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Vale

What he’d like is to not be a burden

Black-aqnd-white photograph of a broken fence and detritus on a sidewalk
Willie Doherty, Future Fear VI. 2014, black and white photograph mounted on aluminum. 48 × 60”. Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York.

The derelict gate lodge out Loughingaskin Road has been a sanctuary of his for a few years, on and off, give or take, maybe more. Who the hell knows? Where does the time go anyway? He’s been knocking around the North of the Island for, what, sixteen years, his whole adulthood.

On the occasion of a row, he’ll scarper for a while from his sister’s house on the council estate. The gate lodge sits between the Park n Ride and the old bog, just to the south of the wee town. It’s a twenty-minute dander, lonesome, even next to a thoroughfare that’s more hyper than you’d think on an ordinary day. It near drives him mental to sleep that close to the traffic, with only a brick wall between himself and a lawless car, not even a fence for peace of mind or nothing. It’s fucken terrifying being woken in the middle of the night when a lorry rakes past and blows out the dark with its loud, loud motor and them powerful lights. You think you are about to get run right over. No matter how used you are to living in a wreck that’s full of holes and the cold and the shit of all manner of creatures, that’s a shock. A time or two, he pissed himself. He’s back here cos Ginka threw him out, saying there were too many in the one house and not enough room. She’s at her wit’s end with Daniel, who’s acting up, and Ani, who won’t sleep in her own bed.

Bobi’s sick of it, sick of everything. He’s on the lookout for a new spot, an alternative to the gate lodge, somewhere less hectic and less aggressive, where people don’t know where he is. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like any of it is worth the effort. On your own, things are wild hard. It’s tricky, keeping on. No one wants him, not at the moment anyway. Ginka feels guilty all right. So what? Pity never did a man real good. It’s like moving about inside an ice cube: you can’t even feel where the walls are cos you’re that numb. Nobody would give a toss if he didn’t wake one day. Even his own sister would be relieved to have got rid. There’s nowhere in this world for wonky people, he thinks, not for the first time. You’re sorted if you’re tough and useful like Ivan, who came and married a local girl.

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