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Running Elsewhere by Miriah Petruzzi

 

 

RUNNING ELSEWHERE

By

Miriah Petruzzi 

 

The Corner Pub was particularly crowded that Friday night, and Lita was doing her best to keep up. Between filling and refilling glasses of Guinness, Jameson-Coke, and Carlsberg, Lita was keeping her eye on the back door.  A Pro-life rally had rolled through the streets of Dublin earlier that day, and the supporters were clear amongst the sea of bar goers, all dressed in yellow.

            "Ah yes, my sister is one of those riffraff trying to get a fecking abortion, it's a embarrassment to our good name," said a surly middle age woman to a young futbal player. The cackling and the loud bickering amongst the room nearly drowned out her words. People continued bustling in and no one seemed to be leaving. The air was warm with bodies. The walls were plastered with so many colorful decorations, that the aged brick was barely visible. Street signs, license plates, bottle caps, and American, Irish, and French flags were some of the curious items lining the walls.

 "Another, whiskey on the rocks there lady," said an older man to Lita. She turned on the balls of her feet and took his euro. Seconds later she returned with his drink. "Yer really should come fer a ride with me chicken." Ignoring him for the third time that evening Lita smiled and addressed the next person waving money at her.

Lita had been working at this bar for four years now, it was a slummy little joint and she knew it. She had gotten the job through a family friend, and for now the pay was getting her by. She didn't like crowds, and on nights like these she did an exceptional job hiding it. She had grown up in the County Clare, and although she loved it, she knew that the time had come for a change in her life. However, after so many nights like this one, Lita was becoming more keen that maybe the city was not the place for her.

"Eeeh you, I've been standing er fer nearly five minutes now, I'd like some service if yer don't mind." Lita's eyes snapped away from the back door and onto the large man sporting Scottish colors, standing in front of her. Her game was a bit off tonight, preoccupied with something much larger than the mass of people before her eyes. Lita was always good with hiding things; in fact she thrived off of it. Her smile could fool the smartest of men.

"I'm sorry sir what can I getcha?" Lita chimed in. And so her night continued. A series of requests, complaints, and refills surrounded her like another night. The routineness of it all sickened her, but she kept her poker face well polished. Cigarette smoke wafted in through the ever-opening front door, the night air growing colder with each swing. The back door stayed painfully closed. Covering her frustration with planning, she continued to envision the break that she would take as soon as he arrived. She would make a gin and tonic for both of them and then head out to the side patio.

            Irish music blared through the pub, echoing off the drunken faces in the circular room. "Another refill?" Lita asked to a man falling off his barstool.

It was nearly half past three when the last few customers were finally escorted out the door.

            "It says it in the bible and that is all I have to say about that! Those bloodly women think they can decide fer themselves!" hiccupped a swaying man in a yellow button up.

"Buncha hippie radicals if ya ask me," followed his rosy-faced friend, as the heavy door closed shut behind them.

Lita quickly ran from behind the counter to lock the hatch and deadbolt the door. Her blonde hair was straying from her once tight bun, and her white blouse was blotched with loose drinks. "What a night" she thought to herself as she put her rag on the counter and sat on a barstool.

She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. Her hands were red and aching from the night's work. She opened her eyes, then closed them again. She rested her chin on the counter and sighed. Rolling green hills drifted through her mind's eye. A small house by the water, sheep being sheered by a man in overalls. Sheep walking to the waters edge. She smiled in her slumber. A women with curly red hair held outstretched arms and mouthed words. "Lita, Lita, Lita..."

"Lita!, Lita! Gammy girl!"

Lita woke up in such a rush that she nearly fell off her seat. She met the beady black eyes of Mr. Sweeney, a four-foot, rather angry looking man. His face was wrinkled from a lifetime of cigar smoking. He wore a distinctly pissed off expression, as he often did.

            "I'm so very sorry Mr. Sweeney" she replied on her toes. He walked away in a huff not saying another word. Embarrassed that she had lost herself, Lita worked tenfold for the rest of the night.

            By 4:00AM the bar counters shown like a mirrors. Her heels clanked on the newly polished floors, not a speck of grim in sight. Lita, now the only one left in the pub, shuffled the skeleton key from hand to hand, eyes on the back door. She breathed heavy for a few moments.

            "I'll give him just five more minutes," she told herself. She stood for a moment before collecting her things from the back room; a tattered calico jumper, a small tie knapsack, and a once folded piece of paper. She returned to the bar area and waited. The clock ticked noticeably for what seemed the first time in hours. Lita adjusted the jumper around her shoulders and wrapped the thin wool taught around her torso. Pulling her chin to her chest she leaned against one of the bar's wooden beams, and allowed herself to slide down to the floor. She clutched her knees and squeezed her eyes shut.

