His lies were mesmerising works of beauty.
They met in a trendy, renovated pub, and he wasn’t shy about asking if he could join her. She was treating herself to a cheap supper out, pretending to a read a work report. Glad to be interrupted in her solitude. They drank red wine and he talked a lot.
When I was thirteen I ran away to the circus. The most gorgeous of the trapeze artists seduced me with her long supple legs.
Did she, she said. What was her name?
Genevieve, he said, without pause. He smiled at her, then glanced away.
How old was she?
I’m not sure, maybe twenty.
Did you sleep in her caravan?
No, she wouldn’t let me because she was engaged to one of the male acrobats. He doubled as a clown sometimes.
She laughed. How long did you last?
Only a week. I missed my Mammy.
She went home with him that first night. His apartment was nearby so they walked there, hand in hand. He had a swipe card for the gate, which opened onto a huge central courtyard, like a prison yard. He had to enter a code for the internal doors.
It’s like a gaol.
Is it? he said. I don’t see it like that. It’s close to town, and the LUAS.
They went straight into his bedroom, a cell-like box room, which was also home to two mud-encrusted mountain bikes.
Sorry about that, he mumbled as he stripped her of her clothes. My flatmate and I are training for an Iron Man competition in a few months.
She took off his t-shirt. He had a beer belly, a hairy chest, and thick strong arms.
You’re like a big bear, she said, and rubbed her face on his beard, on his chest, licked his nipples.
On their second date, he told her he spoke French, had lived in Paris for a year with a beautiful Polish artist. But she had broken his heart when she ran off with a woman, a sculptor.
Yes, and then a year later she emailed me to tell me she’d had my daughter.
It was too dark in the pub to really see his eyes.
What’s her name, how old is she now?
She’s eight, but I only have a picture of her as a baby. The woman never told me her name, and she has never answered any of my emails. I imagine she’s beautiful, like her mother but with my eyes. I dream that someday she’ll come to find me, and we can make up for lost time.
I was engaged, when I was thirty, she told him, but it turned out he wasn’t the man I thought he was.
What does that mean, he asked, and he seemed to be agitated. Did he cheat on you?
It’s hard to explain. Nothing specific, just a way of being with me, that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for him. I think.
He hugged her then, and told her about the time he’d accidentally got engaged to an Australian girl he met in Thailand. She had meant to not go home with him that night. He was so charming, whispered French endearments into her ear, told her that he had never met a woman like her before, and she sank into the spaces between his words.
They sat on the concrete benches outside the Lighthouse cinema, waiting to see a film, on a Sunday afternoon. The laughter of a handful of children echoed off the closed-up premises on Smithfield Square.
How many times have you been in love, he asked. He had sunglasses on so she couldn’t see his eyes.
Never, she said.
But you were engaged.
We didn’t love each other.
That’s shocking, he said.
Is it, she asked. Or is it just that I’m telling the truth that’s shocking? Let’s walk around a bit. There’s a cold breeze here.
They walked down towards the tram lines. Dried up horse shit adorned the cobblestones.
Do you think they’ll close down the horse fair, he asked.
It’s the only sign of life left in this godforsaken square. Look, there isn’t even a tree in sight, no benches to sit on. If it was a monthly farmer’s market with overpriced vegetables and someone got shot they wouldn’t be clamouring to shut it down. They don’t shut down pubs where people get shot.
He laughed at her. You’re cute when you get all riled up.
For all the good it does, she said.
Once I saw man get killed, he said.
Did you now, where was this, in Ireland, New York, Sydney?
No, in Amsterdam. Outside a brothel. A woman came up to this man on the street and shot him in the stomach. Someone said he was her pimp, and someone else said no, he was her husband. That was horrible to witness.
She sighed. I can never tell where the truth stops and the lies begin, she said.
You think I’m a liar, he asked, and stopped walking.
Aren’t you, she asked. Take off your sunglasses, please.
He took them off, and looked at her.
What do you really do for a living?
Does it really matter, he asked.
With a shock she realised that his eyes were pale green, not blue as she had thought.
Yes. No. I don’t know.
We have fun. I like you. And I don’t know if you tell me the full truth. You’re very careful with your words, he said.
I just need something to be solid.
Well, I’m here now. We’re talking. We’re going to a film. He smiled, and leaned down and kissed her.
That’s solid enough for me, he said.
Leona Lee Cully was born in Uranium City, Canada, a mining town which no longer exists. She grew up in the Midlands, in Delvin, Co. Westmeath which does still exist. Leona lives in Dublin, and has had work published in The Stinging Fly. She is interested in fiction that quietly, or noisily, subverts form, style, and ‘taste’. The gaps and spaces between what is said and done, the bewilderment of modern life, the chasm between people, the weight and depth of the unspoken – these are the moments and mysteries she seeks to explore in her work. How successful she is in achieving this is another matter entirely…