I was sitting in a rocking chair in the kitchen. It was a Summer’s day. I was wearing a cream peasant top and a long denim skirt. My feet were bare and slid across the tiles as I rocked back and forth. I was eating an apple and reading The Virgin Suicides. I must have been fourteen or fifteen. The air outside buzzed gently with the sound of bees, the haze adding to the weight of it. Sunlight filtered through the cherry blossom in the front garden onto the kitchen floor.
I remember feeling very grown-up, reading something like The Virgin Suicides. I don’t even know where I got it from. I must have bought it myself, or maybe Aoife gave it to me. The apple core sat between my thumb and my forefinger, turning brown as the Lisbon sisters were turning the neighbourhood boys’ heads.
My mother must have had a day off. She came in to ask me to put out some washing. The sheets were cool and wet on my arms. I went out the back door to the patio and crossed the paving stones, barefoot, to the grass where the washing line was.
My mind wandered back to the Lisbon sisters: teenage girls with long blonde hair who were determined to die. When I think back on it now, it’s obvious to see where my fascination stemmed from. My teenage girl with her long blonde hair and that air of mystery, elation and sadness she had. It would be six more years before Alana went through with it, but even at fifteen the signs were there. The manic highs, the quiet lows, the cutting.
Sometimes a Summer memory is just that: a memory. Other times it’s an unbidden reminder of what’s gone. Youth, innocence, that denim skirt.
My best friend.
I am writing this on my way back from Milan, on a journey through the mountains to the south. Train lines gash the valley floors and the silhouettes of the mountains loom close. The colours are muted in the October fog, but their beauty is somehow softened and heightened at the same time. Cloud vapours hang between recesses on the mountain faces and serve to highlight their scale. The train leans to the left and seems to hang in the air before righting itself back to cling closer to the trees on the Western side of the valley.
It seems less and less likely that I will go home. Political mess and economic faltering have made it if not impossible then deeply unattractive. I’ve changed. I’m not sure I can go back now. Of course I miss everyone. It hurts, when I think about it, but I have to make a decision now. Do I live life as if I’m taking a sabbatical or do I live it so that I can commit to it where I am?
It’s such a beautiful country, Switzerland. People here are so diverse, open, and challenging. There’s very little I can say against it, except that it isn’t home. But maybe I can make it home.
There’s an uncomplicated nature to the sky here: pale and clear, with a slight haze. No roll of cloud or break of shape or sudden shafts of sunlight. It’s a constant, warming blanket of sky. There is no wink of a cloud to leave you wondering.
The trams run along their clean lines, trains cut across the cities and country like the line of a carpet knife. The Alpine peaks rise on the horizon like a bank of cumulonimbi. The lake gleams in the late Summer air, the surface broken by the wash of a boat, speeding nowhere. The mountains – so clear, so beautiful – painted on to the background,
I am drawn to another lake, to another country. Now the water rocks the boat gently as it pushes away from the harbour. The waters are never quite calm, the swell always obscures a view. The lake takes you and pulls you into its centre, surrounded by hills of ever-changing green. The mottled blue sky greets you with the sudden roll of thunder. The calm beauty of one minute, the squalling winds of the next. The sky turns black, the winds pick up, the Irish Sea has come to County Clare.
The unpredictable mischief of a storm marries the sudden beams of brilliance in a complicated sky.