(Note from Gareth; Moira tended to write in the first person, autobiographically, but would change names. So, if you hadn't guessed it, She is Donna and I am Tommy. Eric Suggs is .. Eric Suggs. I hope now they are together, sitting on the great stoop in the sky.)
She was not inspired in any sense by the sunny day to which she awoke. All the bright things this day held were confronted with the guilt and stale emptiness to which she had grown accustomed. Accepting ennui as her conquerer with rolled eyes, Donna arose to the frozen daylight wanting to accomplish tasks that would equate to her feeling like a reasonably resolute person, nullifying her malaise. Her bones ached as she rose from the suffocation of a winter duvet. She put on some nearby socks quickly and stretched a sweater over her already enormous sleeping sweater. The bed had to be made - an exhausting task for this recently risen and undernourished creature. It must have been comical to watch the heavy blanket realignment that took place each day. The bed’s tailor was usually her husband, Tommy, but today, home sick from work, it was she.
Quickly to the kitchen she went to prepare a liquid aspirin. Then to the oversized christmas tree that Tommy brought home last night. Must turn the lights on and get the most out of this, Donna thought, as she awkwardly stretched to reach the socket switch which felt like it was one mile from where she began at the base of this bottom-heavy behemoth.
This was their third such tree in the current apartment. It was Donna’s third such tree since she was ten. From ten to twenty eight there was no freshly-cut pine symbol of the season purchased. The defiant destruction of that tradition had been initiated long ago, so when it reemerged in Donna’s life, with street purchase and dragging struggle finished off by mulled wine and soft white lights, she thought that this was it. Her life was her own again. It was being symbolically lived through festive ceremony bursting with nonsensical good cheer. So this year came as a grave disappointment because the new bright and gay ceremony had become a routine. The tree dragged in as a surprise. Her flu dampening the joy. Tommy’s need for food usurping the whole occasion with hasty decoration and the tragedy of it all. There it was. This tree. Feeling a bit larger this year. Everything a bit larger and emptier. Better times made for worse occasion.
The shadowy morning sunlight made the apartment blue. Colder. She put on all heaters and the oven. As she jumped on the internet to ask a friend she had recently offended about bra sizing (as an olive branch), she smelled something that did not appeal to her sense of well being.
The stove? The oven. Donna bolted over, slammed open the oven door and discovered a burning bread tin. Into the sink it went, windows flung, and out them all of the possible warmth that could have accumulated. She was outflanked once again by Tommy’s generous efforts. He had recently taken up cooking, and had become quite gifted at flavour, albeit apparently forgetful regarding the destination of ingredients post- cooking.
Time to dress as fast as possible, and venture into a world not meant for anyone this time of year. Donna wasn’t sure if she was still very sick or just extremely sad. This was a feeling that arrived slowly - heavily. Instead of dressing in clothes it felt like she was wrapping herself up in a cape of despair comprised of the winter duvet, recently purchased christmas tree and bread tin stench. She dragged herself toward the shoe pile with this heavy metaphorical load upon her and selected a pair of sneakers that had least amount of scuffs to counteract her feeling of exposed vulnerability and throbbing anxiety at the thought of the world outside her uncomfortable apartment.
Onto the bike Donna got and out to the street she went. Bitter wind greeted her lazy slow motion ride from her doorstep to the nightmarish shopping area four minutes away. She exchanged some bland items for equally bland items, and then binged on men’s socks for all the many gentlemen in her life she wanted to mother. Coworker-father-brother- cousin-uncle-in laws. Socks for all. She wished she could unwrap the myriad three packs and just throw the many cotton blends into the air like cash in a cartoon. But instead she wondered if breaking them up might make her seem cheap.
People were gathering around the Stephen’s Green shopping centre. Fun types. People that reminded her of her father. Tommy alerted Donna to the water charges protest that was occurring today outside the Dail. This made her think of the Ferguson protests and the Eric Garner protests back home. Cold distancing had compounded into a vague disinterest. Her day to day was barely managed with any kind of controlled logic. Reading the news had not occurred to her as of late, let alone walking with people and standing up for something. Thank god for this flu, excusing any potential contribution of any kind. Maybe the chronically ill are onto something, she didn’t think at all because that would make her a horrible person.
