We Are Strong, They Are Weak

(Note. This was originally the winner of the Dublin One City One Book Competition in 2009 and was published by the Sunday Tribune. The story had to contain the sentence from the novel Dracula: “His eyes blazed with a sort of demonic fury and he suddenly made a grab for my throat”.)

We Are Strong, They Are Weak

When he starts coming up with some shite about not believing in organised religion and getting married in the registry office in Molesworth Street instead of a church, I tell him to cop on.

“It’s not about religion.” I say, “We’re just not getting married in a registry office. It’s not up for debate.”

When I tell his two sisters about this latest hilarity, they snigger. “A registry office. What an eejit. Does he not know how things work?”

His sisters and I are good friends. The three of us – Fiona, Eilis and I – like nothing more than to kick back with a few bottles of wine and Pringles and take the mick out of my husband-to-be. Women’s talk.

“You’re the best thing that happened to him,” Fiona tells me. “Had it not been for you, he could have gone back to that Romanian. He was talking all sorts of demented rubbish about ‘the woman I love’. Love? Jesus Christ, a fucking gypsy? Thank God now you’ve got that ring on your finger and it’s settled.”

“Yeah. Thank God,” Eilis chimes in.

“Ah thanks. Anyway,” I change the subject, “I’m trying to decide the colour on the bridesmaids’ dress. I’m thinking dark maroon with some cream ivory detail about the hem and sleeves. And an empire line. I saw it in Brides Monthly the other day, see?”

When I open the magazine, they both exclaim in delight. Of course they are to be my bridesmaids, so I’m after imagining the whole outfit especially for them. While my brocade train is at the seamstress’s right now; I can feel the ivory-cream taffeta under my fingers…

Molesworth Street. I ask you.
*
I never met the Romanian. That happened years ago, when he and I were both in different colleges. I heard she was much older than him. There were rumours that she walked around naked near uncurtained windows. With the lights on. Even though I imagine her body was pretty manky – she’d been married before and had a dead baby. Some said she’d killed it herself.

“Away with the fairies,” the sisters said.

Something had to be done. One day a Garda van pulled up outside the building where she lived. They found a big bag of weed and a few grubby pound coins. They found her at his place and took her away screaming what sounded like curses. It only took Eilis one phone call to tip them off, all credit to the girl.

He disappeared off campus. I asked after him; his friends told me he’d had a breakdown, after “that unfortunate episode.” He was at St Brigid’s up on the hill for treatment; then after he came back, he shut himself up in his rooms.

So I came to him to sort it all out.

“Come on,” I said, “lying around in bed feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to solve anything.”

I’ve never believed in depression. An excuse, a crutch, a weakness. Some of us cope and manage through the hard times. We don’t give in. We are the ones who mind the children and change the nappies and keep the show on the road. We are the strong ones – and they are weak.

And so when I came to him, he did not send me away. After all, I was only doing it for his own good.

*

The wedding’s gone well, but I’m a bit worried about my new husband. Eight years we’ve been together, and I know his every expression. Now he’s got that same, withdrawn look he had all those years ago in that stale, horrible little campus room before I rescued him. He ignores me when I tell him about the third bridesmaid wrecking my head when she turned up with the wrong colour shoes, and Fiona lending her an old pair which were better than any she would have owned herself. He doesn’t even look up.

We’re in the Maldives on honeymoon. We have a room facing right onto the ocean, our own private jetty and a mahogany bed with pure down pillows. Perfect bliss. But still, not a word out of him.

I get angry when he shuts me out. I miss his sisters, my mates. They tell me not to let him do that, not to let him sulk like that.
So maybe I say something about how she was no good anyway. That Romanian bitch, that baby-killer. Out of nowhere, like, it just slips out.
He turns towards me, a full on stare.

And it’s then I remember a line out of some book: “His eyes blazed with a sort of demonic fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat.” Stupid melodrama, of course, he wouldn’t – but he is coming towards me, hands outstretched, thumbs curving – Christ, what was the horror book about Romania? It’s on the tip of my tongue…

No. This doesn’t happen to decent people like me –

A respectable Irishwoman –

This doesn’t happen –

(c) Susan Lanigan, 2009

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