Conor is lonely and confused, and he’s forgotten his hat. His hair is wet, and the water coursing on his cheek reassures him that Belfast is the most miserable place in all of the world, and now with the rain makes it worse. Ten Major cigarettes and a box of matches are growing damp in the pocket of his oilskin.
Plodding uphill now his heart aches with things he cannot name. Such things as fear and excitation. They say it is a circle and the excitation comes first.
Conor fears that his mates will catch sight of him on the Falls Road. “Conor, where are ye off to? Going to see Madame George?” His fear is that someday they will tell, and everyone will know. At the crest of the Falls Road he reaches for the fags, then he taps one out and it takes several tries before he can fire it up. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth in the rain like this. Gummy-like. Smoldering ash stinking just under the nose, and the smoky nimbus of it sticking to his damp hair.
Tyres hiss on the roadway, splash the foot path. The RUC patrol the Falls Road, weapons at the ready, turning circles, eyes alert. Conor slowing his pace, staring ahead. They’ll pass the flat before he gets there if he walks a slow pace. Excitation as he reaches Madame George's brightly painted red door.
God forgive us. Why are we here?
He cannot find the will to look at the door, the glossy old door, but stands before it wrapping his arms around himself to fight the damp and chill. The door opens and suddenly and Madame George is standing in the threshold."Well isn’t it Conor himself. Come here to me now, I saw ye escaping the guards like a hero,” she teases him.
Madame George. Queenly George. Resplendent in her violet dress and lacey purple scarves, wearing her embroidered red hat with the spangles that shimmer when she turns her head, and the blue powder and paint surrounding her eyes. Madame George leads Conor upstairs, a quiet ascent of Persian carpeted treads, lit by sconces and a grand overhead lamp. Madame George invites him onto the sofa, and he tries to remember the second part, the part that comes after the excitation.
George comes to him, tall and mountainous George, leans over him and pats his head in a motherly way.
“Good evening love.”
“You look grand, Madame George.”
She sits at his side. Her fingers are callused but made soft with a lotion. Conor breathes the scent of cologne on her fingers, and on her wrist, and George says, “Wty, you look lovely as well,.”
Her hand on his lap, light as a feather it feels; and she leans closer to put a soft peck on his cheek. The yearning in him drives the shame away; first theexcitation, then this. It will chase the shame. He finds his warm soft hand on her thigh. “Madame George likes that,” she says; and her voice grows huskier now. “Love me, Conor,” she pleads dramatically.
Conor leans into the arms of Madame George. “Now there’s a good lad,” she says.
All is said and done as she leads him to the door, and sees him away.
The rain is colder like, and she is wearing boots, unlaced, like something a tradesman would wear. The rain is washing paint off of her face as she peers around the neighborhood, and she touches him on the shoulder one last time. Her made-up blue and violet eyes running like the Prod in the rain. She quickly scans the Falls road, and furtively closes the door behind.
“Safe home now, love. Slan go foill”
“Slan’,” he replies Conor waits until George is settled in, until she is safe from the Peelers or the gooks. He hears the heavy brogans drop to the floor, the signal, and the window is lit.
He scurries away gripping himself, shaking from the cold and the shame.
When the shame is gone, the excitation arrives again. Then the time in-between. He knows this now.
Conor hunches, hides his face within his Mac, then moves quickly along the Falls Road. It is dark now. If anyone speaks to him now, or catches his eyes, Conor will crumble and die.