Coexist #1

The bus went over one of the many bumps on the road, knocking Dublin awake as her head hit the window. She huffed her sleep away and her mouth still tasted of nicotine from the last cigarette at the station. And so began the whole routine of breath mints and a half-empty bottle of Victoria’s Secret, spritzed around her like a sickly sweet aura.

She lived in the city; no one to tell her how to live her life, not do bad things, stay away from bad people, be good, be healthy, be herself. But that’s the thing, no one, not a single person at any point in their life is absolutely fully aware of “exactly” who they are. They live each day as it comes. However, that’s not something Dublin could do this weekend. Family reunions and weddings dictate a low profile, even in the midst of all the highbrow gossip.

Dublin West was headed to the inexcusably large house the family had rented out for the wedding of her cousin sister. She felt like an alien in their midst on a good day. Two weeks with them would be like living through The Third Reich. This was the first time after her mother’s death that the whole family was coming together.

Flashes of black velvet and big pearls, satin handkerchiefs and crocodile tears came to her, but she drowned them in the sound of her chunking bracelets as she wove her hand through the sunset red hair, down to her waist, in an effort to appear primped up enough to meet the aunts and uncles and their nose-in-the-air children. It was useless.

The mass of red was even brighter against her jacket and shorts, with the sailor top, all white. She was aware of how much she stood out amongst the other tanned folk in the bus, all words and no substance in their annoying twangy accents. Here she was, a five foot eleven woman, white as a lab rat thanks to her violent Irish genes; it would be only too easy to find her intriguingly beautiful.

As a last minute precaution, she whipped out the pocket mirror to check the subtle black, lining her seaweed green eyes for any signs of smudging. It had been a long time since she met her cousins, but that was the best part about the relationship they shared, that they could always pick up exactly where they left off. No awkward silences and darting looks and shuffling feet.

She looked back to the end of the bus where a beautiful white haired woman was coughing into her handkerchief, and caught the eye of her blonde-hair-blue-eyed companion –whom she could only assume was her son. His eyes twinkled as he smiled at her with the sheepish charm of a teenager, and she gracefully returned it before turning back to face the front of the bus.

The ride felt exhaustively similar to the last time, but what Dublin couldn’t wrap her head around was how different she was back then. She remembered sitting on the floor, all her cousins perched around the room on various bits of furniture, most of which would probably not be there anymore. The smell of weed would always hang above them like a heavy cloud and right in the middle of it would be Dublin West –or Dub, as they called her –with her hair in a tangle of dark brown shards because she was just sick of being called “Ginger”. The tiny jewel on her slender nose would sparkle every time she took a swig of whiskey from the bottle they’d steal from her uncle’s bar.
Passing out on the sand.
Feeling a pair of warm lips on her cold neck.
A hand running through her shirt.
Uninvited.
Unnecessary.
Uncomfortable.

Ignoring the blunt stares her Manolo booties attracted, she got off the bus, inviting the warm sea salty breeze into her lungs, a change from the usual New York air, and contemplated another quick cigarette. But the unmistakably blue Chevy Impala dampened her spirits, much like the air moistening her cheeks. Alexis waved out to her as she got out of the car, joining her twin brother, Paris, as they came over to help Dub with her bags.

She noticed that he’d grown taller, and not as buff as he once was, but more lean. His sister had finally allowed her blonde roots to grow out –she’d gone a shade darker than Dublin, during their rebellious teenage phase –and her hair hung down to her chest in silken threads.

“Hey hey sis, how’s it going?” he said with a brief, one-armed hug.
Paris had always found the task of breaking the ice a bit daunting, but he was now determined to try harder than before.

He immediately picked out the ways Dublin stood out from the rest of the crowd. She looked just like a city girl who’d come down to the beach, a perfect Hamptons newbie. He and Alexis, on the other hand, had spent their summer right here and were perfectly blending in with their more casual attire, all complemented by their sun kissed skin.

Alexis, however, immediately dove in to questions about Dub’s new apartment, her job and other girly catching up, allowing their brother to busy himself with the heavier luggage. She put one arm through the big tote and the other around Dublin, guiding her to the car.

“You must be exhausted”, she looked at her.

“Yeah, I can’t wait to get out of these clothes and go for a swim.”

“Eh, I’m afraid a shower will have to do for now. My mom’s arranged a whole lunch thing with Epperly and Dev and us kids.”

Dublin snorted and felt her everyday issues dissipate for a while.

“Well then, I guess I’ll catch you guys afterwards. I can hardly be grouped along with you guys anymore. Kids and all, if you know what I mean.”

Lexi poked her on the side and she jumped a mile. “That’s not what I meant!”

As the three of them drove off, they let out a sigh of relief at having the last family member finally present.

***

They reached the familiar, symmetrically grandiose beach houses and Dublin breathed in the air of summertime vacations. Liquor cabinets under the stairs, secret compartments in the closet, locked up writing desks, porch swings and port wine; it was like reliving the past with frayed photographs. Except now she would be involved in the creation of a new album.

Her face settled into a frown at the thought of it.

***

Epperly saw the Chevy pull up the driveway from her window. Seemed to be the only thing she did as of late, all she felt like doing was sit beside the window and stare outside in a manner most passive.

Sometimes, if the breeze was just right, she’d walk out onto the balcony and let it flow through her hair. She was desperately in love with Dev, but every mention of the upcoming wedding left her stomach in knots.

He wanted a low-key affair and her plans always seemed grandiose in comparison. So even though they had a planner, organizing the whole thing, there was an indelible difference in opinions.

If he wanted roses, she wanted gardenias… negotiate… compromise…

“Okay, let’s go for lilies.”

It all just seemed silly to him, and in the thick of things, Epperly was seeing a side of Dev she hadn’t before, with wincingly uncomfortable clarity.

“I spy a redbird flying home…!” mother poked her head in and chirped.

Dublin was the only redhead in a family of platinum to dark blondes. Her mother had passed away about a year ago but the traditional Irish wake didn’t really take place in the house.

“There’s no such thing as a redbird mother.” She picked herself up with a huff and left the room.

***

After the usual hugging, and cheek-to-cheek kisses and the oh-aah-ing, Dub excused herself and went up the velveteen stairs to the room she was to share with Bea. The fact that she already knew about Bea’s rehab stint in the half hour she’d spent downstairs proved how worthy of trust the family circle was.

If only they knew of the things she’d been up to…

She runs a brush through her hair, staring at the contents of her suitcase, while the enormous tub froths up with her bath. An airy summer dress would do for lunch. And then Dublin could try to drown herself.

Rohan Dahiya

Image Courtesy [Rohan Dahiya]