Priorities, by Breda Hyland

Lipstick smudged in empty coffee cup.
You crush it nervously in your trembling hands,
waiting for his form in the doorway
and he does come,
and fixes his eyes firmly around the room
until he finds yours.

He beckons and you follow him.
Not waiting to hold the door open,
he hurries across the street
away from the thousand eyes of the night.
He bundles himself into his new Mercedes,
lights up a cigar and waits.

He thinks of home, his boring infertile wife,
she, a company director, with all the trappings
that he can’t live without.
But he wants more.
He watches you in the rear view mirror,
and ponders the ravages of time etched in your face.

You have the look of children
and burgers on Sundays,
wearing faded denim jeans
and worn outdated blouse
under an oversized belted raincoat.
Hard to believe you were once a follower of fashion.

Locking your door, he drives into the night air
and stops at a laneway, concealed entrance.
He’s been here before, you can tell.
In the darkness he spits his cigar from his mouth,
and heaves his obese body into your seat,
smoke breath heavy on your face.
You close your eyes and think of the money lender
and hope he’ll be satisfied in the morning.
Relaxing back in the driver’s seat,
he pulls two fifty euro notes from his inside pocket
and stuffs them into your sweaty palm.
‘I’ve had better’.
Sickness and anger rise in your throat
but you pull yourself together, look away
and think of your children,
born to deprivation,
brought up on love.

Home now, the whiff of alcohol greets you at the door.
You spot your inebriated husband
slouched in the living room.
His bloodshot eyes stare through yours.

Breda Hyland