I sold it. Like a rug, right out from underneath the two of us. Sold.
Everything went flying, back in boxes, in the bin, tossed out on the lawn. Nothing mattered where it landed. It was all a mess, a wreck, complete disaster and it didn't seem to matter what was broken anymore. Not plates, not pictures. Not our voices, not the papers we tore from the fridge and not the jar that once held applesauce and then a mix of money. It still had the glue where the paper tore off. I don't remember who did that, me or him.
Three days we tore the house apart. Three days we tore each other down.
I don't know what I said to him last.
He might have gone home to Inverness. To his mother. Or he might have stayed in Edinburgh. I didn't ask. I didn't care. I stayed in Northern Ireland, back-and-forthing from the border, home to Belfast in a helicopter. Weeks, or it might have been months, I sulked. Every step on patrol, all the long, rainy hours I stood on a back country road checking licenses, flagging the cars along, slogging through Fermanagh fields - the ones that bordered County Cavan, like some fucking moronic joke.
I took out the feeling on who the fuck ever. The locals, the army, my pint, and eventually John Maglen's back. He was black-haired and blue-eyed and squinted without his glasses. Until he turned around, he always looked like someone else.
On our days off we met and we fucked. It never happened in the barracks but the once - a quick and stupid thing that might have cost the both of us our jobs, his knees to the floor and my back to the bunk. John came from Portadown, forty-five minutes away on the M1. He drove a blue Granada - ancient, stick-shift, running by some kind of miracle. Once it quit between Belfast and Portadown, left us stranded on the motorway. We hiked for the nearest petrol station and John called out a wrecker. I was so pissed off I hauled him into the gent's and pushed his head down. When he finished I got the bus back to Belfast, had it drop me near a pub, and put a whiskey down my neck. I had another. Mixed my drinks until my gut was swimming alcohol, my brain was floating in it.
I staggered out. I found my flat, and I was lucky someone didn't shoot me first but didn't care. I stubbed a toe and clutched my pillow and it didn't hold me back. I cried myself halfway to sleep before the bender took me over.
In the morning I was throwing up and holding down cold coffee, black and ripe from a week in the pot while I was touring at the border. Drank it anyway. Crawled to bed. I woke at noon and could still taste the fug on my breath. I stripped, sat in the shower and cried over water not warming up. I wanted home. To go home.
Just go home.
I had a vague thought, vague idea, of getting the ferry at Larne and going to Scotland - but Scotland was never my home anymore. It was over. He wasn't my home.
I didn't hear it when it rang - the bell. It rang until I answered in a towel and a button-down shirt that stuck to me. "You're dripping all over the rug," said John. The Granada was parked in the street. Double-parked. He had flowers.
I let him come in, fuck me stupid and sleep over the top of me.
I put in for a transfer to Andytown in Belfast. John did likewise, for the RUC at Musgrave Street, some halfway across the city. The Granada took a permanent place by the walk. John's head assumed the second pillow. His Ruger revolver now lies on the bedside table, and mine in the drawer. I sleep with my back to him, sweating and throwing the blankets off, kicking down sheets. Sticky with John, I dream of someone else.
Oh you - I love you, Irish.
"Morning, Teigue," he disillusions me. Always, the accent is wrong. It's mine. Mine diluted to sound like a Portadown Protestant, less of a consonant train wreck. Still Ulster. Still Irish. Still nothing like Scottish, like Scotland, those lollygag vowels in funny shapes.
"Teigue? ...You 'wake?"
I lie and pretend not awake. John will kiss, paw, and purr at me, "Teigue..." the name over and over and over till I can't stand it and I want to break his jaw.
I don't tell him that. I don't tell him a lot of things. Stop making lunch for me. Don't fix my hat. Stop bringing me flowers and saving the sad things from wilting.
I leave them on the counter, in the wrapper, and he puts them in a vase. I don't want the vase. I don't want the flowers. The next bunch of stems I oblige him and shove in an applesauce jar, rip the paper off, fill it with tap water. By morning they're properly set in a vase and the jar's in the bin with the coffee grounds.
Why am I crying, he wants to know. Teigue?
I'm not crying.
He tells me I am.
I am not fucking crying.
His arms go around me and meaning to comfort, they suffocate. His lips mark my cheek, and my head turns away.
I stare off at something else, holding the counter with both of my hands. Something clinks against the sink, a tiny sound. Tap tap. John looks around. My Scotland's ring, still on my hand, a finger-cymbal on the stainless steel basin. I have never had it off. He knows that. Maybe he's pretending.
Talk to him. Talk to him, please. He is here for me. I know that, don't I? Tell him what's wrong.
What am I talking about, Irish?
That's what he'd call me.
Who's calling me Irish? I'm British.
I'm Irish, John.
This is not about politics. Why am I making this all into politics?
What the fuck is he on about, politics? Who said anything about politics?
All right! Fine, he doesn't want to fight!
Oh for the love of God holy. He doesn't even know what a fight is.
Just tell him what's wrong.
I don't answer. He slips off his glasses. He runs his hands over my shoulders, he circles my neck, his lenses dangle behind my head - the glass distracts wee flecks of sunlight.
I miss him.
Teigue. It's been three years.
I have to let go.
I can't. I miss him. I loved him.
I don't love John? I live with John. I sleep with John. Make love. To John.
I dream of Scotland every night.
What do I dream? Of lochs?
Of fucking him?
Is that all?
That's not all.
Tell me all?
I don't tell him.
I let him believe the dreams become as good to me as whoring. I let him believe I stop the dreaming. I let him believe I love his flowers. Let him believe I want his kisses and I like the way he falls asleep, his hand the inside of my leg, the way he reads aloud and I pretend to listen, the way he laughs.
I support him when he sits the exam for ATO and passes. I support him when he moves us back to Portadown. Support him when his father dies. Support him when he rolls an ankle, hobbles off the pitch, and through the every match he loses. He learns to make me laugh. We smile together. We become each other's daily business.
Life goes on.
He asks me once, and some years later, do I want a newer ring. A nicer one. The band still on my finger's getting old and dull, and sure it always plain.
I tell him no. I'd never get it off.
He takes my hand and sees I haven't lied to him. The ring has notched my finger. It doesn't fit over the knuckle anymore.