Patsy took a seat near the boarding gate. Only glass protected her from the wind and rain. Outside, a bicycle, waiting to be loaded, wept. Planes wept long tears. She read their names, and remembered school jokes: Aer Fungus. Cunnilingus.
Omagh wept for its dead, Dundalk wept for its reputation. Hypocrites wrung their hands, said Ochón, marched, had vigils. On Radio Éireann someone had the courage to interview an ex-terrorist and, in between ads, got severely criticised for it. The terrorists may have wept for their errors. Politicians wept that no one wanted to listen to them anymore. Truck drivers wept because the Gardaí took advantage of the new security measures to check bald tires and insurance. Hoodlums wept for the restrictions on movement generally. Ireland wept, as she has always wept, and wondered if this time it would make any difference, if once and for all the weeping would stop.
Mother was wondering what would be done with her wedding rings when she died, waiting for Patsy to express interest in having them. Patsy often said rings made her feel like a pigeon.
“You could wear them as a pendant.”
Patsy said nothing. Mother got on to another tack.
“Costs a fortune to repatriate a body, you know,” Mother said, “and you with no insurance or nothing.”
Patsy waited. The storm wasn’t directed only at her, it reflected Mother’s preoccupations about herself and a future she would be obliged to abandon.
Patsy took it all in: the dark room, the light spilling in from the adjoining conservatory choked with geraniums (Aunt Dillie insisted they were pellargoniums), a Democrat lying abandoned on the floor, the medicalised bed with the hoist.
Aunt Dillie served Mother a tray of lunch. She avoided Patsy’s eye.
“Salt and pepper,” Mother snapped the instruction at Dillie – as she often did – in between asking Patsy where she was going to and where she was coming from and, above all, who with.
Dillie bustled out to hang a few objects of clothing over a line in the conservatory. Outside the rain pelted down.
“I’m paralysed from the waist down, you know,” Mother said. Patsy knew this already. The whole province knew.
Mother slobbered her food, hollow-eyed. Her legs and feet were wrapped, enormous.
Father came in and stood, damp, in pullover, jeans and wellington boots, his child’s head grey now, his pink boy’s face with crow’s feet around the eyes.
“Fancy seeing you here,” was all he said to Patsy, immediately rushing to tend to Mother.
Mother described neighbouring mothers with devoted children: “She has them all around her.”
Heading for the airport Patsy sang loudly with the car radio, a song from her childhood she didn’t know she knew: “And nobody knows I am crying, for I’m walking the streets in the rain.”
Outside the boarding-gate windows, their plane disgorged and waited. A Shell truck began to nourish it. Both wept.
Mother had said – watching Aunt Dillie through the window – “You’ll shrink like that. All his people do.”
Suddenly her flight was being called. Patsy stood, straightened her shoulders, vowed to do yoga.
They picked up speed for takeoff and the plane boiled the runway water into fog. Patsy and the others were borne upwards.
Aer Fungus wept. Cunnilingus wept. Ryanair, Cityjet, Jaguar and Lear Jet wept.