Monday, October 31, 2016

Mighty Cuchulain on Samhain

It is rumored that on Samhain, the mighty warrior Cuchulain went to battle. Samhain, the end of summer and harvest and into winter, is a powerful and significant night. 

Throughout decades of violence and centuries of unrest, mistrust, and occupation, the prospect of peace is finally being realized in secret meetings, public displays of solidarity, and private negotiations. The last three years have been the most promising times in recent history of the Anglo - Irish peace talks. Differing from the “must win” ideology of his brother, David seeks compromise to end the conflict that rules his life. David understands the politics in the struggle and knows that compromise is inevitable.

            He comes across as David the construction worker, loyal Donegal Celtic fan and amateur footballer. He doesn’t reveal his years of studying The Book of Five Rings, Sun Tzu or countless books on the history of Irish politics to many. He’s risen through the ranks of the Provisionals rather quickly because of his natural leadership ability. He may be young, but he comes across as a seasoned veteran of the Irish War. Most importantly, he’ll asking nothing of his men that he wouldn’t do himself.

            It’s getting late as David meets with Martin, the Officer Commanding, or OC, of the local brigade. Many believe Martin is preparing David for future leadership. Martin can be particularly tough on David, pressing him on issues, mistakes and decisions. It could also be because Martin was best friends with David's father and really became a surrogate to him growing up. Either way, David is given a lot of responsibility within the Army. Martin doesn’t look the commander that he once was. His blonde hair has turned a yellowed white. The lines on his face, exacerbated by years of cigarettes and neat whiskeys to the wee hours

            “Ye know it won’t be seen as a break in the ceasefire,” Martin emphasizes as he attempts to calm David down.

            “What the fuck were they thinking?” David stares at Martin.

            “They already took responsibility for the shooting, David.”

            David knows Martin is guessing and isn't certain about the status of the ceasefire. The talks hang in the balance over the promise of laying down weapons. "Martin, come on. The RUC doesn't care if they claimed responsibility. The INLA or not, a cop gets shot they cry IRA. The news cries IRA.

            "No punishment." Martin sits up emphatically.

            "What if we…." David would like to demonstrate to the contending nationalist group, that they are all in the ceasefire together. Punishment beatings are used amongst those many would think are on the same side of the fight.

            Martin snaps at him quickly, "No. Is that to be understood? What's next on the agenda?"

            Silence as David hesitates, "I was thinking."

"Jesus wept," Martin knows when David is stalling. He sits back and crosses his arms, "go on."

 "What if there’s an informant?" David knows this is a loaded question because he knows that Martin does have informants, the RUC has informants, Jesus, for all he knows Abbi has a tout within the IRA, but David means one that is deliberately working against him. This is a serious accusation that will of course need some type of evidence to back it up.

Martin does not stir from the position he is in. "You’ve my attention."
            David moves closer to Martin, speaking in almost a hushed tone, even though they both know that no one can hear them. "Ten of my guys have either taken shots or almost been blown up in the last two weeks. Not Danny’s, not Brian’s, my guys. That's not a coincidence if ye ask me."

“What else is it, David?” Martin moves closer and leans on the table.

“I don’t know if it’s true and I don’t know who it would be.” David removes the prison comm from his shirt pocket and hands it to Martin.  

Martin takes the paper but maintains eye contact with David for an extra second, as if he is trying to read his thoughts. He reads the tiny print on the paper, shaking his head in disgust. "A dissident breakaway? Right, I’ll speak to the IO." He pauses. “Who got this for you?” He holds the comm up.

“I had someone get it…”

“Who?” Martin is terse in his question.

David swallows then sighs. “Abbi.”

“I’ve told you before, you’re not to use her anymore for this.” His face reddens quickly.

“But she’s good, Martin.” David leans forward.

Martin bangs his hand on the table. “You’ll find your kneecaps on the other end of an armalite if I find out you use her again. Understood?”

David nods, a bit shocked at the firmness of the order.  “Did something happen? Someone say something?”

“Understood?” Martin asks that single world slowly, separating the syllables with a bevy of potential unspoken repercussions.

“Yes. Understood.”

"You’ll await instructions. More than likely you’ll be on the court martial.” Martin formally ends the meeting by standing. “I was thinking the same but you confirmed my suspicions. We’ll need to start getting evidence down in writing. I’ll ring you tomorrow.” Martin shuts the door behind him but quickly opens it again. “I mean it, about Abbi.”