Back home to her blue apartment went Donna for a spell. She caught up with her overweight tree, leaving the lights off this time. She reheated the vegetable soup from yesterday that she decided not to refrigerate last night as the apartment surely was cold enough to keep it at a safe temperature. Once reheated it burnt her mouth as she sat down with it next the heater shoving a spoon full of turnip quickly into her mouth. Ow. Donna stared forward as she slurped the soup in the general direction of a Christmas cacti’s single bloom that was already on it’s way out.
I have all these memories, she would say silently to herself. It felt pointless to tell other people because the best thing about memories is commiseration, and when those who were once there disappear, one by one, what is the point of telling people stories that they can’t really relate to. It’s as boring and one-sided as sharing dreams with people.
While Donna ate her soup one of these silent sayings occurred, transporting her to the leaves of a tree. A tree that was a domestic pet, purchased as a way of shunning Christmas after the death of her father John. That tree, a ficus, remained in the same spot all year. Purchased at Wal-mart for $24.99, covered in white lights that Christmas of 1994. It stayed there until christmas 1995, 1996, and 1997, collecting dust and over-watered and under-watered side effects. Surrounded each year by more decay and neglect, burrowing deeper into the stench of grief that was represented by animal refuse and candy wrappers in that place: a mausoleum full of foul offerings rather than a lived in or loved home. The environment that housed that tree was a coffin to the living left. And so mind numbingly tedious mourning took place at Christmas each year in the form of nasty words and the overconsumption of sweets in a place that’s smell would stir nothing but a spell of nausea in any sane person. that was Donna’s memory of christmas from before. her strongest recollection.
Donna bolted up from her place near the radiator, dumping her bowl of soup remnants onto her own socks and carpet. She ran to the lights on that fat fucking tree Tommy brought home and switched them on fast as she could. Time to wrap gifts.
There she was for who knows how long binding metallic paper with strips of bitten packing tape around parcels of socks nobody wanted. Gifts fit for sighs. There forever. Bowing thoughtful ribbon arrangements in situations around the tape and paper to mask the unsightly nature of her obvious impatience. She was standing doing this for ages when Tommy came home thank god.
Hi Tommy. Hi Donna. You hungry? Haven’t eaten since 1pm when I called you. Oh good. Into the kitchen Donna goes to add the reheated reheated (reheated) soup to a pan of sliced chorizo. How are you? Fine. How are you? Oh God, that Luas ride was a nightmare. I was at beechwood for ages. Right. Sorry I called you in a panic when I couldn’t find a lighter. Yeah that was shitty. Well, sorry. I was ready for my one cigarette of the evening, and I had nothing to light it with and I thought you would know where it was. Well I didn’t. Well you will later when it’s time for your puff as you like to call it. Oh hang on. Oh no you hang on. Let’s not. So they don’t.
That tree looks like Eric Suggs. Don’t be so morbid. It does. That tree looks like Eric. Well, don’t come crying to me when I have to put a saw to that thing in three weeks. Donna was shocked by the insensitivity of his reaction to her observation. What the actual fuck. What? It is odd that the dimensions of that tree resemble the height and width of a dear loved one who just past away and you have to make comments about dismembering the thing and it’s december 11th? Holy hell, Tom. You have just killed christmas and you have dismembered Eric Suggs in the future. That is prickish behaviour.
Eric Suggs was Donna’s family in the best sense. When she was born, Eric was ten years old and lived next door. She had a fraternal twin brother, James, who died after only being alive for two days leaving behind a screaming sibling on hunger strike: Donna. Donna’s dad John had become friends with the ten year old neighbour and in no time he was the soul (soul on purpose) charge of the wingeing nightmarish infant mourner. And for the rest of her life she was in love with him. The way that stupid younger sister’s worship protectorate older brothers. Their bond was cut in kindness. Eric’s kindness was her binding agent as a person. Eric was where love was that perhaps didn’t exist right away from others in her immediate family at that irritating beginning.
Eric died a few weeks ago. He had a blood clot. A blood clot.