humansofnewyork:

"What’s your biggest fear?"
"Being alone."
"When did you feel most alone?"
"On weekend nights in college, sometimes I’d sit by myself in the corner of my dorm room with nothing but a little light on, while all my friends went out."
"Why didn’t you go out with them?"
"It’s hard to say."

(Hanoi, Vietnam)

Vietnamese Pat_Bren

(Reblogged from humansofnewyork)
(Reblogged from garfieldminusgarfield)

Expect Me To Talk

Tommy was getting used to the views from the train’s window shooting by at eighty miles an hour - the greenery of his home county close to the tracks, the estates and shops in the towns the train stopped at, the flatness of the Curragh, the dirty looking houses that appeared as they came in Dublin. He didn’t like the capital, didn’t like any place with more than a dozen people per square mile, but he liked seeing his friend Declan so it was worth it. Tommy had been up to the city a few times and was getting used to the feel of Dublin, the look of the narrow streets and the dark old buildings, and the glassy Celtic Tiger office blocks. He was getting used to the  crowds in Heuston station too, and had his ticket ready for the machine this time, not having to fumble with his wallet while an auld lad told him to fuckin’ hurry up like last time. Now he knew he had to get on the Luas that ran to the left, and get out at the Jervis stop. The tram pulled up and Tommy saw Declan leaning against a wall, looking at his phone. Declan was twenty one, almost a year younger than Tommy, and a little shorter, though he looked more mature with an angular face and a square jaw in contrast to Tommy’s soft features. He also wore glasses, unlike Tommy, and had a taste for flashier clothes. Today he wore a striped polo shirt under a suit jacket. They could spot each other a mile away.
  “Howya bud,” said Tommy.
  “In Dublin five minutes and you’re already a skanger,” said Declan.
  “What are we up to today?”
  “I think we’ll go to the IFI and see Goldfinger.”
  “Goldfinger?” said Tommy. It was one of his favourite films. “In a cinema? Wow.”
  “I know. Hopefully it won’t be too full.”
  “Can’t wait to see Sean Connery’s hairy chest eight feet high.”
  “Or his cock,” said Declan.
  “Ah now,” said Tommy. They walked to the IFI building, past shops that smelled like lavender candles, crossed the bridge over the Liffey, talking little. Tommy would’ve probably ended up in Kildare if he had to find his own way.
The black double doors of the Irish Film Institute opened into a short tunnel with a gift shop with a wooden facade to one side. The tunnel led to the courtyard in the centre of the building. There were doors leading to the various small cinemas, a bar further in, and in the courtyard itself was a small restaurant in the open air. Declan chose a table for them in the middle, furthest away from the few others there. The metal chairs squeaked on the polished marble floor. They looked at the menu.
  “There always ages serving you in here,” said Declan.
  “I know. Remember last time?”
  “No. When was that?”
  “The Tony Curtis thing,” said Tommy.
  “Oh yeah!” said Declan. They’d come up to Dublin together to see Tony Curtis who was meant to appear. Declan decided, for some reason, not to buy tickets to the event, assuming there’d be some available at the door. There were not. It didn’t matter though, because the event was cancelled due to Tony being sick, and a few days later he died. So that was that.
  “God, that was fierce alright,” said Declan. “Have you been up to Dublin since?”
  “There was a… thing that happened,” said Tommy and looked down at the salt cellar.
  “Oh? What was it?”
  “I… didn’t tell anyone about it, but way back in September I came up to see this girl I knew from college. Karen was her name.”
  “You? With a girl?”
  “Yeah, well not really,” said Tommy. “We went to see a film, but she… I don’t know, it was awful. She wouldn’t talk to me or anything. You know I find it hard to talk, but that wasn’t it. Everything I said, she just… shot it down. She didn’t even talk to me.”
Tommy played with the menu to keep his mind from wandering back to it yet again.
  “So what did you do?” said Declan.
  “Nothing. Went home. She didn’t think of me again, I’m sure. I don’t know why I bother. I don’t know why she said yes when I asked her to go see something. What was the point? She obviously didn’t want to be there. Last time I have anything to do with people.”
  “Not everyone is like that,” said Declan.
  “It’s not worth the risk either way,” said Tommy
  “That’s not why you dropped out of your course, is it?”
  “No. It didn’t exactly make me want to stay though. The whole thing just made me tired. I’d felt like it for a long time, but that just really made me see the things I’m missing that everyone else has.”
  “Ah, you’ve enough,” said Declan, smile with one corner of his mouth. “You just need to find a girl with very low standards.”
  “One of your exes?” said Tommy.

A pretty waitress came over and they both ordered a chicken salad. The ticket booth in the corner opened up and Declan bought them a ticket each.
  “See the girl in the booth?” said Declan in a whisper when he came back.  “She was in my class in college.”
  “Oh? How’s her film career going? Better than yours?”
  “Even yours is going better than mine. She won some short film award, she was telling me. She’s a bit cracked though. Talks to herself a lot, has these mad notions about things.”
  “So do all great directors,” said Tommy.
  “Yeah. Well, she deserves her success more than the rest of them anyway. Bunch of druggies, most of them. Looking for an easy way to have enough money for cocaine.”
  “Jesus,” said Tommy. “Oh, that reminds me. You know the way I’ve been writing a thing?”
  “The post-apocalyptic thing?”
  “Yeah. Well this lad came into my circles recently.”
  “I’ll bet he did,” said Declan with a wink.
  “Shut up. Paddy Ward is his name. He’s this lad my age who lives in London, and it’s really weird. He wrote a post-apocalyptic novel too, and he got it published. He’s one of those really handsome confident shitheads too. I bought his book anyway, and it’s the worst sort of shit. All about people bashing each other’s heads in for no reason. Anyway, I was just thinking about him. He has everything I want. I mean, he lives in London, he’s a freelance writer making a good living, he studied writing in college, he has a beautiful girlfriend from what I can make out, and he got a novel published.”
  “So?”
  “So I was comparing myself to him,” said Tommy.
  “Can only end badly,” said Declan.
  “I know. But it got me thinking. I mean, he is a real shallow idiot. I mean, he’s a moron. He’s everything I despise and yet he has everything - exactly everything - that I want.”
  “You should kill him and steal his life,” said Declan.
  “Might do. Seriously though, why do I bother with writing? You and me both know it won’t go anywhere. You can be a moron and do well if you have confidence and contacts and live in London and all that. Does anyone really care how shit your book is if you fit in?”
  “Yeah, of course,” said Declan. “If he was that shit, he wouldn’t have gotten published.”
  “Well… maybe he’s not entirely shit,” said Tommy. “That’s something else I was thinking about. What if I only hate him because I know he has everything I want and he’s better than me in every way? It’s so weird to hear tell of him though. He’s like a parody of me. He’s like a Joker to my Batman.”
  “A fun lad to your big depressed gobshite,” said Declan.
  “That might be it,” said Tommy. “I don’t know if I’ll keep going with my writing. What’s the point? No-one wants to read about stuff happening in Ireland, not the sort of life I lead anyway. They want to read about people getting blowjobs at parties in New York, or about some horrific war in Africa or somewhere. I just don’t know if I should bother.”
  “What else can you do?” said Declan.
  “I suppose that’s the way I look at it, ‘what else can I do’. Nothing. I’d be no good at any normal job. I just want to write. If I ever made as much as I’d make on the dole, I’d consider meself a success. But when will that come? That might need ten or twenty years of writing. And all the time life’d be passing me by. It’s passing me by now, I suppose. I haven’t a clue how to grab onto it. Not a clue.”
  “Jesus, I thought we were going to be firing off Roger Moore impressions at each other or something,” said Declan. “This is a bit heavy.”
  “Alright, I’m just getting things off my chest. I’m not looking for advice or anything,” said Tommy. Then in a terrible Roger Moore voice said: “Doing Roger Moore impressions would be a pleasure…” The waitress brought them their salads.

