Aoibheann McCann is a native of County Donegal. She moved to Galway in 1992 where she attended NUIG.She published her first poem in 1995 in The Edge and went on to write the ‘Blow-In’s Guide to Galway’ column in Xposed , followed by the ‘Let’s Talk About..’ column in The Galway Independent. She has been working on her first novel, ‘Hippocampus’ for the past few years.
The damp is penetrating my skirt so I shift over slightly. The circular iron railing around the tree opposite barely obscures the carvings. Jagged hearts cover the bark, Sharon hearts Sean. I imagine Sean scowling in his tracksuit when the others point it out to him laughing, spitting out the cider from their mouths in the process. Sharon crying when he texts her to say it’s over.
I check my phone again, I’ve been here for eleven minutes precisely. I have to squint to see the screen. The park at lunchtime seemed safe and also somewhat romantic. Now it’s just bleak, post rain and children are screaming in school playground.
My date is John41, dark hair, GSOH who works in the post office. Clare had been lingering over my shoulder as I typed. It was the same website where she had met Gerard or ‘Ger43’. Now they were engaged she had no time for me being single.
I hadn’t given him my phone number. He could be a stalker. I look through scarce brown leaves on the tree and stare up at the apartments opposite. Maybe he is there in the window spying on me through a telescope. Whose idea had it been to meet here, his or mine? Maybe he meets all his victims here. I shout ‘STOP’ in my mind. Mena, my counsellor, had taught me this. It is a technique to stop scary thoughts. I had gone for counselling last year as Clare had been going. It had changed her life she said. I start into my sandwich.
As if summoned by the magic of my hunger he sits down. I am trying to swallow the egg and cress, wishing I could come up with a witty opening line.
‘Sorry I’m late’, he says sideways. ‘You know yourself’.
I nod, not sure that I do know myself. Mena said I definitely don’t.
‘I didn’t think you’d be still here,’ he says. I offer him half a sandwich from it’s triangular plastic home. He waves it away.
I can’t think of anything to say so I take an even bigger bite, covering my mouth with my hand automatically. He takes this as a cue to keep talking. He tells me about all the dates he’d been on, the disasters, the disappointments. What his ideal woman would be like, his past failures. I watch out for clues, hints within his body language that will reveal his murderous intentions. The sandwich is nearly finished, he looks at his watch.
‘I must be off now ‘, he says.
He stands up and backs off awkwardly. I wait until he leaves the park, chewing on the last bite 33 times.
He emails me when I get back to the office. He wants me to meet him again, I was a great listener, he types. I don’t reply. I tell Clare he didn’t turn up. She suggests I join her book club.