All Changed, Changed Utterly…

The sister has come to New York for the summer. She has just finished with the boyfriend. She is heart-broken, but on the first night I do not see. She calls him a prick and down shots of duty-free Smirnoff. I ask about home. She tells me there is no news, nothing has changed.
Jane moves in with her friends in Queens. She gets a job in a restaurant in midtown. Chicken wings and hamburgers. White shirt, black pants. She has to buy some comfortable shoes. Black she says, but she buys brown. No one will notice I tell her. She couldn’t give a fuck anyway.
One night I make dinner nice for her. Spaghetti Bolognese. Sauce from scratch. I tell her to eat. She cries. Her cell phone rings, she is relieved to leave the table. She disappears into my bedroom for an hour and returns nourished. He has given her a morsel. She takes me to Queens so she can show me where she is staying. The second floor of a house on a highway by a park. I say it’s nice, she says it’s fine. We go to an Irish diner. I order the Irish breakfast. Sausages and rashers and pudding and eggs and baked beans and brown bread and tea. She orders tea. She looks out the window while I alternate forkfuls of the various flavors into my mouth. I dream about this stuff I tell her. She rolls her eyes. I only wish they fried the pudding instead of grilling it. Americans are so health conscious. If you are going to eat processed pigs blood, you may as well fry it oil. Ideally, the egg should be fried after, in the same pan. I dunk a piece of sausage into the runny yolk of the egg. Is there anything better in this world then the runny, yellow yolk of an egg? Jane goes outside to smoke a cigarette.
I watch her through the window smoking in the sudden summer shower. She is wearing an old grey T-shirt and some faded jeans. She does not feel the rain. She is staring out onto Queen’s Boulevard. All the people from all over the world pass in color. She does not see them. I want her to see them because I saw them. I want her know that I came here too when I was young and saw people who did not look like Irish people. And how they all took the train together and sat in the diner and worked in their jobs. I forget that the same street scenes are being played out now in Ireland. Her eyes do not make strange the wonders of New York, the way mine did twelve years before.
She returns to the booth pale and wet and sad. She allows herself the luxury of grieving for love. Everyone in the pink diner sees her. I want to tell her that she has never in her life been more beautiful then she is at this moment. But I do not. For her own good. She cannot bear to go back to the restaurant where she works. Just suck it up I tell her. I can’t she says. Pretend, I tell her. Why? She asks. So you can make money to survive, I say. She looks at me directly and focuses as if seeing me for the first time.The folks call to ask after my sister. I tell them she is anorexic, that she needs to see a therapist. They tell me I am over-reacting, that I have been in America too long.
Jane returns early to Ireland. The American doctor gives her anti-depressants and a note to say she is too ill to work. The mother cannot fathom it. Too ill to work? She is a healthy twenty four year old woman. She does not have cancer. These are different days I tell her. A different world.
The mother and I regret for ourselves that we cannot be part of this terrible new world.

Née en Irlande, Carmel Mc Mahon a émigré à New York en 1994 où elle est étudiante et écrivain. Ses textes ont été publiés dans Nth Position, Julie Mango, Promethean, The Irish-Australian Heritage Journal and Stone Writers.