When they were done eating, doing impressions, firing off quotes and references, and had paid the bill, they moved over to the leather sofa in the corner and waited for them to open the door to the cinema.
  “I meant to ask you how Sean’s getting on,” said Declan. Sean was Tommy’s brother, a year younger than him.
  “He’s alright,” said Tommy. “He’ll tell you himself, next time you come to see us. He went into the place in Enniscorthy, the… home, you know.”
  “And?”
  “He’s still a bit depressed, but he’s getting a bit better I think. He came out but he had to go back in again. It could’ve easily been me, if things went a bit different. He had a kind of breakdown.”
  “Poor chap,” said Declan. “Sean doesn’t deserve that.”
  “No. He’ll be alright though, I hope. He’s seeing a therapist in town. She’s trying to help him build up some confidence, you know. He’s been phoning some people he knows from the internet, just for a chat like. He never did that before.”
  “No? Have you?”
  “No,” said Tommy. “As I said, it could’ve been me. Maybe it will be me one day soon.”
  “Ah, you’ll be grand,” said Declan.
A young man in a red shirt unlocked the door to the cinema and people started handing him their tickets.
  “You give him the tickets,” said Tommy, getting up. “I hope you don’t expect me to talk.”
  “Why would you have to talk?”
  “The line. Do the line.”
  “Oh,” said Declan. “No Mr. Casey, I expect you to die!”

After 007 had expended his Aston Martin’s machine guns and dodged Oddjob’s hat and made Goldfinger fly out of the window of a Learjet to his doom, Tommy and Declan took the DART out to Dun Laoighaire, where Declan lived in a student house. Declan was going home for the summer, and on the train, he told Tommy he’d be taking a place closer to the college, and cheaper. Declan’s red Fiat Punto was parked in the driveway and the back seat was already filled with Declan’s stuff. When they went inside, each action had an air of sadness as they knew it may be the last time Declan did whatever he was doing. The house was cramped, messy, and smelled of curry Pot Noodles. Declan’s two housemates, both girls, had already left for the summer so he and Tommy were free to be as rambunctious as they desired. Declan led Tommy through the hall into the living room with a kitchenette in the corner. There were two armchairs and a sofa faced a big window looking out into the square of unkempt grass that was the garden.
  “Sit down,” said Declan. “A young woman like you needs her rest.”
  “Tis true,” said Tommy and collapsed onto the sofa. Declan put on the electric kettle and Tommy looked out the window. There was a graveyard next door, and broken glass stuck out of the top of the wall separating the two properties.
  “What’s that glass for?” said Tommy, shouting over the noise of the kettle.
  “To stop people getting over the wall.”
  “From the graveyard? Are you expecting zombies.”
  “You’d never know.”
Tommy looked out at a blackbird pulling a worm from the grass.
  “I have dreams about zombies,” he said.
  “Do you?” said Declan. The electric kettle switched off.
  “Yeah. Like, zombies are attacking my house or whatever. One time I dreamt I was in my granny’s house with zombies outside, except her back door was missing one of the bottom panels so I could see outside, and there was this zombie baby standing perfectly still except his eye was hanging out.”
  “Jesus. Maybe you need help or something.”
  “They’re all about anxiety,” said Tommy. “I don’t think I need a professional to point that out. I’m scared of everything. Zombies are scary.”
  “Is that all you dream about?” said Declan, very carefully arranging digestive biscuits on a plate.
  “No. The other thing I keep dreaming about is I’m trying to drive away from home, or I think I’m in Tokyo somewhere, but then I kind of wake up, still in the dream I mean, and realise I’m still back at home, or the car is broken down or something.”
  “You want to get away from home.”
  “Thanks, Sigmund,” said Tommy. “I’d really love to have a car though. Or to be able to make money to afford one. Just to have even a couple of thousand of my own, I couldn’t even imagine it.”
  “You could get your parents to give you money. It’s not like you’re living away from home and spending their money.”
  “No,” said Tommy. “They already feed and clothe me and all that. I don’t want to take more.”
Declan brought over the plate of biscuits and two cups of tea. He kept the Lyons Tea mug for himself, and gave Tommy one emblazoned with Hello Kitty.
  “Do you ever dream?” said Tommy. “Please, don’t be too explicit.”
  “Ah, nothing like that. I don’t dream much now. I used to back in school. I had this recurring dream with a dam, and there was a tree growing out of the top of the dam, but it was dying because it couldn’t get any water. It was weird, because I had like a ‘finale’ dream after I came to college where the dam burst, and the tree got loads of water and went into bloom.”
  “You probably needed a wee,” said Tommy, sipping the tea.
  “Probably it. I haven’t had many filthy dreams since I started going out with Sandra.”
  “Please, I don’t want to vomit up all my internal organs,” said Tommy.
  “Oddly enough, that was one of the kinky things me and Sandra were talking about doing recently.”
  “For a second there I believed you,” said Tommy.

