This thing

I knew but I didn’t know. Not really. Because how is it possible to believe that it would actually be in? I was up after a night of fretful sleep. It was early, oh so early for a Saturday. But when you’re having dreams in which indecipherable notes are scrawled on the underside of sheets of toilet paper, sealing your fate, you know it’s futile, this sleep pretence. The notes might say ‘congratulations, well done you’ in weird mirror writing or maybe they are saying ‘not published, last minute ditch’. It’s difficult to tell from this side of the sheet.

I had tried very hard to knock myself out. The plan was that copious amounts of Prosecco imbibed during the Friday night Late Late Show would see me through a serene deep night’s sleep until a decent hour on Saturday, by which time some angel or other would’ve been out to the shops. They would then appear at the end of my bed, pop the crucial newspaper on my lap along with a steaming delicious freshly brewed Americano. I would take my time, have a few sips first. Either it’s there or it’s not. There’s nothing I can do about it anyway. It’s great to be so chilled.

It was not thus. The horror of the dreamt anonymous toilet paper notes, combined with an arid post-prosecco mouth and perhaps a faint ache about the head, had me downstairs, all alone, knocking back water and wondering. What time would the papers reach the shops? Was there any way of getting them without actually leaving the house? What would be a decent time to wake someone else who might just oblige. Because there was a little creature, a new family member, who was very excited to see me at this early hour, and who would bark enthusiastically and unrelentingly if I tried to escape. I played for time. Eight o’clock on a Saturday. Sure what shops would even be open? I made myself that Americano. Marque 1 purchased a glorious yoke of a machine that serves up frothy strong aromatic coffees as if by a barista. It can make a person feel super competent at the switch of a button at any time of the day.

I sat at the dining room table with the early morning sun streaming in and the puppy at my ankle. I felt strangely calm. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how I would get to know. But I had this lovely creature to chat it through with. He seemed to agree that just sitting down sipping coffee and stroking his beautiful head was absolutely the right way to go about things. Dashing around, getting dressed, looking for keys and then trying to escape to the shops which may or may not be open to get the newspaper which you may or may not be in, was not, he was saying, the best approach to this. It turned out that he was right. There was no need for it. Because when I checked my e-mail at 8.30 there was a lovely surprise from an unexpected source. The subject line read ‘congratulations’ and the mail began ‘Ive just read your short story in the Irish Times. Simple elegant writing bring us to the mind and body of a young girl…’ The source was a retired excellent sociologist, mentor, friend. The last time I’d seen him, pre-retirement, we chatted about the possibility of opening up creative sociology within the University. Something new and fresh. An unguarded uncontested terrain. He’d be leaving soon. It would be up to someone else to push that boat out. So there was something fitting about me learning it from him first. This confirmation. That the much coveted Hennessy New Irish Writing prize for February was mine. A story that had its origins in a Master’s by research which was left behind due to the high sensitivity of the topic material. I went on to do a different Master’s and a very different PhD. There’s a beautiful symmetry to it now though. To drawing on the research done decades ago to produce a creative piece which actually gets published and read. To hearing confirmation first from a fellow sociologist, someone I’d lost touch with, the story out there sketching reconnecting lines.

I couldn’t have been happier. There was a puppy at my feet, on my Grandmother’s carpet, the sun streaming in, the house oh so quiet. There was no need for anything else. The toilet paper seems to have been saying congratulations after all.

Link to This Thing.

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