“Go Trigger, Go” by Mark Kilroy

Strange how bad news can shimmy into your life like a thief, where before all had been whole. Or is that just the way we look back on things?
The day had started like most of the others since I’d arrived back in Ireland a few weeks before. I was heading for Bewley’s down Dame Street when I ran into TJ – he who could talk the hind legs off herds of donkeys at a thousand paces. Pretty soon I was getting the low-down on how Talking Bloody Heads had stolen another of his songs and all attendant details. Maybe there are courses or books on how to get away from fellas like TJ without worrying they’ll top themselves later, but I hadn’t come across any at that time.
– I mean, TJ was saying, what the fuck’s the point in me working your arse off if someone’s just going to lift…
I sympathised, varying my head movements from nodding to shaking and after a while a little sprinkling of rain started down on us, giving me hope of escape but TJ, without dropping a beat, drifted us in under the arches of the Bank of Ireland. He offered me a Gold Bond, a common occurrence this being 1988 when no one had any money and sharing smokes and tales of misery and lovers, sometimes, was the order of the day.
– Bastards, I said about some dole problem he was having, noticing how the spits of rain showed up on his wonky glasses like tiny bombs.
– You haven’t heard the half of it, he snorted.
I looked across at Trinity College for comfort and started counting the top windows but I had to gave up when the passing buses kept on making me lose count.
And then he said it.
– Jesus, man, I nearly forgot. Did you hear about Trigger?
Just her name was enough to bring me around.
– She died, man. Couple of days ago.
My stomach rushed up into my chest. Someone in Keogh’s had said she was back in Dublin but I hadn’t enquired further in case they thought I still had a thing for her.
A bus roared past, almost drowning out my question.
– She died?
TJ shook his head, taking it slowly now. Said he’d heard she’d picked up something in New York, a blood thing or something, and how it was only last night he’d learned she’d flat-lined up in St James’s.
– Didn’t really know her like you did, he said.
Flat-lined? I felt like hitting him till he took back the words.
A year Trigger and I had been together, drinking in the college bar, falling home to the flat in Rathmines.
– Fucking tragic, TJ was saying. I mean, twenty five!
If Trigger was getting buried, I wanted to be there.
I ran across the road in the drizzle to Lucky Coady’s for a newspaper. There it was, mass in Blackrock at eleven. TJ came up behind me saying if you’re going up there, man, I’ll go with you. I hadn’t the heart to tell him to fuck off with himself so he limped along beside me, knowing not to talk.

We sat up on top on the 46A, the gardens and houses startlingly clear after the rain. Years since I’d been out that way. TJ coughed and looked out the window.
It made no sense but I was thinking that maybe Trigger dying was how I found myself back in Dublin, that everything was connected in some sort of convoluted way I couldn’t understand.
She was never one for holding down, though her parents were always trying. Everyone knew about them. She’d laugh and drink – boy, how she’d drink! – her way through bizarre stories about mother and father, then sidle home the next morning.

St John the Baptist’s was serving up a hymn as we snuck in. I’ve always feared hymns. I managed to lose TJ and sat down at the back. It was all a bit overpowering, the drudging music, the dark backs of the people, the coffin. Lilies, of course they’d put lilies on it for their pure white daughter.
I picked out eight or ten of her friends, looking as unkempt and uncomfortable as I was, eyes down as the priest went on about how Jean – a betrayal to hear that name again – how Jean had moved on to a better world now, and looking around me at that moment, I felt he just might have been right.
I was calling up Trigger’s face – and how I kissed it – and the laugh she had ready for all the absurdities of the world, when – far too quickly it seemed – they were wheeling her coffin out, down the aisle like a backwards film. A little bit of me was dying too as I looked up at the sun streaming in the patterned glass.
Her parents didn’t stop at the door to receive our condolences, which surprised no one. Outside, I took a step or two towards them but the mother turned her back.
We hung around, we younger ones, passing around smokes, smoothing the gravel with our feet, making small talk stretch.
– When did you get back? Mac asked me.
Big guy, face like a bull. I told him a week ago though it had been three.
The coffin slid into the hearse.
Then I saw Ellie, Trigger’s best friend. She was in bits. I went over to say hi and she touched my arm as she watched them closing the hearse door.
– They wouldn’t let me see her in the hospital.
I put my arm around her.
– They think it’s my fault, Ellie said. She was only trying to live her life. I sneaked in and I sat there and held her hand. You know she was six and a half stone in the end?