When they’d finished their tea, Tommy helped Declan carry bags of clothes to the car, then went into Declan’s room and sat on his bed and tried to stay out of his friend’s way as he packed the rest of his things. Tommy picked up the alarm clock and played with it to amuse himself.
  “I set your alarm two minutes early.”
  “That’s nice dear,” said Declan, rooting in the wardrobe.
  “Now every day you’ll have two extra minutes. Within a year you’ll have read every book you ever wanted to and become a sexy billionaire.”
  “Where did the coat go? Did you see me black coat?”
  “It’s in the car I think. I might set your alarm two minutes late, so that you lose time, and within a year you’re an obese drunken slob.”
  “That’ll probably happen on its own,” said Declan, shoving some underpants into a black bag. “I think that’s everything now.”
  “Hope there’s room for us left in the car.”
  “What time is it?”
Tommy looked at the alarm clock then put it into the bag.
  “Nearly five.”
  “Rush hour. We’d better wait a while to head off. I really wanted to give this place a proper farewell. This room is where I… came of age, I suppose you’d say.”
  “Ew.”
  “I changed the sheets, don’t worry,” said Declan and laughed a bit.
  “Wish I could come of age,” said Tommy.
  “Ah, you’ve plenty of time. As long as you don’t lose your glorious ginger mane.”
  “My worst fear.”
  “I have an idea what we could do to fill half an hour.”
  “Please don’t fuck me,” said Tommy.
  “Damn. Alright, I have another idea,” said Declan and reached into the bin and took something out. Tommy followed him into the kitchen and saw that he had one of those small black plastic cylinders from camera film. He opened the cupboard, took out a tin of baking soda, and carefully poured some into the cylinder.
  “What’s this?” said Tommy. “Have you gone mad?”
  “Whisht for a minute,” said Declan got a bottle of Coca Cola with only a little bit left in the bottom from the fridge. “Come on to the bathroom.”
  Declan placed the canister in the bottom of the bath. Then he pour some cola into it, quickly put the cap on and gave it a shake.
  “Take cover!” he shouted and pulled the bathroom door closed. In a second there was a tremendous pop.
  “Jesus!” said Tommy. Declan opened the door. They looked into the bath. The bottom of it was covered with brown liquid.
  “It’s all over the place,” said Declan. “It’s on the curtains.”
  “It’s on the ceiling,” said Tommy, looking up at more brown foam and laughing loudly. “You’re a fucking mentalist!
  “Haha, brilliant!”
  “So is this how you amuse yourself?” said Tommy.
  “Nah. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
  “Are you going to clean it up?”
  “Nah,” said Declan. “Fuck it. The landlord’s a gobshite.”
  “That was right gas.”
Tommy took the cylinder and threw it back in the bin. They sat in the living room again.
  “You know what me and Sean used to do?” said Tommy. “We used to get all the weird stuff in the cupboards - flour, red and brown sauce, sugar, lemon juice, baking powder, everything - and put it in a big glass, just for fun. We used to call them ‘potions’. They were awful. They always smelled like vinegar by the time we were finished.”
Declan laughed.
  “Trying to summon Satan, were you?” he said. “We could do that, except I’ve already packed all that stuff away.”
  “Nah. What’s the point? Just more stuff to clean up after.”
  “Are you going to get all serious again?”
  “I think so,” said Tommy and thought in silence for a moment. His brow was furrowed. He looked like someone who hadn’t laughed in a year.
  “Are you happy?” he said finally. “I mean, living up here and having Sandra and everything?”
  “Yeah, pretty much. It’s not without its challenges, but yeah.”
  “It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I used to think that to be happy you had to just ignore all the bad things in the world, not care about them at all.”
  “I don’t care about them,” said Declan.
  “Well, you know what I mean. You’re aware they exist. I don’t know. Most of the time I think I’m just making excuses for things, for feeling the way I do even though I shouldn’t.”
  “Maybe you should actually see a therapist,” said Declan. “Bring you out of your shell.”
  “I don’t know.”
  “I know people who’ve gone. It seems to help a lot. They’re not exactly going down ‘da club’, but they’re doing whatever they want to anyway.”
  “It wouldn’t change things,” said Tommy. “I’d still be stuck at home doing nothing all day, waiting for something to come to me. I still keep thinking that some big agent or someone will somehow read one of my stories and I’ll get famous. It won’t happen though.”
  “No, it won’t,” said Declan. “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen if you get out into the world.”
  “I think it does,” said Tommy.

Declan checked the house once more for anything left behind, then they went outside and sat in the car.
  “It’s hard to say goodbye to it,” said Declan. “It’s odd. For the first few months, I really hated it. It was small and smelly. Like you. But now it seems like the best place in the world.” He started the engine. A great puff of blue smoke exploded from the exhaust.  “Well, onwards and upwards I suppose. I’ll still see Sandra in the new place, that’s the main thing.”
  “You’ll get on fine,” said Tommy. “You always do.”
  “Not always,” said Declan. “I’ve felt like you have before, you know. Worse, probably. I went a bit mad. Bought a load of tight trousers and got a tattoo.”
  “Mid life crisis.”
  “Pretty much. Anyway, I got over it. You’ll get over it too. There’s loads of opportunities out there. You just don’t know how to go about it yet.”
  “Yeah,” said Tommy. “I wonder. You know, I used to keep a diary when I was ten or eleven. Every day I put the same thing in it: ‘Got up. Went to school. Came home. Played the Playstation. Went to bed.’ If I kept a diary now, it’d say the same things, except ‘tweeted’ instead of ‘went to school’.”
  “Don’t get stuck in the past. That’s what kills you. Let the dam burst.”
  “I need to get the Dambusters I think. A big bomb might be the only thing to get rid of the past for me. An atomic bomb.”
  “You have to learn to live in the present,” said Declan. “Carpe diem.”
  “Feck off,” said Tommy.
Declan put her into reverse.
  “You don’t want to piss before we go, do you?”
  “I’ll do it out the window,” said Tommy. The car bounced as Declan reversed into the street.
  “That’s that,” said Declan as the house and the graveyard receded from view. By car or by train, it didn’t matter. Tommy would always end up back where he started. In a little under two hours he would be back at home, back to the same places and the same thoughts, saying goodbye to each new day before it even began.

The Oldest Spaceman

John Cooper looked out of the car’s window at the desert passing by. There was nothing to see but stunted Joshua trees and the far away grey mountains.
  “I remember looking down on here,” he said.
  “What did it look like?” said his daughter, who was driving.
  “Like crap. Like it does from down here.”
She smiled. Ronnie was her name, short for Veronica.
  “See that peak over there, second from the left?” he pointed. Ronnie tried to look while also keeping a safe distance from the big oil truck in front, looking back and forth between the mountain and the big white metal oval with a yellow seashell painted on.
  “Do you see it?”
  “That one?” She pointed herself.
  “That’s where Don Dayton smashed his X-1. There’s not even a plaque up there. The Army sent out the guys to pick up the pieces, and Don, and they left it. Nobody remembers it anymore.”
  “But… wasn’t that in California?” said Ronnie.
  “This is California.”
  “Dad… this is Nevada. We’re going to see Paul in his high school. You’re… you’re giving a talk Dad. Remember?”
She looked like she was going to cry. John looked away. The mountains looked the same to him. All mountains looked the same. Christ. Why did she have to cry at everything?

John thought of her mother. She rarely cried. That was one of the reasons he had loved her so much. No matter how dangerous a flight, no matter how many rumours came back to base that “something had happened”, Jane never gave a hint of discomfort. She cried when he came back, but that was different. He always felt like crying then too. When John was up there, flying to the edge of space in a rocket plane, or floating around in a capsule with little to do but tick things off a checklist, he always thought how she’d react if something went wrong. Stoic, sternly, “John knows what he’s doing”. Christ, that inspired him more than the reporters shoving microphones in his face, asking him how he felt knowing that “all of America was wishing him good luck”. They just wanted him to succeed. Jane knew he would. She understood why he did it all too, something they never would.
  “Ronnie, all the mountains look the same. I got a little confused.”
He looked back. She was okay again.
  “Okay, Dad. Would you like some music?”
  “Do you have those Willie Nelson tapes?”
  “They’re still in your luggage, I think. Will I pull over and find them?”
  “Nah,” said John. “Doesn’t matter.”
The oil truck drove onto the offramp and moved parallel to them for a minute.
  “I wonder what it’d take to make that thing blow up,” thought John.

