ring him again. He answers but you cannot make out the words. You say, “okay, okay, grand, see you later.”

You put on pyjamas, but you leave on your bra and put your shoes and socks where you can jump into them in an instant, just in case you have to run. You know exactly where the keys to your car are, near the front door, in case.

You lie down and think of the possibilities: fighting in the pub, hurting himself falling down, lying in a ditch, driving and getting caught, disqualification, unemployment, the mortgage, the car loan, the credit union, driving and hurting someone, someone we know, a neighbour, a neighbour’s child, himself.

The widowhood fantasy comes on strong. You by the graveside with the kids by the hand. Would it be so bad? Really, would it? No, you don’t want that, do you? But the pub must be closed by now, so where could he be? Should you be ringing the guards?

It is half three and you hear the footsteps around the house, foostering at the front door,  he’s pushing the side gate, something breaks.

You hold your breath, turn off the light, listen. He comes in the back door. You left it unlocked for him. You can smell chips and cigarettes and drink oozing out of his every pore. He bangs and wallops around the kitchen before it goes quiet.

++

Is he sitting down to eat, has he fallen, is he asleep down there, has he choked on his fucking chips? You get up and in the darkness you tiptoe down the stairs and peep over the rail to see him at the kitchen table. He turns and sees you.

“Well,” he says.

“Well,” you say, smiling. “Are you alright, love?”

“You’re always the fucking same, – always asking if I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be alright?” he says as his cuff dips into the pool of tomato ketchup on the brown paper bag where his chips are getting cold.

You say “okay” and go back to bed. You know at least he is home and in one piece. He must have left the car somewhere because you didn’t hear it, unless of course, he’s crashed it.

The kids didn’t wake up. The worst that can happen now is that he falls asleep in the kitchen and doesn’t make it to the couch. It is better if he is on the couch because you can go down and take off his shoes, cover him with a blanket and close the door. That way when the kids get up, they might not even notice him as they get their cereal and go back upstairs to watch television in their room, like you tell them they always have to do.

If they go into the front room you can say he fell asleep watching television because he was tired from working so late, even though you know they can smell him and as well, he might have got sick.

You go to bed. Eventually you sleep, but with one eye and one ear open. He doesn’t come up. You make it down again to tidy up and cover him before the kids wake up.

Next day, when he leaves the house at lunchtime, you ask him, “Will you be home for your dinner?”

He doesn’t answer as he walks out the front door.

And so it goes, day after day, week after week, until you don’t exist at all and the young, happy woman you were is always stressed, always on alert,  cross with the poor kids. But above all you’re tired and you’re so lonely your heart is sore.

Then, another Friday night comes round, just like that one, you’re there watching the Late Late Show and wondering if you’d chance ringing him again, and you look up from the phone and there is a woman on the on the telly. She’s famous for being a singer, but she’s not singing, she’s telling the talk show host that people who love people in addiction have a right to a life too and that she can help them.

So, you don’t ring him.

Instead you send her an email and you ask her to help you – and although the road was long and it wasn’t an easy road or a straight road, one night you find yourself reading your story aloud.

And lots of people listening knows the story too, because all the stories are the very same and you are glad that you have come this far and you hope that others will follow you. 

Follow me. Follow me.


Power

Cathy Power has been a contributor to Sunday Miscellany, a radio programme of new Irish writing where authors read their own work, for over a decade. She is writing a novel drawing on her time living and working in Latin America and wrote Long Way ‘Round after completing therapy to deal with her experiences as her (now) ex-husband descended into alcoholism. 

She lives in Dublin, in an empty nest which has been flown by a son and a daughter. 


 bolte

Jason Bolte is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music. He currently resides in Bozeman, Montana with his wonderful wife Barbara and their two daughters, Lila and Megan. Jason teaches music technology and composition at Montana State University where he also directs the MONtana State Transmedia and Electroacoustic Realization (MONSTER) Studios. Jason’s music is available on the ABLAZE records, ELECTRO<>ACÚSTICO, SEAMUS, Irritable Hedgehog, Vox Novus, SoundWalk, and Miso Records labels.

http://www.soundcloud.com/jl_bolte

 Ambient P (2012)

Ambient P was composed in response to my friend David McIntire’s “Putney Project.” The work is unique in my output up to this point. David’s challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to explore a style of composition that I have been interested in for some time. Ambient P uses material derived from David’s early exposure to the EMS VCS-3, also know as the “Putney.”

The Flexible Persona was founded in 2013. We are an independent home for emerging and established writers and poets.