The plane dipped and tilted, “beginning its descent” according to the tinny echo of the co-pilot’s voice. A roar growled in Danielle’s ears. Pressure building. Across the stretch of the lake below, ice spread; a solid film attempting to coat its surface, falling short in the centre. From the impossible height of her plane seat, the ice was the same iridescent rainbow oil-slick colour that topped her cold cup of coffee.
Erica had told her something about the pull of the dairy industry, about how our bodies weren’t meant to process milk. Over the peaks of mountains outside, mottled blue shades and streaks of pure white, Danielle could see why white supremacists were obsessed with milk as a symbol. Fucking Twitter poisons our brains.
Erica had said everyone’s born lactose intolerant, that milk never settles in the stomach. It wasn’t a comforting thought. Before her, Iceland would have been beautiful. After her it was snow, and ice, and jealousy of whatever place got to have her. Mountains as white as milk, a stomach that never settled.
Three months earlier in a too early hour of the morning, Danielle sat up and smoked shared cigarettes until she’d the confidence to go in for the shift and spent the night sucking on an almost anonymous tit as if it were a teat; less sexual and more urgent, starved for sustenance. That was Anne-Marie(?), the last woman she was with before she met Erica. Anne-Marie (something like that), a since-all-but-forgotten closet case tragedy who she’d shared a 5am taxi and bungalow with post-Porterhouse.
Fucking Erica had an urgency, but it wasn’t the same; an urgency of its own, not just different but incomparable. Just the thought of fucking Erica had more passion and impact, more physical ache, than actually fucking anyone else could ever have hoped to.
Sean’s friend Angela was lovely, as was the farewell drink she bought Danielle, and the comforting numbness it brought with it. Lovely, like messages from friends wishing well, like the last meal Danielle had with her family before leaving for the plane. Everything was lovely since Erica, and nothing was beautiful but Erica, splitting the two words into the universal and the specific. Body and soul. Nothing else would ever be beautiful again.
Same old love.
CATHAL GUNNING (24)- Editor @ ‘Cold Coffee Stand’, Adbusters Media Foundation. Poetry in The Rose Magazine, Lagan Online; Fiction in Tales From the Forest, The Honest Ulsterman, The Runt, Snakes of Various Consistency, The HCE Review, The Occulum, and the collection ‘From the Candystore to the Galtymore’.
Debut novel ‘Innocents’ published 2017 (Solstice). Short-listed for Maeve Binchy Travel Award and Hennessy New Irish Writing.
Image: Volkmar Gubsch via Pixabay