            Her thoughts had no time to wander, or to think differently about the choice she was about to make, before a rough rapping on wood met her ears. She shot up from the floor like a firework and ran almost to the back door, before switching to a casual pace. She opened the door as calmly as she would her own front door to friend coming for tea. 

            Shane stood in the doorway. Per usual, he stepped right into Lita personal space bubble. Inches from her face, he smiled a devilish smile, revealing an all too familiar set of crooked yellowing teeth. He was a tall lanky man, attractive, but aging before his time due to a constant bar-scene lifestyle. Tonight he wore a set of faded jeans and a wrinkled white T-shirt, making him appear less pale in contrast. 

            "Lita!" he grinned opening his arms wide to her.

She could smell the strong stench of alcohol on his breath. His eyes were bloodshot, although he did not appear tired. She was distinctly annoyed by his lateness, but chose not to mention this detail.

            "Shane" she said walking emotionlessly into his arms.

            "I'm sorry I'm late chicken, I had a bit of business to take care of on the home front."

"Ah I am guessing your wife doesn't know that you're here then, aye?" Lita said locking her eyes on his. He looked away.

"Ah no, no... she does not" Shane replied scooting his way out of the doorway.

"Would you like a drink?" Lita reluctantly offered.

"Ah yes please, tonight has been a dry one for me," Shane hiccupped.

"What would you like then?"

"A well, could I have a shot of Jameson and one of Bushmills, and a Smithwick to wash them down if yer don't mind" Shane's lips curled with the request.

"Certainly" Lita replied without displaying any shock of his forwardness.

She poured his shots and a glass of coke for herself. When she turned back around, Shane was bending down, fiddling with something on the floor under his barstool. He stood up as she came closer. Shane puffed out his chest, now sporting a yellow button that read, "Pro-Child, Pro-Life" He met Lita's eyes and grinned a sarcastic smile. She didn't smile back, but placed the drinks on coasters.

The two sat in the silence of the early morning. Lita, frustrated with the time, began to obviously check her watch. Shane sipped his beer absentmindedly picking the dirt out from under his fingernails. After a few minutes Lita spoke.

"Ah so Shane, we are still headed to the North of England right? I have my travel papers here, and the money, and a bit extra for your help." Her voice echoed in the empty room.

"Oh Lita, lovely lovely Lita, I forgot to tell you, the plans have changed a bit. You see my friend is no longer in the North. Our voyage will be a bit shorter this evening."

"It is morning" Lita said calmly. "And what do you mean the voyage will be shorter, we have to leave the country!"

"On the contrary chicken, I have another mate in County Clar-"

"WHAT?" Lita choked on her coke and her stomach sank.

"Are you mad? We can't stay in Ireland, its illegal here!" Lita exclaimed.

"Ahaha getting cold feet are you now?" Shane smirked.

Irritated by his doubt she calmly replied, "When do we leave?"

 

The two boarded the train for the west at 6:00AM. Lita was on edge, and oddly enough it was not about surgery or sketchy men, or the illegality of it all, but about the prospect of being so close to her family. No sooner had they sat down in their compartment, Shane fell asleep and began snoring. His face was flush with the train window, his large pale nose squished and fogging up the view, his greasy hair contrasting with the beautiful rolling hills.

Lita tried to sleep, but her nerves kept her awake. She studied the fabric on the seats, the gum stuck under her armrest, and the bald spot forming in the center of Shane's dark hair. The train became bumpy, jostling Lita's stomach, making her feel worse. With one particularly violent shake of the train Shane's head flopped over onto Lita's chest and a bit of spit dribbled down her front. She closed her eyes and moved her shoulders about, in hopes of waking him. No luck, there he remained for the duration of the ride. She needed his help; she did not move him.

 

          "No mama I want the purple one! It's my turn for a new jumper!" Shane mumbled.

 

           Lita cracked a smile. The sun was coming through the trees now, as the train grew closer and closer to Doolin. Lita almost wished that it were raining. She did not want to remember this day as a sunny one, but instead as one where the weather matched her feelings and her gruesome thoughts.

It was nearly noontime when the conductor came through the intercom announcing that the train had reached its last stop in Doolin. Lita tapped Shane on the head a bit harder than necessary, but he didn't move.

 

          "Shane...Shane...Shane!" she beckoned loudly.

Finally he woke with a jolt, "Creamed corn! Creamed corn! He yelled, before opening his eyes to the sun.

          "Lets go" Lita said. "We need to get off the train now."

 

          They bustled out, Lita leading the way to a nearby bench.

          "Where are we?" Shane asked.

          Irritated with his ignorance she softly pointed out, "We are in County Clare, the place you told me we had to go, remember?"

          "Oh, did I say that? I meant to say County Cork" Shane said with a laugh.

          Lita felt her face grow hot, "Pardon?"

