• Aurora Borealis

    by  • October 24, 2013 • Featured Story, PD Online

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    The men’s bathroom door slowly closed after the fleeing punter, dampening out the sound of thumping music. He could only ever piss in an even-flow when he was alone. Although the cubicle was unoccupied, he was deterred by shivering pools on the floor and the brown-stained wad lagooning in the overflowing bowl. At the middle urinal, he leaned forward pressing his forehead against the wall and peered curiously at what he likened to planetary orbit; one enormous luminous-yellow deodorizing urinal block, surrounded by others both blue and pink, of varying weathered sizes. Which of them was Earth?

    The pill he had taken earlier was beginning to loosen his mind, which up until this point, had been dominated by the inaccuracies in his pay slip, his failing relationship, andthe tumours located in his mother’s breasts.

    A dull tapping from the base reached him through the wall, reverberating through his skull. He felt calm now, almost alone. The muscles in his body limbered. He released in unison with the water flowing in the urinal. The eroded deodorising blocks were raised up by the water and swirled frantically around the immovable yellow orb in the centre. How long does it take for each planet to orbit the sun he thought? Perhaps it looks this fast in the eyes of God?

    He approached the mirror and, with his pelvis pressed against the counter, leaned in, staring into the vast darkness in his now tranquil eyes. He rolled up his sleeves and gave thanks. While washing his hands; frothy foam rolled over his bloodless knuckles, white maned horses, escaping into the abyss of the unguarded drain. The attendant ripped him off three generous sheets of floral paper towel. In the mirror he noticed the three urinals protruding from the white-tiled wall, taking form. Life beginning in all its glory. He now saw these ovals as radiant pregnant bellies; three generations. Two were the same height. The last was aged, and marred as a plastered-over crack scarred it. The middle one looked less worn and its porcelain whiteness made it stand out more in the blinking fluorescent light. It bore a black mark from a permanent marker; an illegible signature in what looked like a toddler’s handwriting. The last one was lower, almost a child still.

    He no longer felt the agitating noise. He felt peace. He could die there and then gratefully. All comes full circle.

    He was just finishing patting down his hands when the door slammed open and two men came barging in, rushing towards the urinals, unzipping their jeans. The older of the two (late 20’s but looked 40, short and fat), let loose a heavy stream, his fist pounding against the wall in relief. “Jayzus!” The younger of the two (earlier 20’s, tall and strong) adhered to pissing-etiquette and left a space between them. He tightened and released his grip, conducting his flow and  letting out a pleased sigh.

    The elder gave a careless shake, zipped-up, turned (exposing droplets of stray piss on his blue jeans and tanned boots) and snarled at the youth,“C’mon for fuck sake we don’t have all bleedin night!”

    “Here, wud-jew relaaax the cax ye moany cunt…I’m taken me time”.

    With that the elder turned in a strop and marched towards the counter and coughed up a glob of green phlegm into the sink, his shameless mouth dribbling and eyes glazing, before brushing past the attendant, “Sorry Sambo, I’ve no change pal”.

    A seed of malice had been sewn.

    Our hero, the Perplexed slid his hands into his pockets as the young pisser was finished and turned towards him and the attendant, “Schtory’ boyez”, flipped a 50 cent piece into the ashtray and sauntered out the still-closing door into the music coming from outside and to the music in his head.

    Silver encircled gold. A shimmering 2 Euro coin had arisen coupled with a few coppers and a 10 cent piece, from the depths of his lint-laden pockets. He blew rinds of tobacco off the coins and watched them cascade towards the yellow-tiled floor. He placed the coins in the ashtray provided and peered deeply into the welcoming eyes of the attendant. He initiated a handshake, clasping with both hands, and closed his stinging eyes. He felt the warmth from the coarse strong hand that squeezed back and listened to the soft words carried by a minty breeze, “Av a good night my friend and God bless you”. He released his grip, and in opening his eyes, the sharp contrast of white rings encircling black stones was apparent to the attendant. The Perplexed ground his teeth then licked his lips, and slowly shaking his head, said (in what he thought a cool and stoic manner), “No man…God bless You…You’re a good man”. And with that he gave the attendant a brief dramatic hug, before snagging a lemon-lolly and heading for the door. “Ok my friend, you av’ a good night ok…taek’ good kay-ah of yo-self”. As he walked towards the door, the African accent echoed in his mind and blossomed into a flurry of thought, stopping him at the door, which bore a mounted mirror.