A plump middle aged man met John and Ronnie as they walked into the bright corridors of the high school. He had grey hair combed up in a pompadour and glasses with steel rims and wore a pristine suit obviously bought especially for John’s visit.
  “Colonel Cooper, I’m Henry Asquith, the principal. It’s an honour to meet a true American hero!” He extended a chalk stained hand.
  “It’s an honour to meet a passionate educator such as yourself,” said Cooper.
  “Thank you so much for doing this sir. Today, you’ll be talking to Paul’s class, but we thought it would be nice if you came back soon and talked to the whole school. Whenever you have time.”
  “Sure. I’ll be in town for a while.”
  “Really? Oh wow. Thank you Colonel Cooper.”
  “No problem.”
The principal, John and Ronnie began to walk down the corridors, Ronnie holding her father’s arm despite his protests. John watched the principal walk in front of them with his head high, as if at the head of a parade for a returning war hero.
  “My family watched your launch on our neighbour’s television,” said the principal. “I know you get this a lot, but it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen.”
  “I don’t get it a lot these days.”
  “Well, maybe the personal memories are fading a little, but you’ll be in the history books forever. This is what the school needs. There’s a lot of cynicism in the country. It can really get to these kids.”
  “Don’t I know it,” said John, mostly to himself. He began to wonder how Asquith would’ve treated him when he was a kid. Christ, he was a real hellraiser. He remembered one time back before the war, he stole an ice wagon. Just got into the seat when the driver was distracted and rode out of town, then left it out there and walked back. He couldn’t remember the name of the town they lived in then, but he remembered he’d done it because he thought it would be fun. Christ. Was he really that stupid? A couple of years later, he was learning to fly planes. He was learning to bomb cities. He thought that would be fun too. And it was.
The principal knocked on the last door, as if all inside weren’t expecting him. They applauded as Colonel Cooper walked in, stiff and straight in his dark suit, his white hair parted on the left.
  “Here he is!” said Asquith. “Colonel John Cooper, the first American in space!”
John examined the sea of faces as they applauded. All races, all creeds and - all ages. The parents were here. Ronnie went and sat down beside Paul, who clapped for his grandfather. He was a small fifteen. When John was fifteen he was out drinking, out with girls. Paul looked like he’d never talked to a girl in his life.
  “Thank you, Principal Asquith. It’s great to be where minds and hearts are moulded. Like your principal said, on the fourth of March nineteen sixty one, I became the first American in space when my Liberty Seven capsule left the Redstone rocket which launched it, and began its trajectory…”
The colonel drily recounted the facts. He couldn’t remember some of the events he talked about anymore, just knew the words, knew what he was supposed to say, knew what the audience wanted to hear.
  “…And what made me sit on top of that rocket, knowing I could be blown up at any minute?”
It was fun.
  “I was thinking of God, and America, and how even though the Russians had gone into space first…”
I did it because it was fun.
  “All the time I was thinking of my wife, who at the time was pregnant with Ronnie, that beautiful woman sitting there…”
But really, he did it because it was fun.
  “I’ll tell ya, when the G-forces are pushing your eyeballs into the back of your skull, the only thing you can think of is God, country, and your family.”
Christ, he felt like saying it. When he was finished, the principal asked if there were any questions and one of the fathers asked one.
  “Sir, I’ll never forget watching your rocket blast off till the day I die. I was wondering about your war record. You said you flew in Korea? What was that like?”
  “Well, I’d flown bomber missions over Germany, but in Korea I flew an F-86. I tell ya, you never forget what it feels like to be chased by a MIG, following your every turn, or to get the jump on one yourself. I shot down three of them, wounded a couple more. The Chinese didn’t have the best equipment, but they were damn good pilots.”
Another hand shot up, belonging to a broad shouldered blonde boy.
  “How many people did you kill?”
That question. Always that question. You don’t go to war to kill people, son. You go to it because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Even the horrible boring stuff that makes up ninety nine percent of it is worth it for the fun parts.
  “You don’t go to war to kill people, son. You go to stop them killing you, and to end the war, and to do your country and your God proud.”
Some of the kids laughed at that. Of course they did. For the past few years, almost every mention of God elicited some snicker. A couple of times, even a mention of doing his country proud had. Christ. If they knew how fun it was, they’d sign up for it right now.
  “What did it actually feel like to see so much of Earth at once?” asked one of the mothers.
  “Beautiful. It looked like a drop of water on a sheet of infinite black velvet. Really made me think about how small we all are, and how we’re all together on this tiny planet whether we like it or not.”
By hell it did. He was never up much more than 100 miles. You couldn’t even see the whole of North America at once out of the periscope, much less the whole world. It was mostly covered in cloud anyway. But it sure was fun to look down at.
  “What did it feel like when you came back?” asked a girl with dark skin. “There was a big parade for you, right?”
  “That’s right. A big ticker tape parade in New York. Thousands of people lined the streets on Broadway. Everyone came out to greet me, from little kids on to old men. It was hard not to let it go to my head. And I got to meet President Kennedy.”
Some of the kids said “wow!” at this. The cult of personality lived on. He sure was a fun President. What a guy.

After, Ronnie drove him to her house. John hadn’t seen his daughter much since she got married. Always some space committee or university wanted to talk to him about something, give him some post or job to hold, some series of lectures to give.
  “The kids didn’t seem that interested,” he said.
  “I thought they were. They asked good questions.”
  “The parents did. I don’t think I really got through to the kids. It used to be easier. They’ve no idea what it was like.”
  “How could they?”
  “It was exciting. Everything about it… all the flights, the test runs, the simulations… all of it… it was a hell of a lot of fun. That’s really why I did it. I should’ve told them that. I don’t think the parents would’ve liked it though.”
  “You can tell them next time.”
  “Yeah. Maybe. Maybe it’s time I stopped talking about God and America. They laugh when you say that now.”
  “No they don’t,” said Ronnie, giving him a hard stare.
  “They do. Well, they don’t believe in God, but they still believe in fun I bet. I guess kids get their fun in different ways now. Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe they’re better off without wanting to blow themselves up on top of a rocket.”
  “Kids still look up to astronauts, Dad.”
  “Little kids, maybe.”
He looked out at the glass skyscrapers and concrete blocks in the city still a couple of miles away.
  “Did you find those Willie Nelson tapes?” he said.
  “Sure. Will I play one?”
  “Yeah. Jane loved him, you know. Willie Nelson.”
  “Who’s Jane?”
  “Your mother.”
  “Mom’s name was Josephine, Dad.”
Ronnie looked as if he were crying out in an alien language she wanted to understand so she could help him. She was welling up again. He knew it was Josephine. Of course he knew his own wife’s name. Why did some people have to cry at everything? He could remember the blue marble below him, how he was so tightly strapped in that a loose washer had been the only sign he was weightless. John could see it still, floating around and around. He could remember that. And he could remember how much fun it was. Why did some people have to cry at everything? Crying’s no fun. Christ.

humansofnewyork:

"I’m a student. My parents didn’t want me sitting around the house all summer, so they made me be a shepherd." (Kalak, Iraq)

(Reblogged from humansofnewyork)
(Reblogged from garfieldminusgarfield)

6 Ways to Win a Fight!

by Patrick Brennan

I’ve never done a proper fight but when I hear about people getting beaten up all I can think is “what are you DOING idiot, fights are EASY to win!!” Seeing as I know lots of stuff and everybody else knows nothing, I have written this article to help you not get beaten up if you ever do a fight.

1. Punch
This is something you might forget when you get really angry from doing fights, but doing punches is a good way to win. You put your “fingers” close together like when you’re standing in a queue too close to someone else and you’re touching their bum by accident. Then with the tight fingers close together you bring your arm forward and hit the person on the face/legs. Hopefully the other person has not thought of doing this thing and doesn’t know how and you will easily win the fight.

