From Roddy Doyle’s Paula Spencer, about a woman’s struggles to cope–alcohol, strained relatioships with her children, abusive husband–in modern-day Dublin.
She’s on the Dart. She holds her mobile. She’s hungry. A man gets on at Connolly. Paula gets her knees out of his way. He sits across from her. He reads the Herald. He holds it up to his head. She sees the back page. Liverpool have won that European Cup. CHAMPIONS. They won it last night. John Paul will be delighted. She’ll text him. He didn’t mention it when he phoned earlier. But he’ll be delighted. Flashing his tattoo. Euro cp, wll dne. XxM. She fires it off. At least some things are working out. She puts the mobile into her pocket. She can take it out when he texts her back. She needs the drama.
It’s only in her pocket when it rings. The music from Miami Vice. Vanessa, Nicola’s little one, did it for her—Paula hasn’t a clue how. She looks at the screen. It’s not John Paul. It’s a private number.
She feels the heat in her face.
–How are you?
–Grand, she says. –On my way home from work.
–Were you working late?
–No, she says. –It’s my normal time.
–Of course, he says. –I didn’t think.
The train stops at Clontarf Road. The man with the Herald gets off. She can stretch her legs. She can slump.
–So, he says. –I was wondering. Should we meet? For a drink, perhaps?
–I’m an alcoholic, Joe, she says.
The train’s moving again.
It’s what she’s wanted to say. It’s all she’s wanted to say. The carriage isn’t empty and she couldn’t care less. There’s no shame.
–Are you still there, Joe? She says.
–Yes, he says. –I’m here.