REALITY

I emerge.

The black haze of sleep quickly clears, but the blur stays. It always stays.

Fist hits the alarm and takes the crying phone into itself. I find myself saying: "Hello."

"Your rent's overdue, Kirby." Always the rent. I find myself saying nothing, but rebooting. Engines whirring.

"Don't think that just 'cos I'm in Meath you don't have to pay your rent." I swallow, not making sense of it, trying to blink away the blur and the sleep.

"Are you listenin' to me, Kirby?"

"I don't have the rent, Mrs. Clarke..."

"Of course you've got the bloody rent!"

"I haven't, miss..."

"What d'you think I am, a complete eejit?"

"You should know I don't have the bloody rent." I snap; I sit up in bed and check the pockets.

"You've had weeks, Kirby!"

"I know, Mrs. Clarke, but—" Nothing.

"Why d'you never have it, eh?"

I throw the empty jacket at the wall. "I can't fucking get it! I'm not a cash machine, you bitch!" And I crush the phone back into its cradle. An empty jacket and an empty jacket. Two empty jackets.

Breathing steadily: it was automatic anger, automated aggression. Some things aren't real because they're missing.

Another call from the man: another rent overdue. I'll have to see him.

I see him.

I wash my mouth out in the sink of a dirty public toilet off the next street.

I finger the hole in the pocket of my jeans and make it worse.

I am wistful.

By 4:27, by instruction, by demand, I am at the bar. Watching hands on crotches, waiting for a drink that might not come, I am here by luck.

Shamrocks are on the walls. I have to endure the pinch. The pinch. The pinches, then. Pinch on the arm, pinch of the eye of the buyer who guesses best. But I'm waiting for a drink that's not coming, and I'm still here, out of luck.

Empty jacket and an empty jacket. Two empty jackets and a fucking empty tin! Empty veins. Empty head. A thirst. A longing. A dryness of the veins. Empty veins. Empty head. Thirst. Longing.

"Man, you look shook."

I turn that dry, empty head to the one other unfamiliar voice. Loaded?

"And different."

I try again to blink away the blur, to see him. "Do I know you?"

He frowns, smirks, puts his head down. "Guess not."

I pause as he taps the glass in front of him. "D'you want something?"

He looks back up, smiling now. "More. Don't they all?"

"Who's they?"

And he leans in: "Them."

He prompts me with his eyes and a tiny raise of the finger; I look round at the bar—at the idiots dressed in green, the sloshers, the scabs and the gankies, the witches, all the idiots true to green.

"Shitehawks, all of 'em," he hisses.

Head dropped, I bring my eyes back round to his, and see his nose. Red at the rims. I want to laugh. Are we not them? I didn't.

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