    Simba…Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

    Flashing images of himself smashing the face of the elder scumbag, the Phlegmer, into a bloody pulp with a bottle of aftershave that would have fitted perfectly into the palm of his hand, ceased, and were replaced by those adorable lion-cubs play-fighting, in joy.“We are all connected in the great circle of life”.

    The Phlegmer was loved by someone somewhere and he too had loved, surely? We’ve all felt pain, been wronged and done wrong, right?

    When we die our bodies become the grass and the antelope eat the grass. We are all connected in the great circle of life.

    His insignificance in the grand scheme of things comforted him. Looking in the mirror he barely recognised himself. Who he was did not matter. One day we will all be grass.

    House music had never been to his taste before but it had taken-hold of him, swaying his body back and forth to the tide of sound. A sea of hands moved in rhapsodic gesture, poses frozen, flickering rapidly in the strobe light. Sixty portraits per second. As though they were speaking in tongues, the revellers ritualistically mouthed imagined lyrics, releasing any remaining demons, from their sanctified mouths. He beheld the beautiful people, all now joined in ordination as Votaries of Levity and what he felt could be their souls amalgamating in the cloud of illuminated fog, emanating from tabernacle-esque boxes upon the DJ’s altar.

    Later he found himself hugging a speaker, its gusting air cooling his sweat-crowned brow. He was charging on this hub of energy and the music radiating was being assimilated into his system. It coursed through his veins and pounding heart, which, if it were to fail, surely would be restarted, and function at a higher capacity given the divine presence of this unstoppable energy.

    On his way through the crowd towards the smoking area, an encounter with a friendly-faced stranger gave occasion for exchanges of good wishes, heart-felt hugs, and fearless flattery of each other’s exquisiteness. They held each other, chests pressed tight, their hearts beating palpably in harmony. As their last hug ended and their faces parted, some of her hair clung to his face, hanging like vines from the mystical forest of her head. “I FUCKING LOVE YOUR HAIR” he said “IT’S LIKE…IT’S LIKE RUMPLESTILLSKIN SPUN GOLD THREAD, AND THAT’S YOUR HAIR!”. With that she removed her keys and using an unfolded sewing scissors, cut off a lock, placed it in his open palm, then closed it tight. She pulled his face close to hers and after running her thick moist tongue up his check, sucked on his earlobe, before yelling, “DON’T SPEND IT ALL IN ONE GO!” In parting, a blessing was given, in the form of the sign of the cross, being licked onto her glistening forehead. “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” he shouted as she was backing away. “I ACTUALLY DON’T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE!” she replied, before turning, smiling and walking back onto the dance floor. Lycra clung to her impeccable ass and with each step her checks rose and fell; a hypnotic pendulum.

    Outside he unveiled a pack of smokes and crusaded through the cold, dispensing offerings to those in need.

    He noticed the Phlegmer standing solo, shivering and searching his pockets. He  saw an opportunity to extend the hand of friendship.

    The Phlegmer welcomed this advance and when the subject of chemicals came up and the Perplexed disclosed that it was his first time, the Phlegmer felt compelled to dispel any anxiety that his newfound friend might have by presenting him with comforting facts.

    “It’s just silly man, that these yokes are illegal. The fucking powers that be… That’s the real craic at play. Evil empire and that. It’s not dangerous to us but a danger to government’s revenue ye know. They’d rather us get gee-eyed and tax the bollox off us. And what does that legal substance do… yeah? Us killing each other after a few scoops; the passive aggression sweeping up through us… bloody murder on drink.  And these? These beautiful pills man…What do they do? Make you dance and smile and love the world…Love each other…Love the people you hated yesterday…Love yourself even? Singing “WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS” and all “YOU’LL NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN” and all that, d’ye know what I mean like? Soundest buzz ever, no animosity or nothing. Sure it was a feckin priest who was one of its biggest advocates, saying it opens up a direct link to God for fuck sake; said it was like bleedin being Moses on the mountain, having revelations and all, never feeling more connected to yer man upstairs! What the fuck is wrong with that? Peace on earth? The Church maybe is the answer; one priest to fuck up your life and then another to give you this rebirth, making you whole again…  And here, in this economic climate and with the price of drink, a shrewd and frugal gent such as myself needs to make choices!… Few of these yips and on the water all night, then a brisk walk home to cool down, as opposed to spending a fucking bomb on drink and then a taxi home cause you’re legless or dare I fuckin say, the horrors on the cunting Nite Link?…FUCK THAT! That  shower of scumbags got it criminalised as part of their own poxy conservative agenda so that now every cunt out there is making it BUT cutting it with a load of shite… That’s why young fellas end up dead…  this won’t come as a shock to you man, I’m sure, but those bastards committed a fucking crime in the first place, making it illegal by doing a fake study that later had to go on to be recanted n’all coz it was a load of bollox! Those scumbags had whole campaigns n’all saying even just one yoke can give you Parkinson’s for fuck sake!  Drink a load of water and you’ll be totally grand, and don’t take anything else or smoke any weed because you’ll be all over the kip…  I’ve to leg it over here man but keep-it-real, and here, thanks for the smoke; you’re a gent! I’ve got a little present for you too. To new found brethren whah? METH-LENE-DIOXY-METH-AMPHETA-Ah-here-what’s-MINE-is yours… Take one for later or whenever. Beautiful aren’t they? Pills Like White Elephants as yer man once said… Talk-te-ye, I’m leggin-it”.


