The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
What a day. What a week. What a long crazy 35 years.
Perspective is a wonderfully scary thing when you take the time to consider it. I mean really consider it. Many of us live our lives day to day, week to week, month to month, but does anyone live it year to year? Decade to decade? I mean actively and energetically living, planning, scheduling the next 10 years? Sure how could you right? When there is so much uncertainty in the following 24 hours, its hard to consider how you invest time in and energy into something 87,600 hours away?
Perspective. What if you didn’t live minute to minute? What if the day in day out stuff was so mundane and pointless that your sole focus was the shift and change of reality over the course of years, decades, centuries? How would that affect your view of the daily grind which others need to pursue in order to survive? How would you perceive those who are bound to that perspective, to that short view of existence? Would you, could you, still engage with them and their mundane struggles? Would it all become some jaded faded tapestry leaving you cynical and cold over the banality of it all?
Perspective, Scary right?
The toaster popped as the slices of brown seeded loaf leapt from the heat cage of the machine. They joined the first pair on the cutting board and received the same treatment, a slathered butter. REAL butter as my partner always called it. We almost didn’t make it past her first sleepover due to the lacking of this quality product in my fridge, but that’s a different story.
Next came the trip to the fridge, its open door releasing a blast of chilled air as my hands reached in for the fillings. The good ham, bought from the deli counter in broad slices cut fresh from the slab of meat. The crumbed kind. The coleslaw, selected from the finest range for its creaminess and chunky veg. The one with the cheese in it. Last, but by no means least, the cheese itself. Grated mixture of red and white cheddar blending flavours and textures in a manner which is distinct yet mutually supportive. The butter had melted, infusing the toasted bread with its golden colour and rich dairy flavour. The ham was placed next, giving a solid slab to receive the coleslaw, then to be sprinkled with the cheese and finally capped with the crown of the second slice of warm toast.
Perspective. I had just shifted from a mental space considering the impact of decades and centuries, to focus everything on the act of making a pair of sandwiches. The plates made a clatter as they came down on the table beside the two glasses I had already set in place. A pair of re-purposed marmalade jars. I had selected a large ball of ice for each, shaped by the mould in the form of a human brain. Sometimes the small little details can be the most entertaining.
I sat at one side of the table and reached out to open the bottle. The stopper squeaked against the glass until with a pop, it came clear. The scent of the whiskey within wafted out as the alcohol reacted with the rush of air into the bottle. The golden coloured liquid sploshed into each glass, the sudden change in temperature causing the ice brains within to hiss and crack. Green spot. A good whiskey. One of those top shelf types. I had managed to purchase this as a gift by the work of my creativity and the support of my community. Every time I held the bottle in my hand it was with a strong sense of gratitude.
My guest would be here soon and I had little doubts that there would be a hunger upon him.
I turned to place the re stoppered bottle on the counter behind me, when I heard the chair opposite creak its alarm as a heavy figure slumped into it. I smiled broadly to hear the sighing exhalation of my companion as I turned back to see him.
He looked tired. There was a slope to his broad shoulders, an extra rumpling to his clothing which indicated it was possibly slept in and a weariness about his eyes.
I reached out, raised my glass and held it forward to him. His big fingers wrapped around his marmalade jar and raised it to mine. The clink of the glass was followed by a sip of the liquid within, its flavour filled warmth rushing down my throat. As I returned my jar to the table I heard another exhalation from my guest, this time one filled with satisfaction.
Next came the sandwich. The crunch of the toasted bread and the veg, meshed with the smoothness of the cheese and the full flavour of the ham. Both of us took large bites and chewed heartily until the meal was devoured, plates clear and hunger satisfied. I sat back in my chair as he chased the last few crumbs from the plate with his big thick finger and raised my glass to sip some more.
My words were small but they could hardly do justice to the momentous events of this the 25th of May 2018. Ireland had held a referendum to make a change to our constitution regarding the provision of medical care to pregnant people, which would allow for abortion to return to a legal practice in the country for the first time in 35 years. For the majority of my life up until this point, the act of abortion could result in a 14 year prison term for the person involved. The constitution had previously been amended to allow people to talk about it, or to travel to other countries to seek that medical procedure, but before these amendments those acts could also have resulted in a prison sentence.
Now it was a whole different state of affairs. The voice of the people had been heard overwhelmingly, all across the nation, urban and rural, across all age groups and genders. The 8th amendment to our constitution had been repealed. No longer would pregnant people be forced to look outside of our nation for medical aid in times of crisis. No longer would a person seeking a solution to a circumstance they were unfit or unprepared for, for any number of reasons, be subject to criminal charges.
Many people were feeling elated, victorious, tearfully relieved, released from worried concerns and anxiety. The emotional outpouring of a nation who had chosen Yes, together, to remove a failed, restrictive, and trauma inducing amendment from our constitution.
Me, I felt numb.
I knew that’s why He was here. I knew that tough social calls are a norm for us, this was not one of those. I knew His attention was on me despite the fact that his eyes and fingers were still chasing those crumbs about the plate. Trust me, when you have His attention you Know it, no hesitations, not doubts, no maybes.
“Yeh. Lotta work been done and a lot of noise out there now.”
His eyes came up as he settled back in his chair, big hand lifting his jar as he took a long sip of the liquid within.