2. Grab
If punching doesn’t make you win the fight for some reason, you will have to move on to grabs. This is like when you hug your grandmother to thank her for your Christmas presents even though they were really bad but you have to believe it’s the thought that counts. When the person you’re fighting gets close to you, put your arms around them and hold them really tightly. If you are a woman, you are probably really good at hugs already so this will be easy. Hold them until they say “okay, you win fight!!” and then you have won the fight.

3. Kick
Kick is like punch, but with leg foot.

4. Scream for police
This is a good one if you can’t win and need help. If you get the police they will arrive and start beating up whoever they want to with a big black stick. They might even put the people in jail forever so you also can take all the person’s money/life over as your own!

5. Drive over with car
This is not recommended unless you are very bad at fighting. When the fight starts, you run to your car and then drive the car to the person quite fast so that they die. The police however do not really like this and you may go to jailprison.

6. Press R3
If you sneak up behind someone who hasn’t seen you and press the R3 button (push down on the top of the right analog stick), you will do a series of crazy moves including: back/side punch, kick, throat slap, knifing and stabbing. This is a last resort as you will easily win the fight which is no fun at all.

Now you have won and your crumpled foe(s) lie(s) at your bloody shoes. What next? Marriage? A nice house boat on the Riviera? Only time can tell! The world is yours! Fight on you crazy moll!

Cormac McCarthy’s Pat_Bren

his mother with back hunched over and apron on was doing the washing up.
help me dry up pat she said.
no said pat. i am doing the great tweets.
he was on his black laptop slamming at the keys hoping good content would come out. something that would quench the black fire that burned in his soul and ate up his guts with the thought that hed never amount to anything. the dishes banged against one another in the basin as his mother washed them.
therell be no dinner if you dont help she said.
yes there will said pat. you always do dinner.
i mightnt do it. i might stop.
no you wont said pat.
he couldnt think of any good tweets but that didnt stop him. more like meteor-wrong he tweeted because a meteorite had killed a bunch of people in russia that morning. it didnt get any retweets and noone even clicked on the star button to favorite it because he was bad and he knew he was bad. on the counter beside him there was a tube of potato chips. they were not pringles because the family was too poor. they were stackers and they were the same thing except they were from aldi which was a cheap shop. they were not a rich family but not a poor one either until they sometimes got some money which made them less poor and more rich.
i cant help you dry up said pat. i am doing tweets and eating stackers.
there was a shuffling in the hall. it was the mailman. he was mailing letters in through the letter box. his mother went to them and brought the letters in.
theres a letter from your granny she said. she says you should help me with the drying up.
tell her i am eating stackers said pat.
youre not a good son said his mother.
quiet said pat. i am good. leave me alone. i am good.
he had his back to his mother. she went to the basin and fished in the sudsy water like a giant scouring the ocean with his fingertips looking for a whale to eat. she felt what she was looking for and pulled it out of the water
youre a bad soon she said and took the knife out of the water and plunged it into her sons spine.
ouch why are you doing this i am good said pat.
no you are not she said and cut his spine out and he died. dark blood covered the wooden floors. im not cleaning that up she said but her son was dead now and couldnt hear anything except the beating of the demons scythes as they cut his flesh for all eternity and beyond. she buried her son under the ash tree in their back yard.
why were you such a bad son always eating stackers and tweeting she said.
i am sorry he would say if he could talk but he couldnt as he was dead and couldnt say anything except stop cutting me demons i was a good boy in life and a good son also but the demons knew the truth. his mother heard nothing but the cry of the ash tree as it shook in the wind. then she went inside and ate all of the stackers in one go.

A Trip to Dublin

Tommy stepped off the Luas into the grey day but Karen wasn’t there. He sent her a text. She didn’t respond so he stood by a nearby Spar and looked around for her. After a few minutes he saw her walking towards him, her dark red hair swinging, looking well in a loose jacket over a green top and dark trousers.
  “Hello Karen,” he said, smiling widely.
  “What do you want to go see?” she said, looking at her phone.
  “Whatever you want.”
  “Okay.”
Karen led him through wide and narrow Dublin streets to the cinema. Tommy wouldn’t have a clue how to find the way on his own, no matter how much maps he looked at. He had no sense of direction but here, today, he had a girl to guide him, the first girl he’d ever asked to go anywhere with him.
  Karen had been in his class in college, but she dropped out to get a job at the National Museum. When they were in college together, Tommy was surprised to find her talking to him sometimes, even just to say good morning out of the blue. Through all his time in school, no girl had ever bothered to do so. Maybe the fresh start in a new environment had wiped the slate clean and people would start treating him with more maturity, start seeing that he was nice and good and stop being weirded out by him because he happened to be quiet. He wasn’t sure if Karen actually liked him though, or if she was just being pleasant, so he had sent her a couple of good-humoured tweets and Facebook messages. Sometimes she responded, good-humouredly. He never said anything in the least bit threatening, but he knew he’d always regret it if he didn’t at least try to see what she thought of him. She hadn’t rejected him outright, hadn’t told him he was ugly or stupid, and finally he got up the courage to ask her to go see a movie in Dublin one Saturday during the summer holidays. To his utter amazement, she had accepted.
  He hadn’t told anyone why he was going to Dublin, of course. Imagine the jokes. Imagine his mother fretting around the idea that he may one day have pre-marital coitus. He just told them he was going to see a friend, which he hoped at least were true. They bade him farewell at the rural train station and were none the wiser that soon he would be a normal young man, able to go to Dublin normally, with people who liked him for his normalcy. It was all coming up Milhouse.
  Tommy found it odd that Karen walked without talking to him and tried to make conversation. Had she forgotten he was there? Did she accept invitations from weirdos so much that she just wanted to get it over with? Tommy caught his own negative thoughts for once and tried to spin them into something positive. After all, she didn’t have to say yes. Why would anyone say yes and not mean it?
  “So… are you getting the new Assassin’s Creed?” said  Tommy. He knew she liked those games.
  “No. I saw the first trailer, didn’t look very interesting.”
  “Oh.”
No use. He had to find common ground. He searched for a topic. James Bond. There was a new Bond movie coming out soon. Maybe that could be their second outing.
  “Are you looking forward to the new Bond movie?” he said.
  “Eurgh, you don’t really like them do you?” said Karen.
  “I think it’s… okay.”
She said nothing else and they walked on.
  “You come into Dublin often?” said Tommy.
  “I work here now so… every day.”
They walked onto Moore Street. There were stalls everywhere filled with fruit and flowers and clothes and auld ones shouting out their bargains. There was a terrier cur tied to a post yapping at the air and tugging away from his lead so that his two front legs kept rising off the ground.
  They passed into a wide street with official looking buildings, still not talking. Karen was texting on her phone, looking up only to make sure she wouldn’t walk into a lamppost. Near the end of the street, a tall young man with a foreign accent and a suitcase at his feet stopped them. Tommy assumed he was looking for directions. That was his ploy, he soon realised.
  “Hello friends,” said the young man. “You are… married couple?”
Was he joking? Tommy shook his head. Karen laughed a little.
  “Oh, just friends. I used to be lost like you. But thanks to the teachings of the great guru Devanagari, I have found true inner peace. He has shown me the path to true enlightenment. We are a small group, but any donations would help us.”
This was it. The chance to show her he was a good and kind person that he’d been denied so far. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a fiver.
  “Oh, how very generous,” said the young man. “Normally they give coins but you, I think you have the goodness within you.” Damn right, thought Tommy. Filled to the brim with goodness, me. The young man reached down and opened his suitcase. It was filled with small, hardbacked books with black covers embossed with words about the teachings of the guru.
  “Have this book, my friend. You too will perhaps find the way.”
Tommy said thanks and took the book.
  “Farewell. Perhaps your friendship will blossom with the guru’s help!”
Karen said nothing until they had walked on a little.
  “I wouldn’t have given him anything,” she said. “Why did you bother?”
  “He was… I don’t know. Sorry.”
  “Come on. We’ll be late for the movie.”
  They weren’t late for the movie. It was some boring remake of some stupid eighties action movie that seemed like The Godfather in comparison. It was far stupider than any Bond movie, even A View to a Kill. All throughout the film, Karen was texting on her phone, barely looking at the screen. When it was finished, they stepped back into the dull day.
  “That was so boring,” he said.
  “I thought it was good,” said Karen.
He couldn’t win. Her phone rang and she answered it.
  “Yeah… no, I was at the cinema… no, with some guy I know… yeah, I’ll be there… wow, hope so! It’ll be awesome. See you there!”
Tommy didn’t know if he should say anything else as she’d find some way to shoot it down.
  “Where will you off to now?” he said.
  “Going to a friend’s birthday, then to a foam party in a club. It’ll be awesome.”
  “Oh right,” said Tommy. “I’d better… leave you to it then. Which Luas will take me back to the train station?”
She pointed.
  “Right so… bye.”
  “Later,” she said and walked away, not offering a second glance.
It was on the train ride home that it really hit him. He put his head against the window and saw an ugly, defeated ghost stare back at him. Karen never liked him at all, not in any way. Of course she hadn’t. What girl would? Why had she said yes to him at all? What was the point? She didn’t use the tiniest bit of energy with him. At least if she treated him like something on the level of a wasp, she’d have to run around a bit. It was like she hadn’t even seen him as a human being at all. One event of the day stuck out in his mind more than the rest. After he’d given the weird young man the money, Karen had asked him why he bothered. Tommy didn’t know. It was time for him to stop bothering with anything, with life or with love. Maybe it was karma, or something. Tommy thought so little of himself, maybe it was time people started actually treating him like that. What if he’d been more outgoing, what if he wanted to go to that party she was going to? What would a normal person have done? Tommy didn’t know. Maybe that’s the way people did things. You don’t bother getting close to anyone, don’t talk to them, don’t even treat them as if they exist. You go to parties with them, you get drunk with them, and then you forget them. If you don’t go to parties and you don’t get drunk then you just get the last one. Or maybe it was just him. He deserved this. He deserved all the pain in the world. Every time he thought of her he couldn’t stop another thought entering his mind - the certainty that she would never think of him again. He was nothing. Always had been, always would be.
  He watched the flat, empty scenery of the Curragh go by outside, looking through the apparition of himself. When he was sure no-one else in the carriage saw him, he put his hand over his face and cried.