    Jacketless he stood, finally home by foot in air, taking heed of the advice from the Phlegmer, after giving his coat to a young guy seated on the Ha’penny Bridge. Looking up at their window, he imagined what his girlfriend’s night most assuredly consisted of; the painstaking task of lesson-planning and laminating by hand, her junior infants Easter art. Disturbing her was out of the question. She had to wake up in two hours. No.

    His mother might not wake up at all, he thought. Tears filled his eyes. He walked and kept on walking, vigorously inhaling through his nose and breathing out his mouth, as he’d done when running cross-country, all those years ago.


    His mother’s bedroom light was still on. She hadn’t been sleeping well, or at all. He made tea and she turned off the news as he placed her favourite mug beside her on the bedside locker. “Silence like a cancer grows” he said, winking and smiling, while removing her Simon and Garfunkel record from its sleeve, which had been atop a stack of likewise melancholic vinyl. “It’s great how we can talk like this…” she said smiling. She sipped her tea.

    “There are a few things you need to know”, he said. “You don’t need to be afraid. You are a good person. I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Dad before… There’s no need for fear, at all. Not everybody shares your faith, but it should be a comfort to you now. If you truly believe what you’ve been preaching to me for years… There’s no need for any fear. A better place, right? Our time on this earth is but a pin-prick in eternity, No? Death be not proud, and all that? You have had a great life right? You’ve always been happy and proud of all you’ve done and how you raised me, right? You had a great life and a pretty fucking great partner too. We have the best relationship of anyone I know, and you just need to know that I am your friend and you’ll never be alone…”

    Tears fill her eyes and she tells him that she loves him and that she is proud of him.

    “Listen. You need to sleep. You need to close your eyes and sleep. Then tomorrow, you’ll have the energy to run, like you always have, and feel good. Get that Dopamine and Serotonin going, yeah? Better pass boldly into that other world in the glory of your passion, than wither dismally the fuck away here right? You need your rest. I love you”.

    He dimmed the lights and she, closing her eyes said,” You’re a good boy”.


    Sophie, the cat, surfaced from a clothes basket in the utility room and entered the living room where he now lay on the floor in front of the fire. The glow from an open laptop’s face cast him in white light giving him a ghostlike complexion and Sophie hissed before lying down beside him. He was making a playlist for his mother, to run to, comprised of all the songs he knew she loved. He looked into Sophie’s guileless eyes that were observing him judiciously and felt as though he could be looking into the eyes of God.

    He was coming down, as the sun was coming up. Sleep was out of the question. He wanted to be able to spend the day with his mother and make her happy. He half-contemplated putting the remaining pill in her coffee later that morning when she rose.


    He could ride the wave throughout the day and be in good spirits, thus lifting hers.

    Sunlight began breaking through the gap of the almost-closed curtains. The shard of light in Sophie’s line of vision prompted her to move and she climbed to the top of the bookcase. Sophie scrutinised his fingers as the moved up and down the mouse-pad.

    He thought about the junkies on the streets and kids starving in Africa. He thought about the poor bathroom attendant subjected to breathing in the pathogens from the deodorizing urinal blocks night after night. He thought about his father.

    Rolling over onto his back he stared up and began to ask Sophie some philosophical questions about the meaning of existence, the relativity of time and, respectfully, queried the cause of her cruelty? Why did she allow bad things to happen to good people? Sophie responded with silence and a scathing stare before disappearing into hiding out of sight, leaving him almost alone. He sat upright and searched his pockets. He opened his palm and examined the tiny pill.




    Gary Grace is 29 and from Dublin. He has an Honours Degree in English Literature from Lesley University in Boston, MA. He is a literacy tutor at the Dublin Adult Learners Centre, volunteers at Fighting Words, and is an active member of the Dublin Writers Forum.