            David sits alone in the poorly lit room. He thinks about failure. His men are getting injured and the talks are stagnant at best. He thinks about his brother and wonders how he would handle this situation. Panic sets in as he wonders if he made the right decision. It could just be coincidence and he could be jeopardizing someone who is innocent, but that is the purpose of the court martial.

            Tactically, he’s been successful. Proposing to call an end to the ceasefire the year before could have made matters worse. Increasing violence and talking less seemed to work though and moved the process to where the other side would sit down and talk peace.

Strategically, David is starting to question himself. In the event that peace does break out in the middle of all the violence, he won’t be able stop fighting. Some see negotiations as giving up and feel that David is not any better than the opposition.

            David hears Martin leave through the front door. He knows that someone’s life is now at stake, if not even more so, his own. He twists his wedding ring around few times before taking it off. He puts the ring back on his finger and places his hands on his face. He draws his hands down to his mouth and sighs. He thinks about Abbi. That Martin was right. His decision to not tell Martin all along that Abbi has been getting information was wrong, but not worthy of his reaction.

            “He’s just lookin’ out for her best interest.” David talks to himself. “I should’ve known better.” He sits up. “Right.” He stands

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You Put An Arrow Through My Heart

PMC 1991 War Memorial Arena Johnstown PA

Six o'clock and the Souls of Gypsies bar in the Strip District slowly fills with both excited music and hockey fans. 90's hair band Oyster Jelly is on the road again for their 20 year reunion tour and the Penguins have made the hockey playoffs. The crowd is an amalgam of black and gold clothed hockey fans and others trying to fit into those acid washed, ripped, laced jeans with teased-out big hair. 

Upstairs, past the reserved sign, is a private bar with liquor and beer at the ready. The first few of the special guests arrive and opens the  musical time capsule of hair band memories.  

"Do you remember that time? Who was it? oh, I think it was in Cleveland?" Kritsen, the still over-bleached blonde rambles seemingly to herself until...

"Kristi, is that who I think it is?!?" The dread headed brunette, clad in one of those Mexican drug cartel sweatery things that everyone wore but were so completely uncomfortable, grabs Kristi by her arm and drags her to the bar.

"I told you, it's Kristen now!" She elbows Anna before smiling at two men already two beers deep at the bar. 

"You ... two ... look ... awesome!" Each word is exaggerated by the muscular silver-haired man who still sports a diamond stud in his left ear. 

"Aidan!!" She exclaims as he scoops her into his toned arms. 

"Anna, you have not changed one bit, has she Rett?

Rett nods his head side to side as Kristen makes her way next to him. His slicked back hair, white shirt, grey vest, tattoos, and beard are a far cry from the mile-high Aqua-net hair and all leather outfits that he used to sport. "Have you even combed your hair since last period of Mrs. Miller's English class?" 

"Rett, that's so..." Kristen begins.

"...So like the asshole we all remember." Anna downs a quick shot of whiskey before slamming it on the bar. "You guys remember Jayne that photographer? Wonder what ever happened to her? Damn, she used to get us into all the great shows."  

Aidan takes a long swig of his beer. "You're kidding right?" 

"No. I never saw her after Paper Dragons broke up. But then again, we all kind of went our own ways after that." Anna takes another shot of whiskey from the bar and waits for his reply. 

"Aren't you the one who started the rumor about her breaking up the band?" Aidan puts his arms around Kristen's shoulder. "I think Jeff invited her tonight since she did kind of make this happen." His smirk caps the sentence.

Anna downs her shot. "Are you serious?" She pulls back her dreads and holds her breath for a second. "Are you shitting me? Why did he invite her?"

A clamor is heard downstairs right before an entourage appears at the stairs. Aidan get one final word in: "Scared?" 

The moment is quickly drowned out by all of Oyster Jelly and a small army of former girlfriends, roadies, members of other bands,  and managers. Four men, dressed in vinyl, leather, leopard print converse,  shiny scarves, boots, and hair teased to perfection still carry their aura of glam: Oyster Jelly have arrived. The quiet scene quickly becomes cacophonous. 

Anna stares at the ground as she is knocked around by everyone finding a spot at the bar. The three shots she's had are sobered out of her at the thought of seeing Jayne. Jayne. Oh my god...