Music to my Fears

Tommy shivered and pulled the window closed with one hand, holding his phone to his ear with the other. His mother’s voice asked him what the weather was like where he was.
  “I’m half an hour’s drive away Mam, I’m not in Mexico.”
There was a series of banging sounds in the background. After a minute, Tommy figured out it was his father tossing rings at the ring board in their kitchen, a deduction that became a certainty when he heard his father’s voice say “ah, fuck that” and there was the sound of the door opening and closing.
  “How’s the study going?” said his mother, not even noticing. “It’s a pity you’re not coming home this weekend. It’s not the same without you, quiet as you are.”
  “You’ll have to learn to live without me, Ma. I want to move off somewhere when I finish up here you know.”
  “I don’t know how I’ll cope. Your brother’s off in Enniscorthy working for the council, I’ll have no-one to look after me.”
  “You don’t need looking after, Ma. You’ve got Da anyway.”
  “I know, but what if something happens…”
  “Stop worrying,” said Tommy. “You’re always worrying. I’ll see you next weekend.”
  “I’m not worrying, I’m just saying…”
  “If you weren’t worrying, you wouldn’t be talking like that.”
  “Well… I don’t know. When’s the exam?”
  “Monday.”
  “I know. What time I meant.”
  “Two, I think.”
  “I’ll say a prayer for you,” she said.
  “Ma, I need to study, I don’t need prayers.”
He heard a couple of young voices on the street outside shouting in the dusk, drunk probably. Tommy could never tell really, most people he saw around were just always loud.
  “I know, I’ll let you go now in a minute,” said his mother, affecting a tone which let Tommy knew something bad was coming. “There was this programme on TV3 the other night, about these things that students do. It showed them getting drunk and everything and Tommy… they were doing things to each other. I don’t know what you get up to in college, but you’ll be careful won’t you? You know… careful.”
  “Ma, I can honestly say you haven’t a thing to worry about.”
  “Alright Tommy. You’re coming back next Friday, aren’t you?”
  “Of course. Good luck Ma.”
  “Alright Tommy. Good luck.”
  “Bye.”
  “Bye. Good luck in your exam.”
  “Thanks Ma. Good luck.”
  “Bye.”
He ended the call, though he knew his mother probably wanted to say goodbye six more times. He put his phone on the bedside table and looked at the alarm clock. It was seven o’clock on Friday evening. For a whole minute he watched the silver hand tick its way around the black square face and then suddenly remembered he hadn’t eaten since the bowl of corn flakes he had for breakfast.

Tommy rarely left his room, slowly watching the hours pass him by as he studied or read or tweeted. The only place he ever went outside of the accomodation was the college library, where he would study or read or tweet. He went into the living room. His flatmate wasn’t there, though he could smell her perfume still. Her name was Kelly and they didn’t know each other at all, though he was pleasant to her and she did likewise. He knew it wasn’t easy for her to live with someone so quiet and shut off from everything as he had had to live with himself for quite a long time already. He went to the kitchenette in the corner. They both kept it spotless, doing their own washing and drying up, never getting in each other’s way. When Tommy first moved from home, he was deathly scared he’d have to share a house with loud party animals, snorting coke off his PS3, slamming his fingers with the toilet seat because he wouldn’t do ten shots of vodka with them. In the end though, his life away from home was just dull. He was never sure if he would prefer some excitement, because that would involve the possibility of people seeing how weird he was and how he hadn’t much of an idea how to do anything. So he spent his time doing nothing.
  Kelly kept her food in the left cupboard above the sink, Special K and Nutrigrain bars and rice crackers. Tommy’s cupboard was stocked mostly with Aldi noodles and white bread and a box of corn flakes. He’d survived on pot noodles until his mother read an article in the Daily Mail linking them with cancer, obesity, brain tumours and another fifteen ways of dying horribly, so now she bought him old fashioned dry noodles and curry powder to go on them. His mother was such a worrier. The funny thing was, a couple of years back when she got sick and had to go to hospital, she didn’t seem worried at all. Tommy thought that maybe the point of doctors and hospitals was to stop people worrying as much as it was to treat disease. It’s like in a movie when there’s a monster behind the door. No matter how scary it looks when they finally open it, the monster in your mind is always scarier. He ripped open  a clear plastic packet of noodles and took out a small hard block that looked like knitted frozen string and made himself a meal. At least it was better than a Pringle sandwich he thought, a delicacy he was reduced to consuming on occasion.

