Bláthín and the Sea Who Loved Her
By Róisín Finnegan (16), Holy Faith Secondary School, Clontarf, Dublin
Photograph: Getty Images
When at last I left it was late.
Late didn’t exist just because adults said it was so. It was a time, and a place too if you thought about it a lot, which I liked to.
I tried to tell the grey children who lived outside our house this secret which only I knew, but they were silent and cold, at least until the Sun stood up. Even then they were still.
“Rocks,” said Daideo.
“Yer talking to rocks, girl. Yer as mad as yer mother before ye.”
Late meant the Sun sat down again, which meant it got dark. But God had gotten bored like I did when Mamó tried to make me sew and had poked holes into the sky with the needle he used to sew up the Earth and our hearts, and there were dots where Heaven’s light poked through, and those were stars.
Late is where the Moon lived.
She had a round pale face like mine, and she was awfully quiet, so it was mostly I that spoke. I spoke to her for hours, until the Sun started standing again. The Sun took a while to stand, especially in the winter, when his knees got sore from the cold, so the sky would start dying in the way the leaves did in autumn until the Sun brought back the blue. I spoke to the Moon until then.
In the morning, my eyes would be heavy and grey like the rainclouds, and Mamó yelled at me. All the adults did the same thing though, just in crowded rooms that smelled sharp, with everyone clutching glasses and laughing too loud and singing until they cried.
Mamó and Daideo and the old people that drifted into and out of the house we lived in called me Bláthín, because that’s what Mammy and Daddy had called me, and they were trying to keep things the same way they were before they had left.
“That child’s not right,” Uncle Paddy said every time he came over.
“Yeh know she’s not right, Ma. Eleven years old and she never plays, never sleeps, and she’s talking to everything but people.”
“Tis only an overactive imagination she has. Is it my fault there are no little ones around to entertain her?” Mamó asked sharply.
“She’s a bother to herself,” Uncle Paddy warned.
“Yeh know she is. She’s having trouble staying in her own head.”
“Whist, Paddy, whist. She’s always listening in.”
Mammy and Daddy live in two places now, down beneath the ground and up in the air, behind the sky with God. They were buried in Cork, where I had lived before Mamó and her raining eyes brought me to Kerry, surrounded by some nice tall ladies who wore green, who danced to stop everyone crying so much. I asked them, last time we went to visit them, I asked them if they sang too.
“She’s talking to the” – (he swore) – “trees now. Jesus wept,” Uncle Paddy muttered in Mamó’s ear.
Daddy had stayed too long in the room that smelled sharp and laughed too loud and sang until he cried so much that when he was driving himself and Mammy home he couldn’t see and had bumped into a tree. They had both then decided to go live both behind the sky with God and below the earth, and the guards had found me at home two days later, falling asleep because I was hungry.
But nobody talks about that, so I shouldn’t either.
The person you love, Mammy had once told me, was the one who was always there. You loved them despite yourself, then. But I was always there, by Dadeo’s side as he went about the farm, and he didn’t seem to love me any more.
And Mamó’s eyes turned into thunderstorms, angry and full of rain, if she looked at me too long, so I guessed she didn’t love me either, because you shouldn’t love someone who keeps making your eyes water just by looking at them.
“It is obvious, Bláthín, that they can’t love you because you are currently already being loved too much by someone else,” the Moon said one night.
“There is someone out there in the world who loves you so much, too much, that nobody else is able to love you. It was the same problem with your mother and father.”
I asked what I could do.
“Oh, ask them to stop, I suppose. Politely.”
So I asked who this person was.
And the Sky went silent.
The Moon knew who it was that loved me too much, but wasn’t allowed to say.
“It just isn’t fair to Fate,” she said.
“Can’t you just be happy to both know and not know for a little while?”
I couldn’t. I couldn’t be two things, both above and below as my parents were. I had to know.
“Alright, I’ll find out for you. Start sleeping, Bláthín,” the Moon urged.
“Promise me you’ll start sleeping, and I’ll wake you when the time is right.”
The grey around my eyes had start to hurt my head so I agreed and promised, and spent the nights in nothingness for a while.
“For the love of God stop!” Mamó screamed.
I was just outside the kitchen door, speaking to the Rocks again, telling them about Sleep.
“Isn’t it bad enough I lost yer mother without yeh losing your” – she swore – “mind in front of me! Get out! Yeh heard me, get out of my sight until you can learn to behave!”
The Rocks stayed silent and still, and I got out of her sight.
That night the Moon woke me.
“Bláthín, dear. Bláthín, my dear. Let Sleep be, it’s time to go.”
I woke, drew away from Sleep, and went to the window to see her.
“I have just discovered who it is who loves you so! It is the Sea who loves you, Bláthín. Hurry, now! Hurry, dear! Go to him, ask him to calm, and all will be well.”
And so I hurried to grab the note I had prepared and rushed downstairs still in my nightgown.
When at last I left it was late.
The sea had been in Cork, and had stayed by the car window for some of the journey, hurrying after me. It had found me again, now living just a few minutes away, in our little house, and though it had lacked the words to speak it called to me with the sounds of waves, the low croon of the wind rushing over it.
I slowed once I had reached the sand.
It was dark in a blue way and the cold was beneath my skin. The water bit my feet but then slid coolly over them, over my ankles, my calves. There was a small breeze but it was only interested in my hair and nightgown, so I let it be. The Moon had followed me, wide-eyed and strange and silent as she observed the scene.
Then I saw him sitting there, amid the long darkness in front of me.
He was sitting in the middle of the waves, playing the piano. The notes sounded heavy and dust-choked, but I didn’t mind. He was made of shadows and water, though he looked kind. I sat down to listen to him play and the water kissed my chin.
He kept playing as he spoke.
“Is your name Bláthín?”
“It is,” I replied.
“ Don’t I love you?”
“You do,” I said.
“ Too much.”
The words on my note had started to cry so I told him myself what our problem was. He listened, then nodded in understanding.
“I apologise,” he said. “I hadn’t known anyone else wanted to love you. I promise they will be able to now.”
He played on and I started shivering. The music was rolling down my cheeks and nose, making the water colder.
“Do stay for a little while, though,” he said. “Do stay and be loved for a little while. Why don’t we look at the stars? Lie down, Bláthín, and name a few. I’ll join you when the song is done.”
So I lay down to name some stars but they all went blurry above me. So I waited for them to come back, or for the song to end. I waited a while.
Dadeo pulled me up into the sharp coldness and suddenly I was very awake and my lungs hurt. I was breathing deeply, coughing, crying.
“Look at the child!”
People were yelling. And swearing. Loudly. Over and over.
“What is wrong with you!”
That was Mamó, standing over me, clearer than ever with her watering eyes.
“Mamó,” I said as loudly as I could.
“She’s gone and tried to drown herself! Jesus Christ, she has! Oh, Bláthín . . . Bláthín, what in God’s name is the matter with you?”
“Mamó . . . everything is alright . . . the song is done . . . you can love me now.”