"Jayne?! The one and only? You look amazing. How are you? I'm so sorry for your loss. How is Bowie?" The questions seem to go on and on in nauseating spirals around Anna who hasn't laid eyes on the woman yet. She is oblivious that the lead singer of Oyster Jelly, Rokk Steady himself, Jeff Monroe, is standing beside her, tapping his fingers on the bar, his espresso colored hair perfectly feathered and glued in place.

"Too much whiskey again, Ann?" He lowers his head down to finally meet her eyes that embarrassingly peer up from the floor. Jeff holds his arms out waiting for a hug.

"I'm sorry Jeff. My mind was somewhere else." She enters into the hug halfheartedly. "Are you wearing icy hot?"

Jeff laughs as he takes a beer from a bucket on the bar. "I think I pulled my groin trying to do one of those high kicks off the riser. Gonna be a bitch later if I want to take anyone back to the Hyatt." He sighs when Anna doesn't laugh. "Go talk to her." 

"Who?" Anna reaches down the bar for a bottle of beer. "I don't know what you're talking about." As the bottle almost reaches her mouth, Jeff grabs it. "What are you..."

"Jayne! Anna and I were just talking about you." He saves the bottle from dropping to the floor right before Anna steps on Jeff's boot."It was totally worth it." Jeff tosses the bottle onto the bar before embracing the petite gypsy-looking woman in jeans, t shirt, and a scarf.

His arms wrapped tight around her, Jayne's muffled voice is heard, "Are you smelling my hair?" She begins to laugh . 

"You were always the only one who didn't smell like an old man bar." Jeff hold her shoulders, his smile only fading when there is a commotion downstairs. 

"Glad to finally see you after all those calls to get this gig off." She wipes at the corner of his eye. "You could never get the smudge right on your eyeliner." She moves a few hairs into place. "

Anna remains close to the bar watching Jeff and Jayne share a few more words before separating. She kicks her foot into the ground when Jeff moves Jayne’s coppery-brown bangs away from her eyes. The quick, but history revealing, kiss ends their meeting before Jayne turns, their eyes meeting for the first time in 20 years.

Jayne makes her way towards the bar, stopping twice to greet old acquaintances. The thirty seconds for her to cross the precipice of twenty years feels like forever to Anna. Her annoyance shows itself in her red face.

“Don’t worry, Anna, even though I’d like to stab both of your eyes out with a fork and feed them to you, I’m Buddhist so even thinking that is completely against my beliefs. Besides, I am total believer in karma.” Jayne extends her hand to Anna. “I think we’ve successfully avoided each other for long enough.” Anna finally takes Jayne’s hand. 

The two shake hands cautiously. "Well if Toxin and Hysteria can put aside their differences to open for Oyster Jelly...then I guess you"

"Lying to the man I loved and a Poison, Def Leppard cover band putting aside their differences to play," Jayne's voice steadily rises , "are two completely fucking life altering different things!" She stops and continues, her voice more calm. "You have no idea what your lie did."

Anna crosses her arms. "Jayne. We were young. I loved Aaron, too."

Jayne laughs. "No, you wanted to have sex with Aaron, you didn't love him. I did. And so you made up this lie that he had sex with Kristen and I had sex with his new lead singer of the band!" Jayne crosses her arms too. 

A tall brunette with piercing blue - grayturns to watch the conversation that is unraveling. Ringed fingers tightly grip a Budweiser bottle as the tension mounts. 

The bartender places a line of shots on the bar. Jayne grabs one and downs it in one quick gulp before slamming it on the bar and grabbing another. "Your lie broke up the band. Anna, you drove an arrow through my heart. I never saw Aaron again." She takes the next shot with no hesitation. "And I hope to whatever hole you crawled out of that you never saw him again either."

Rett, Aidan, and Kristen interrupt. "So, ladies, we're gonna head over with the band. Did you...did you to ...wait?" Rett makes guitar player faces as he asks the question, already knowing the answer he wants to hear

"I will st..."

Jayne interrupts Anna. "Go. We're done. I can find my own way over." She turns her back to all of them and places her elbows on the bar and signals for the bartender. 

"No, just leave her alone, Anna." Kristen intervenes behind Jayne. The muted "thank you" is heard from the bar. The three walk away leaving Jayne alone at the bar that is slowly emptying for the opening act. 

"She'll take death in the afternoon, please. Absinthe and champagne, just like Hemingway." The tall brunette glances at Jayne. 

"Aaron? Erin?!? Is this a joke?" She looks around to see if anyone is watching. 