Tommy had never stayed the weekend in the flat before and decided he wanted to do something wild, so he put on his coat that was too big and walked through the cool evening to the library. He squinted in the bright fluorescent light as he stepped in and headed for non-fiction. There looked to be no-one else around but he heard a cough from somewhere among the celebrity biographies, but couldn’t see anyone. He perused the various titles, looking for one that fitted his appropriate mood and the tone of his evening, settling on a thick tome about the Battle of Stalingrad. He let out a loud sigh and collapsed into a nearby soft backed chair. It was a dull read, all about the movement of armies, barely even bothering to mention the names of any soldiers or their feats of glory or inglory but he persisted in his reading as he had nothing better to do. Then he smelled something sweet, and heard shuffling behind him. There was a girl standing there, a stranger looking at some kinky title that Tommy would be ashamed to come within a yard of. She had shoulder length hair dyed pink gelled into small spikes at the top, and a nose ring. Her black top left her tattooed arms bare. Tommy went back to his reading. After a minute, the girl sat in a chair a few feet to his left and read a book about the history of punk music.
  “Stalingrad,” she said after a minute. “Is that about the battle?”
  “Yeah,” said Tommy smiling, offering nothing else.
  “My grandad fought for the Germans. In France.”
  “Oh?”
  “Yeah. I don’t think he did anything war crime-y, but you never know.”
  “I suppose not,” said Tommy.
  “You going to the concert?”
  “What concert?”
  “Haven’t you seen the posters? There all over the college. Joan Hammond is playing here next Wednesday.”
She pointed over his shoulder. He followed her glance to a poster, mostly black, with a pale woman with long black hair standing in the middle holding a guitar. Under her were the words “Joan Hammond - the first lady of punk. Wednesday, 5th of November”.
  “Oh. No,” said Tommy.
  “Are you into more metal stuff?” said the girl.
  “Metal what?”
  “Music? You know, metal music?”
  “Oh. I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
  “I think you need to get out more,” she said with a little laugh and returned to her reading.
After a minute she got up, left the book on the chair and went out. Everything was quiet again. Tommy put his Stalingrad book back on the shelf in the gaping wound it had left between other books about equally vicious battles. That’s what he liked to read about. They made sense. People all wanted to do evil things, deep down. Not that deep down. They pretended to like each other with bars and clubs and dancing, but if anything broke out, they’d sell each other out for a penny. They’d slit each other’s throat to save their own skin. That made sense. Why wouldn’t they, thought Tommy. How many people would save me? How many have even talked to me? How many have I even talked to? Too many he thought, even though he knew it was next to none.

The flat was dark and freezing when he got back. He turned on the heating and felt hungry again so he got a bag of Spuddy’s crisps from the cupboard and sat eating them in the living room. Despite his unhealthy eating, Tommy was quite slim. Whenever he went home at the weekends, he would go for long walks on the country lane they lived beside. Except for that, and the half a mile it was to the library, he imagined himself ballooning up like a latter day Marlon Brando, giving long speeches in the jungle, except his would be about what makes a good tweet and why Roger Moore was the best James Bond. How am I not married, he said to himself with an actual laugh.
  Kelly wouldn’t be home for hours. She always stayed out until three or four in the morning, tip-toeing in thinking he’d be asleep. Tommy had never met anyone he’d want to stay out until three or four in the morning with, but Kelly had a whole group of friends to do so with. So he gradually pieced together from the little fragments of her life that intersected with his - overheard phone calls, a friend or two calling to collect her. She never drank in the flat, though Tommy didn’t know if that was because she didn’t want to upset him with any noise, or if she thought Tommy would suck the fun out of any party they had through sheer proximity, even if he kept himself in his room like normal. Both were valid reasons anyway. He brushed the crumbs off his front and banged his knee on their low table as he went to put the crisp bag in the bin. His exams were on Monday, but he didn’t feel like studying. He wondered why he’d stayed over at all. He could never think straight when he knew the world was out having fun and he was stuck inside his own stupid head, going over and over childhood rejections and teenage heartbreaks and the endless awkward interactions he had with people. Then he was startled by his own reflection in the big window behind the sofa, like his twin looking in at him, equally sad and burdened with the same load he was. He pulled the curtains and brought his laptop out of his room and tried to relax. When he felt bad, he usually just tweeted some stupid joke or observation that, like everything else, only made sense in his head and that no-one else much liked. Sometimes he’d hit on an incredibly stupid pun or lame joke that would do well, and he’d get a few compliments from a friend or two and feel alright about himself for about seven seconds. Most of the time it just felt like shouting into a void alongside millions of other people all looking for an audience without being willing to be a part of someone else’s. Just like him. He always felt closer to humanity as a whole through the bad and selfish and neurotic things they did than through the good ones. Tonight, he was spewing forth awful puns about the way Sean Connery spoke. His favourite was ” ‘Whoopshy daishy.’ - Sean Connery climbing over a fence.” It got two favourites, and three people unfollowed him.

