Things you (probably) shouldn’t tell your boyfriend:
That you once exchanged a backseat fuck for money. But it was only one of the Byrne brothers, from down the road in Glasnevin.
That your mother lives in a mental institution – St Brendan’s over in Grangegorman.
That you prefer doodling pictures on the backs of scrap envelopes to doing anything else (except maybe sleeping) and that includes talking, making love and spending time with him.
That you didn’t realise it was going to take you this long to wake up from the moment you pricked your finger on the needle of the orange portable record player down in Georges Street Arcade. That when he stepped out from behind the sandwich stall to give you a blue plaster that looked like electrical tape, you didn’t picture yourself living with him three years later. That if you had known this at the time, you might not have said yes to lunch in Stephens Green.
That when you told him you loved him you really meant you loved having him around but you were afraid if you didn’t say it back he would think you weren’t serious about him.
That you dropped out of college because you developed an intense relationship with the colour red. You painted everything red, modelled sculptures out of red plasticine, refused to do colour studies based on any other pigment and ended up developing an intense relationship with your printmaking lecturer so it got to the point where his class was the only class you weren’t failing.
That you only took the job on Arnott’s beauty counter for the free makeup and samples. That and the fact that you’ve recently discovered black and when the counter is quiet you enjoy painting small tattoos on your arm using liquid eyeliner, that you cover up when your manager is around.
That you would like to be like the red-lipstick lady (who comes in to buy Yves Saint Laurent Red Taboo) when you get old: her hair is sculptured around her head, she always wears high-heels even though she must be seventy, and her loud scarf clashes with her outfit. The kind of lady who could swear like a sailor while smiling.
That the time you texted him Too love to stay Good room, you really meant to text Too loud to stay Home soon, but your predictive text put in the wrong words and you noticed too late, the second you hit send.
That you’re bored of sweatshirts and jeans and desert boots. That you wished you looked cool, or at least interesting. Fawn-coloured, your first boyfriend once said. A fancy word for beige.
That a guy who looks like he got stuck at age sixteen bought eyeliner from you, spotted your ornate arm doodle, and asked you if you would like to do make-up for the New Duffy’s Circus. That you told him you would except you don’t approve of transporting animals around the country for the gratification of humans and he said in this circus only the humans wear chains.
That the reason you were home late is you were helping Guy put up circus posters in the city centre, on the hoardings in front of abandoned building sites, in head shops and chemists, on the notice boards of the libraries along the walk home.
That Guy has asked if you want to hit the road for the summer, help out with costumes and make-up. That even though you think he’s gay, you think you might say yes. Magic Duffy, the head honcho, said he wouldn’t pay much, but food and board would be free.
That when you watch the acrobats fly past the top of the old circus tent you can imagine yourself doing anything in this city, even the world.
That you don’t look average or boring in any way once you’re dressed up in a skin-tight PVC dress.
That it isn’t you, it’s him: his only hobby is staying home to smoke his brains to the ceiling and for a thirty-year-old he spends far too much time ringing his mother for advice. Plus you’re not sure you can listen to one more tale of what-we-did-at-the-stall-today.
That your manager is grooming you as her replacement while she’s on maternity leave but you think you’re not ready for the responsibility and you’re worried if you take over her job you might end up with her life.
That your friend Sinead who lived next door to you during the grey years of secondary school when your mother could just about keep it together (as long as you got the groceries, cooked dinner, nagged her to pay the ESB bill so it wouldn’t get cut off again, screened phone calls so she wouldn’t get any bad news) is the only person you trust with the knowledge that you once had a crush on Lois Lane.
That you’re a moonstone, picking up whatever emotional shifts waft around you, changing your colours to suit the person you’re with.
That you’re actually breaking up with him because you can’t face another night out with his friends, talking about last night’s episode of CSI while secretly wondering if that beauty spot on the side of his face is cancerous. That you never really loved him; you were just trying him out. That you’re only twenty-two and he’s not the last older man you’ll go out with. That you think the right way to do things is backwards and that’s why now that you are breaking up with him you will kiss him without thinking of anyone else and fall right in love with the smell of his skin and the way his hand feels on the small of your back.
That you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going but you like the idea of travelling around your own country as a stranger. Even the small towns and villages sound exotic: Boris-on-Ossory, Kill, Mooncoin.
That there are towns the world over that need the distraction of small circuses of tight-rope walkers and she-male baritone ringmasters, and women who can flip mid-air to grasp a bar that has swung from the other side of the tent.
That you don’t think you’ll ever know where you’re going, you’ve got too much to leave behind.