Déjà Vu, by Niamh Donnellan
Joe stood at the side of the road, his guide dog by his side. The traffic roared by. It was good to feel the evening sun on his face after hours spent in the stuffy pub. His next stop was the chipper across the road, soakage for the return to his barstool until closing time. This was how he spent his days.
Before and after.
Before, because he was figuring out his path, contemplating life ahead, in no rush to make any big decisions. And there were plenty of friends in the same boat, joining in long conversations on the pros and cons of emigration, more studying, apprenticeships. So many options to be carefully considered, mulled over, and put off until another day. Then time to hit the road, walking gingerly to his car and driving home half-blinded by the drink.
After, because his decisions now involved conversations with consultants and surgeons, occupational therapists, and counsellors. A long and lonely trudge through the darkness where a pint of the black stuff was his only light. His sight gone, his future now narrowed to the width of his own imagination which was only ever good for tall tales and drunken escapades.
Such a tragedy, he’d hear them whisper, him surviving and that poor child gone. The anger writhed inside him like a living thing.
He was waiting impatiently for the staccato sound of green when a hand touched his arm. It was small and cold, a child’s hand. Sally’s tail thumped against his leg and he heard a giggle as the girl petted the dog.
‘It’s safe to cross now,’ said the little voice.
How often did anyone choose to talk to him these days? He stepped forward smiling. The lead went taut, Sally would not go.
“Come on Sally.”
“Come on Sally,” echoed softly beside him.
The little hand slipped into his and pulled him forward. He tried to stand his ground, to cajole Sally into coming with him but the little hand’s grip was too strong. The lead slipped from his grasp as he staggered onwards through the darkness, breathing exhaust fumes, feeling the drag of air in the wake of trucks swerving to avoid him.
Then screeching brakes, burning rubber, crunching bone on metal, the taste of blood and whiskey. A girl’s scream. Déja vu.
In their statements to the Gardaí, ashen-faced passers-by spoke of a drunk young man dropping his guide dog’s lead and then walking straight in front of a truck.
They winced as they described his body soaring high into the air before hitting the road with a thud. It was considered by all to have been a particularly unpleasant suicide, the general consensus being that the guilt had got to be too much for him.
There was no mention of a young girl. She hadn’t been seen by anyone. Even Joe if it came to that. Not this time, not last time.
Niamh Donnellan is a writer and poet. She is currently writing her first collection of short stories supported by Meath Arts Office and the Arts Council Agility Award.