At Swim, Two Boys drabble written for Rochefort, based on this icon.
“I say, MacMurrough, are you listening to me?”
MacMurrough turned back to his companion. The tedious fellow was all he had for company at the moment, and his own thoughts kept talking over the monotone voice. He pulled on his Abdulla and looked out the window of the moving train through the ensuing smoke. They were passing through England, on their way to Holyhead. From there, a boat would take them to Dublin. Back to Dublin, back from a long journey. He tried thinking of his time in America, he tried remembering the young man he had met at one reading – sensitive eyes, sensuous mouth, sensational tongue – but only one face he could picture in his mind, a face not seen for ten years, a face that will not leave him until Purgatory take him, a face that awaits him in his eternity in Hell. He heard the young voice, its intensity not lessened through the years; it grew more and more insistent as he grew more and more frustrated.
“MacEmm, you wouldn’t leave that way without saying anything, sure you wouldn’t?”
He had meant to, of course. Meant to leave, meant to forget, to never think again, but of course, the boy was craftier than himself. He could not resist those eyes, the hair that flopped so in the front and tickled on the skull. He could almost feel the soft, brick-like texture of the shaven neck, the silky, rain-washed locks that found their way back with every shake. The night, the cool sea breeze, the wine, the breath, the boy. Two boys, in love. And himself in love, and torn that way. What had been that poem that he spoke to Jim? Something about the sea, he knew, and later, as he sat the endless nights and days in prison, Jim’s small figure hunched against his, it kept coming back to him, again and again, like a lullaby that Nanny Tremble used to sing to make him sleep.
My grief on the sea, how the waves of it roll,
For they heave between me, and the love of my soul.
“MacMurrough, you sure are a tedious fellow, you know that? Poet or no poet, you simply refuse to carry on a conversation with me. Am I just a piece of arse for you, then?”
And my love came behind me, he came from the South,
His breast to my bosom, his mouth to my mouth.
It had been red wine that he had sipped that night. He’d sipped his wine and held his boy, his boy that he could not protect, his boy that wasn’t his at all, his boy, his…
He got up and walked out into the hallway, leaving the man to stare incredulously after him.
Jim Mack and Doyler Doyle. Somewhere, in the Irish sea, the blue, gray, silent sea, their ghosts still swept the waves, their love still haunted the wind, their spirits still swam against the tide.
And his shadow still lurked among the rocks, crouching and hiding, in shame, in prison, in love.
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