"No," he whispers, "it is me." 

Jayne looks Aaron up an down, taking stock of the heels, skirt, dress shirt, and a touch of makeup. "Wow. You look amazing." She carefully puts her hands on Aaron's arms, like he will disappear if she isn't gentle

"I didn't know if you were coming and I wanted to hide from everyone...I don't do this all the time or anything, not that there is anything wrong with ..."

The shock wears off and Jayne latches herself onto Aaron. "If you weren't so damn tall in those heels I would kiss you." She sniffles a few times. 

Aaron takes off his heels, making him less tall in comparison to petite Jayne. Aaron pulls her closer to him. "I thought it was is something I said or something I did. I had no idea Anna was behind all of this for a few years." He squeezes her closer to him, causing one more sniffle holding back tears to break free. "You've had a good twenty years." 

She softly pushes away from him, the first tear escapes, but is swept away by Aaron. "It could have been so different."

"I'm sorry about your husband. I read about it, I came so close to reaching out to you. How is your son? It must be hard on him."

Jayne dramatically places her face into Aaron's chest and begins to laugh. "You did a nice job on the 38 C's." She stands again and wipes away more tears. "Aaron, I did, I tried to find you." Those big eyes that stole his hear years ago look up at Aaron's piercing steel eyes.   

Aaron's hands shift lower on Jayne's back. "I was so angry. And then so embarrassed when I found out it was all a lie..."

"But you didn't..." Jayne tries to interrupt. 

"No. I should have known better because I knew you better than that. It was just. It was a stupid time and we were all so young. And then by the time I was ready to talk to you, well, you were married and had your son." He runs his fingers through Jayne's hair. 

Jayne takes a deep breath and releases it very slowly. "Your son."

They stare at each other. Around them last drinks are finished. A few of the reunion goers have had too much to drink already and have a bit of a challenge making it to the stairs. Life goes on around Aaron and Jane

Aaron blinks his eyes a few times. "I'm sorry, Jayne. What?"

"I named him Bowie," Jayne begins but find it difficult to talk and try not to cry. "Because you loved Bowie." She doesn't even try to stop the tears now as they flow down her face, her heroin chic copper eyes shadow melts into her eyeliner and mascara. 

"Jayne. Why didn't I ... ? But I thought..." Tears begin to fill his eyes and both of them look like commercials for non-waterproof mascara. "I have a son?"

Jayne grabs a few napkins and blots both of their faces. "I had left for Bosnia right after our little world fell apart. I was so sick in the Holiday Inn where we lived. Dave..."

Aaron asks, "That was your husband?"  

Jayne shakes her head yes. "Eventually. We didn't hit it off at first. He thought I was the wanna be photographer, knocked up, and fresh off heartbreak road." She sighs. "I didn't know how you would take it. If you believed Anna or not. And Dave and I really ended up becoming close. Only he and Bowie know. And after Dave died, Bowie really wanted me to find you. He's got your heart, Aaron." Jayne looks away and laughs to herself. "You're going to tell me your happily married with five kids and live in... Connecticut, aren't you?"

He smiles. "Divorced lawyer with no kids and I live in Jersey City." He moves Jayne's hair out of her eyes, his hand coming to rest under her chin. "With room for a mother of one who had her heart broken twenty years ago."

Just as twenty years of not knowing, tears, anger, and loneliness are sealed happy in a kiss, Anna rushes upstairs, drink in hand

She yells downstairs, "I found it!" and rushes to the bar. She stops cold as Jayne and Aaron passionately kiss. 

She dramatically grabs her purse off the bar. "You've got to be kidding me!?" She runs off, half drunk, shouting "Jayne's making out with some chick!" About three steps into her run back downstairs, Anna misses a step and then her glass can be heard clinking down the steps.

"That's karma, Anna," yells Jayne, before smiling again at Aaron. 

"You mind if I get changed before we head to the show?" Aaron picks up his shoes.

"Sure. Can I borrow that skirt?" Jayne bites her lip and raises her eyebrows as she asks. 

"I think that's the same way our conversation started twenty years ago." Aaron takes a sip of Jayne's drink that hasn't been touched. 
"Wow, this is powerful."

Jayne takes the glass and tries a sip as well. "Oh my god that is so good...oh actually, it was your lipstick. You had this rose shade of Revlon lipstick that was to heaven.  

They finish the drink and walk away from the empty bar to the applause of happy hockey fans cheering on the game below.