Back The Way I Came - Brendan McLoughlin
All this has happened before and it will All happen again
oil on canvas,100x120cm, 2013
Michael leaves for work before the morning light has a chance to warm the grass. I feel him move beside me when the alarm goes off,
the lift in the mattress when he stands up to dress. He is unhappy, I know he is unhappy. We all are.
I usually stay in bed for an hour or two after Michael has left and then I too rise to meet the morning. The kids don’t complain, they don’t yet have the right words to describe what it is they are thinking. Too young, they will soon figure it all out, when they’re old enough to play out on the road by themselves they will venture over the wired fences and wander through the half-built houses and unplanted gardens. I want to tell them I am sorry, that I never thought we’d end up stuck here. The plan was to move on, after a while. Wait for the value to soar to some unfathomable number and then sell-up, and move back to the city where we belong.
I pile the three of them into the back of the car and drop them off at the school. They wave goodbye and walk inside. We go for coffee then – me and the other Mums – and sort out play dates and carpooling and who will be taking the kids to the park in the afternoon. It isn’t me so I finish my latte and say goodbye and thank Maura for picking the girls up. Then I get back into my car and drive home.
The sign is still at the entrance, advertising five bedroom detached houses for a steal at €500,000. The estate is called ‘Waterville’ although the sea is far from here. I pull into the driveway and look around. Half the houses on this road alone are empty. For sale signs loiter along the pavement, but I have not seen a viewing in months. Sometimes I like it here, the solace of knowing that I will not be bothered until the kids are delivered home and then Michael will come back angry and tired after a two hour commute from where he works. When I think about it, I have to laugh. How did we ever think this would work?
I make myself a cup of coffee and sit in the kitchen. The bank has been calling daily to ask why we’ve stopped paying our mortgage, reminding me that unless we start contributing something, anything, they will have no option but to take legal action against us. The nice woman on the phone reminds that repossession of the property is a very real possibility.
At about two o’clock, I grab my coat and go for a walk. I venture into what was supposed to be the social hub of this whole development. We were promised a train station, gym, supermarket – you name it, we were meant to have it, but all we have is a corner shop and a takeaway. I think of all the other people, just like us, who spend their nights lying in bed, awake angry with themselves for getting caught up in the buzz of it all.
I get confused on my way home, taking a wrong turn down a street that looks exactly like mine, but when I see the sign in the middle the road telling me that I cannot go any further I stop. It hits me. There is nowhere for us to go from here. This is our life.
I turn around and head back the way I came.
Brendan McLoughlin completed his MA in creative writing in 2015 at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast. He has gone on to secure a much sought after traineeship with Hewlett-Packard and was featured in the 'New Irish Writing' of The Irish Independent ..
For The Open University 2013 celebrations, Queens University literary scholars were invited to write a thousand words in response to a painting. Brendan McLoughlin chose this painting and wrote 'Back The Way I Came'.
He went on to to win The Hennessy New Irish Writer Award in 2014.