Tuesday 22 January 2019

'We are adulterers probably in no more than thought'

Exclusive extract from Vertigo

Vertigo by Joanna Walsh
Vertigo by Joanna Walsh

'If I stopped swimming to tread water enough to raise my head, if I inflated my lungs enough to call to them, I would no longer be able to pull against the current, and then the shouting would not be loud enough, not in the right language, and do no good, and, even if they are good people, and attentive, they may not be able to act in time.

If I drown, whose fault will it be? The fault of the waves, the lack of a sign, the fear inspired by the sign, lack of sufficient muscle? Does it matter whose fault it is? But there is not much time to regret other people, their actions or inactions. Isn't drowning itself enough for one day?

Here we are, in the present, me in here and you, with the children, on the other side, two amongst others. We have got this far and we are not mad.

We are not drunks or drug addicts (though perhaps we should be). We do not shout in the street, and when you stand next to us on the bus we do not smell bad.

We are not murderers, or rapists, or paedophiles. We are adulterers probably in no more than thought. We do not take things without paying at the self-checkout tills in supermarkets. Some of us don't even jaywalk.

We don't steal milk from other people's doorsteps, even when our own has gone; and if we see a cheap lost necklace in the street, we drape it over a nearby wall or post so it won't get crushed and so that the owner will be able to see it if she comes back that way to look for it.

Despite everything, we are good people, who can hardly live in this world that continues almost entirely at our expense.

The best thing is to keep on moving arms and legs, and watch the waves, almost as though moving forward.

In this way, despair turns quickly over to happiness, and back to despair again.

And, if you reach the beach, walk back across it like everything is fine, towards your family who would not like to see the abyss you have just swum over."

Extract from Vertigo by Joanna Walsh (€10) which was published by Tramp Press last week.

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