A little after ten, Tommy was startled out of his wits by the front door opening. He’d have been less anxious about who it was than if a zombie had crashed through the front window. It was Kelly. She burst into the living room as Tommy stood up. He always had to do something awkward and weird. Why stand up? She doesn’t want to be treated like the queen, he thought. She looked at him, a little startled too. Her big green eyes were red-rimmed and running mascara was stained her cheeks.
  “Oh, Tommy.”
  “Hello. Kelly. Um… sorry.”
He sat back down and watched her walk over to the kitchenette and pour herself a glass of milk. She had short black hair and tanned skin and wore a low-cut green top and tight jeans. Tommy didn’t know what he to do. She wasn’t crying now but obviously had been. He decided the best course of action was his default one - do nothing and hope nothing was asked of him. A kind-of half retching sound came from Kelly and he thought she was getting sick, but she’d just let the milk drop out of her mouth into the sink as she started to cry again. He watched her for a minute to make sure it was a proper emergency, then stood up and walked to the the kitchenette’s side wall, three feet away from the crying girl.
  “Are you okay?” he said. Kelly was crying properly now, letting it all out, one hand on her forehead, leaning with the other on the sink.
  “Darren… he slept with Ciara.”
  “Oh,” said Tommy. He had no idea who they were, though the names seemed half familiar from when he had looked her up on Facebook just after he’d moved in. Tommy didn’t have an account though, he thought Facebook was for people who believe they won’t die and rot and be forgotten and the only one they can change is the last one so they’d better do something other than post pictures of themselves on holidays or at parties with awful people. That was his philosophy anyway, even if he couldn’t put it into action.
  “That bastard… I should’ve seen it. They were together before. She was his ex. They’re made for each other. Fucking bastards.”
She sobbed for a minute. Tommy produced a packet of tissues from his pocket and offered her one. She said thanks and wiped her eyes and nose and mouth and stood staring at the space in front of her, drowning in thought like he often found himself doing. His laptop started making a loud whirring noise that it did sometimes so he sat back down on the sofa and gave the computer a good whack until it shut up.
  “Sorry,” he said. “The fan… it goes weird or something.”
  “You fix it by hitting it?” she said, snuffling.
  “Well, I’m not exactly BIll Gates or anything, but it works.”
She let out a little laugh.
  “I don’t feel like crying myself to sleep. Is it okay if we stay up and talk? Do you have to study?”
  “Nah,” said Tommy. “I know enough.”
He closed the laptop and plugged out the charger as Kelly sat in the armchair facing him.
  “We’ve never really talked,” she said. “I don’t even know what you’re studying.”
  “History. Ancient stuff, the Celts and all that.”
  “Oh. Cool. I study literature.”
He’d seen enough of her Victorian novels lying around to figure that out on his own.
  “Is that interesting?” he said. “I like reading, but I don’t like studying books too hard. It takes the fun out of them.”
  “Nah, it’s okay. It’s what I want to do.”
  “History is what I want to do too. I don’t think I’ll get a job out of it,” he said and thought if it was wise to add more. “I think all the outgoing people get the jobs, in any field. The outgoing people get everything. I don’t think people like me get much. We just have to do the best we can.”
He wasn’t sure if she was listening, but he couldn’t blame her. She sniffed and sank a few inches into the quicksand-like back of the armchair. Neither said anything for a moment.
  “So… what happened exactly?” said Tommy, seeing her brow furrowed, obviously thinking of whatever it was.
  “Darren happened. I don’t know what I saw in him, except he was kind of fun to be around. He has this group of friends, and they became my friends, you know? I used to go out with him in school, he was a year ahead of me. So we were, you know, apart from each other for most of a year when he was in first year in college and I was in sixth year in school.”
  “Oh?”
She sat up in the chair and shook her head as if there was a tarantula on it.
  “He used to be better back in school,” she said. “He started getting cocky when he started here. We kept in touch, we were still going out, like, when we were apart. It turns out though, as I learned tonight, that he had a thing with Ciara, who I thought was just one of our group of friends. He cheated on me with her, basically, when we were apart. Even if he had just done that, maybe I’d forgiven him, but they started it up again a few months ago. All the other friends knew, I think, but they didn’t tell me… I suppose because I was the newest one, the outsider.”
Her face screwed up again for a moment and a mascara blackened tear slid down her cheek.
  “I don’t know what I’ll do. I mean… I think they’re okay, the friends I mean, but… why didn’t they tell me? I thought that Jason or Mara would say something… Maybe me and Darren can split them up, like a divorce. I can take Jason and Mara, and he can have that slut Ciara, and Jack… I never liked him, always talking about some stupid video game was better than Citizen Kane or something. Eurgh, he can have him. Him and Darren and Ciara can just fuck off.”
She stared into space for a minute.
  “What are your friends like?” she said.
  “I don’t have many,” he said with a self deprecating smile. “Well, a couple here in college. They talk to me, but I don’t go out places so… you know, it limits things.”
  “I’ve kind of noticed you don’t go out a lot,” she said. “What do you like to do?”
  “Not much. Tweet mostly.”
  “Oh. Are you on Facebook?”
  “No… I used to be, but it was just people posting about how great everything in their life was and it made me want to kill someone.”
  “Oh dear,” she said. “It can get like that. What do you tweet?”
  “Stupid things. ‘Jokes’, in inverted commas. Whatever pops into me brain.”
  “Like what?”
  “Stupid things.”
  “Tell me one,” she said, wiping her face with the tissue.
  “They don’t make a lot of sense. They’re not really jokes… but okay, here’s one. I really like this one, but no-one else did. You know the way Sean Connery talks, right?”
  “Sure.”
  “Well, it’s like something he says. ‘Whoopshy daishy.’ - says Sean Connery climbing over a fence.”
Her face remained grim, but after a second a slight smile came to it.
  “That’s so stupid.”
  “I know,” he said. “Like me.”
  “Ah no, you seem alright.”
  “Do I?”
  “Yeah. So do you have anyone? A girlfriend? Partner?”
He looked at her suddenly, as if she was proposing something, but he knew she wasn’t. It’s just how his mind worked.
  “No… I don’t get out a lot, and girls don’t really tend to… appear if you don’t go to them.”
  “I thought maybe you’d met someone online…”
  “No,” he said. “It’ll probably end up that way, by necessity, but no…”
  “I think you’re better off. Why do people think they need to be with someone just for the sake of it? Most people just aren’t worth the effort.”
  “I know,” said Tommy. There was a jingling noise somewhere. Kelly took the phone out of her pocket and looked at it.
  “Text from him. Eurgh. ‘You still going to concert?’ Jesus,” she said, talking to her phone. “I won’t even bother replying. He’s not worth it. What difference does it make?”
  “Yeah.”
  “Are you going to see her? Joan Hammond?”
  “The… punk lady? I don’t really…”
  “I was going to go with… them,” she said with utter contempt. “I was really looking forward to it.”
  “Oh,” said Tommy.
  “I really like her music, you know? It’s so anti… everything. Everything they stand for. Conformity, bullshit relationships, you know. I think they truly believe they’re different than everybody else, when they’re even more boring because they think they’re interesting, you know?”
  “Kind of.”
  “Would you… go with me? To the concert? I don’t want to go alone. They’ll see me and think I need them. They’ll try to get me back.”
  “Oh. I… I don’t know…” said Tommy, looking for some easy excuse to get out of it.
  “It’ll be okay. I’ll look after you.”
  “Really? Are you making fun of me?”
  “Sure,” said Kelly and combed her short hair with her fingers.
  “I actually do need someone to take care of me though. I don’t have a clue about anything.”
  “Well, I don’t think Joan Hammond can teach you that much about stuff…” said Kelly.
  “I’ll go,” he said. “Okay. I’ll go. If we won’t be out too late, or do anything crazy. Okay?”
  “I don’t want to do anything crazy ever again,” said Kelly. She threw the tissue at the bin in the kitchen but missed by a mile so she got up and put it in properly.
  “We should talk more,” she said. “I’m sorry we haven’t talked before. I thought I already had friends.”
  “That’s okay,” said Tommy and, seeing her head for the door, went to turn his laptop back on. “Goodnight.”
  “Goodnight,” she said and closed the door slowly behind her. Her perfume lingered in the air. Tommy opened up Twitter again, and in a moment of genius bordering on insanity, thought of the stupidest tweet he’d ever thought of. “Hey, Sean Bean,” he typed. “It’s either Shaun Baun, or Seen Bean. You can’t have it both ways!” It was sent off into the webs, and he waited a moment to see how it would do. One retweet, two more unfollows. He still had the slideshows about Celtic law open, the ones his lecturer had said would definitely be on the test. But there was time for study. It wasn’t that important.    
  Tommy opened a new browser window and Googled the name ‘Joan Hammond’. Half a dozen Youtube results came up. He clicked one at random and listened to music he’d never heard, that he never even knew existed before. The more he listened and let the music wash over him, the more he felt an entire new universe was being created all around him. Everything bad he knew was screaming and burning out of existence and everything good was just coming into view, small and blurred, but there where there had been nothing before.