“Took some effort getting it to this point, an even then it needed a few big pushes to get it across the line. A lot of folk worked real hard at this one and I’m glad to see it come about favourably.”
“Yeh you right D, it's been a long time coming and probably shouldn't have been in there in the first place. Between people dying because treatment was denied them on the possibility of a continued heart beat, to victims of rape facing a longer jail time than the rapist, to all of the people how had to travel to seek health care from another country, and all of those who couldn’t afford to travel and found other ways. Has a poor choice 35 years ago caused anything other than pain and trauma? How did it even pass in the first place?”
Big D, sat back causing another creak of protest from the chair as he swirled the whiskey about his jar.
“It’s a matter of perspective lad. Ireland was a different place 35 years ago, trust me, I was there, though no one seemed to want to listen to me back then. The power and influence of the catholic church on the land and her peoples was still strong. This was before their crimes and lies came to light. You were alive for this but your perspective of the world was small and focused solely on the practice of staying alive, your brain filled only with the beginnings of being human.”
He took another long pull on the jar, letting the liquid slide along his tongue towards a slow swallow.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time. A state declaring the rights of the unborn as part of its constitution, but people at that time were so focused on their own view of things and the world as they knew it that they agreed that it was a good idea. So many folk bound to the notion of sex as a sin or only an activity for a wedded couple, and even then only to procreate. Some folk had the foresight to see it as problem waiting to happen, as an undue interference of church into the business of the state or even more fundamentally, the denying of a person their bodily autonomy.”
He shook his head sadly.
“It was always going to be a mistake, but people learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately this one cost a lot of people harm and pain in the making of it and that is a sadness that the nation will have to bear."
Those deep knowledgeable eyes of his found mine and the compassion and sadness in them sent a shudder through me.
"A sadness that it seems you have taken to heart.”
For so long I had been presenting a positive outlook on it. For all this time I had been sticking to hope with ferocious tenacity. Driving a smile onto my face and speaking in supportive and encouraging words and tones to all those around me. I know myself at the best of times, I ignore myself at the worst of them. When there are others that I can focus on I do so, sometimes to my detriment. This is me, this is who he saw and who he knew without words. My eyes fell to the table, unable to meet his gaze today.
“I should have done more.”
The words escaped me in a whisper, throat catching slightly as the utterance left my lips.
“You did what you could, and that’s more than you give yourself credit for or even acknowledge lad. You were there supporting others, lending your voice an even your silent presence when it was called on. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
“There were others who put in so much more, even as close to me as my partner and my sister. I could have been more active, more vocal, more….”
The world trailed off as that catch in my throat came again, denying my speech as my breath came in rapid gusts.
“Why to you always do this to yourself? We have a victory, but you seem set on finding some personal failure in it. You were there when you were needed. You made sure your stance was clear and your voice was heard. You turned up to encourage thought and actions in others. You stood to screen the innocent for horrific imagery. There were others that did different, more talks, more travel, more canvassing. That was their path and their work and they did it well. You’re not the blade’s edge, but you will always be a strong set of shoulders to help drive it home when needed. There is nothing wrong or failed in that.”
His words were soft, tone set and full of gentle compassion, but beneath it was that Will of his and against that there really could be no argument.
“It hurts. Everyone is so relieved and happy and all I feel is empty.”
His heavy sigh huffed across the table to me.
“If you know it hurts then you know you’re not numb. You’re just choosing not to feel.”
He was right of course. I had worked so hard at presenting the positive that I had denied my own negatives, my own reservations and fears. They had not gone away, but had built one atop the other in a pile of pending emotion. I had almost let slip earlier that day when my beloved had returned from the shop with a mint crisp chocolate bar. A simple act for her, but the show of consideration for my numbness had meant so much to me.
“You know what I say lad. You tell others about it all the time. How do you put it? Oh yeh ; “Gotta feel your feeling, Them’s Dagda Rules”. If it applies to others then it definitely applies to you or else you make a hypocrite of yourself, and that we know you are not. Right?”
We sat in silence then. He kept me company whilst I cried. For all of the pain, hurt and trauma that my people have endured, for all of the enforced shame, secrecy and guilt, for all of the people who felt so alone and abandoned by their country. For all of those who had paid a price in pain and even with their lives. I cried. At the end I cried for the future, for those who will not have to endure, not have to be cast aside or shamed. I cried, because today, Ireland was a changed and better place.
Eventually the tears ran dry and my breath began to slow and steady. I left the wetness upon my face for there was no shame to it and raised my eyes to meet his. His broad face was set in a soft smile and he gave me a brief nod. Placing his empty marmalade jar on the table, he hefted himself up and with a groan rose to his feet.
“Here, I couldn’t raid your supplies could I? I have another stop this evening and I think there is some rum here She is a fan of, once its raided rum that is.”
He gave me a broad smile and a wink. I found a wet faced chuckle in me and gladly let it out.
“No you cant have any.”
I declared in mock protest.
“It’s on the top of the fridge, take as much as you think She wants. Oh, one sec, let me make you a sandwich to bring to her.”
I picked up the plates and noted His, picked clear of even the faintest crumb.
“I suppose I had best make you one as well.”
His rumbling chuckle followed into the kitchen and I returned my focus to the simple task at hand. It’s a matter of perspective I guess, sometimes you can change the world of tomorrow, by the acts that you do today, and right now I had two sandwiches to make.
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An Scéalaí Beag