It was the same up at the graveyard. Her father stared at us as we approached, but this time, after the priest had finished, I went up to them. They seemed so small.
Trigger’s mother sniffed and held onto her husband.
– I’m very sorry, I said. Jean was a wonderful person.
Nothing, then she looked up at me for a moment, remembering her manners.
– Yes.
Did they remember me, I wondered. Trigger had once introduced me as a possible boyfriend but it hadn’t gone well.
– We all liked her very much, I said.
They turned away, careful steps, slow steps, side by side, and I felt rotten.
Someone suggested McCormack’s for a coffee, and though it was strange to be leaving Trigger, I knew she wasn’t really there.
Coffee, of course, turned out to be drinks, and we stayed there downing pints for the afternoon. Half the talk was about Trigger, half about nothing at all.
Four or five of us made it back to town and straight into Keogh’s. I wanted to ask Ellie what happened to Trigger but Mac was always there, lighting her cigarettes, leaning in whenever she looked like talking. There was laughing too, remembering the old madcap days. As none of us knew how to do a wake we just got smashed and let the ghosts look after themselves.
A few pints later and our money was running out. Paul, the company messer, was caught fingering through someone’s jacket and got us thrown out.
– Come on! he shouted, waving a twenty pound note in the cold, night air. Up to Grogan’s!
We ran all the way for the hell of it, TJ yelping with delight. I was back home in Dublin, pissed as a newt.

At some point in Grogan’s, I slipped outside into the street. There was a circus going on in my head and I just wanted to stand there in the dark and let some of the sadness out. Everyone dies I said to myself over and over until it was just words.
Her kisses really were the best.
The bar door flapped opened and I turned to see Ellie coming out.
– Are you okay?
– Sure I am, I said. How are you?
She put a hand into my pocket.
– Got a cig?
I shook my head and she stepped back.
– What are you doing back here? she said, swaying a little.
I started to tell her about an interview for a job – gold dust in those days – but she was too drunk to listen.
I put an arm out and helped her to the wall beside me.
– Trigger was my best friend.
I said I knew she was. I said she’d been a very good friend to her.
A rowdy group passed, distracting her for a moment.
– You know I went to see her in New York? She was working in a bar, with all her brains!
– Yeah, I heard that.
– She talked about you one night. About that whole mix up when you were splitting up.
Why did she have to say that?
– What was wrong with her, Ellie?
She put her head back, lost to the world.
– Yeah, she was really happy over there. Till her parents got a number for her, and kept on calling and calling, saying, it’s time to come home now Jean!
She looked away, her face crumpling.
– Ellie?
– The nurse said there were needle marks but Trigger wasn’t into that. She used to joke about her death wish, but she was always laughing at things… She knew she was sick. That’s why she came back.
The bar door thumped open: Mac came out, pint in hand, jolting down the steps.
– There you are.
I said hi, but he only had eyes for Ellie. He put an arm around her and looked at me.
– She’s lovely, isn’t she?
– Yeah.
He smiled and pulled her in but Ellie wouldn’t let him kiss her.
– Hey! Mac said, getting a little annoyed.
Ellie turned back to me.
– You know what six and a half stone looks like?
I shook my head.
– Come on, Mac said. Let’s go inside.
Ellie began gesturing with her hands, trying to show me.
– Ellie, Mac said sternly. You’re getting upset now.
– You not upset, Mac? I heard myself say.
I straightened up a bit.
– Fuck off, John.
Couldn’t even get my name right.
Ellie groaned as Mac moved forward. I thought he was just going to say something smart but the next thing he’d punched me in the face and I was down on the path and Ellie was shouting and I thought what an awful fucking mess everything was. I stood up, not backing away.
Mac had Ellie’s arm and was starting for the door. She was too far gone to object and I just stood there, my head thumping blood.

I never went for that interview. A few days later I borrowed a bike and cycled out to Deansgrange cemetery. Something felt unfinished.
It was a mild day in March. A contrail ribboned across the sky as I walked through the headstones. I can smile at it now but it really bothered me that I couldn’t find her grave. Up and down the little paths I went – wasn’t that the tree we stood beside? In the end I had to go back to the office for help.
– New, is it? the man asked.
– Yeah. Last Wednesday.
He thumbed to the end of a ledger with slow, crooked fingers.
– Seventy-six C. It hasn’t been finished off yet.

I stood over the plot, the earth brown and ready for whatever the wind might blow in.
I could feel the watch in my pocket ticking in the palm of my hand and wondered what I was doing there.
– Good luck, she said.
I didn’t answer. A breeze ruffled round me.
– You’re right to be leaving.
I hunkered down by the earth for a moment, the big blue sky leaning down on me, everything lost and new.

Biographical Note
– I have written the screenplays for (and directed) two fiction films, “Hard Shoulder” (Channel 4/RTE) and “Double Carpet” (IFB/RTE) which were screened at the IFI and broadcast on RTE and Channel 4.
– I have written several short stories. “Bog People” was published in the Sunday Tribune (and shortlisted for a Hennessey Award in 2008), and “How Big is the Sea?” was published in Southword 5.
I read a story, “Alterations” in the Lonely Voice series in March ’10. It was published in the Tribune’s New Irish Writing page in July ’10 and is shortlisted for a Hennessy Award this April.
– I have completed a novel, “Blue on Blue” which is with an agent seeking publication.

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