          "Settle down girl I'm only kidding, follow me, his place isn't far from here."

 

          Both times that Lita had visited County Clare since her move to the city; she'd often felt nostalgia upon returning. This time was different; she wanted to be anywhere but here, as they passed her old school house. Perhaps it was from lack of sleep, but Lita felt out of her body. This wasn't her; the girl who made straight honors all the through grade school. The girl who helped her father shear the sheep and milk the cows on their farm. She was no longer the girl who helped her mother with her five brothers and sisters. Dublin had gotten her. Dublin got me. Lita kept repeating in her mind.

Finally Shane began to slow his pace and look carefully at the few brightly doored buildings around them. "It's this one," he pointed to shabby two story brick building with overflowing garbage cans outside. Lita was surprised to see a house in such a state in the green countryside. As they got closer she realized that it wasn't a house at all but an old shop. Shane led her around to the back of the building, where they descended wet cement stairs to a small landing. Shane rapped on the wooden black door with his fist. A few moments went by and he rapped again. Lita began biting her lips and looking up at the still blue sky. She clutched the small wad of money inside her jumper pocket. The door creaked open and there stood a plump, short man with wild grey hair and circular spectacles.

 

          "Shane!" The little man yelled in a squeaky, yet oddly deep voice, stepping right in front of Lita to greet his friend.

          "Humphrey, my good man!"

          "Come in, come in" he beckoned, nearly shutting the door on Lita, after Shane slipped through the door.

 

          The smell of the small room hit Lita like a slap to the face. It was mix between old meat and animal feces Lita determined, as she sat down on a small wooden stool. The little basement room appeared to have once been a bar. The counters were still intact, although they were covered with cigarette butts burned into the wood. There was an array old fruit, dirty clothes and surgical devices littering up the rest of the grey tiles. Lita noticed a set of forceps with what appeared to dried blood crusted onto the handle.  She tried to look elsewhere.

This was her only option, the only one she had the money for. She was too embarrassed to tell any of her girlfriends. But after looking around at the piles upon piles of garbage, she wished that every friend in her life had come with her on this journey.

 

          "And then she tells me she wants to buy me a drink!" Humphrey laughed to Shane.

          "Fecken skanks!" agreed Shane.

          Lita, cleared her throat softly. Shane turned to Lita and let out a sigh.

          "Humphrey, here is your next victim, name's Lita."

          Humphrey took his fingers out of mouth and stretched out his arm.

          "Please to meet you dear, you are a pretty one."

          Reluctantly Lita smiled and shook his hand.

 

          "So before we get started, do you mind me asking..." Humphrey trailed off.  

          "Pardon?" Lita asked, ringing her hands.

          "Eh if yer don't mind me asking, wh why do you eh wan to get rid of it then?

          "I'm just 22" Lita replied not meeting his eyes.

          "Good enough for me!" guffawed Humphrey, while Shane chuckled in the background.

          "Do you have me eighty euro then?"

          Lita handed him the euro that had grown warm in her tight clutches.

          "Alright then, step into me office."

 

          Shane followed behind, and Lita turned to shoot him a look that unmistakably read, I don't want you to come. He followed anyway. To Lita's disgust, Humphrey did not lead her to a clean backroom, or even to another real room at all.

 

          "I hope you don't mind toilets," he said as he pulled back a blood-splotched curtain to reveal a bathroom. A grimy dripping sink housed a few bandages and tools.

          "Take a seat" Humphrey said has he beckoned her to the toilet.  

          Lita sat down in silence, fixing her eyes on the floor.

          "Ah feck, I don't have all my shyte. I'll be right back," Humphrey said as he lifted the curtain.

          Lita held her breath to escape the smell. She felt tears burning in her eyes. She was glad that Shane stood on the other side of the curtain. Her mind raced. Would it really be that bad? I could be a good mother. The baby would never have to know about this. It would never have to know it's true father. Her heart was nearly jumping out of her blouse. She fixed her eyes on the blue tile. She noticed an abandoned condom crumbled behind the sink.     

         Moments later Humphrey returned. He had the blood stained forceps that Lita had noticed earlier, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a flask of whiskey in his arms.

 

         "Alright you ready then chicken?"

         Lita shook her head.

         "No?" Humphrey pressed. He laughed.

         "Nervous huh?" I promise you I'll do a good job, I'll have that little bastard out of you in no time."

         He spit on his hands, as if to clean them. He took a swig of the whiskey before offering it to Lita. She shook her head at him again. Humphrey sat on the side of the tub and put his arm around her. Lita's body went rigid at his touch. Humphrey didn't notice.

"Listen, Laura," Humphrey said in a tone he thought comforting.

"Listen, it will be okay I'll take good care of yer. You are a pretty little thing," he continued.

         Lita kept her eyes closed, and fists clenched.

         "After I'm all done, what do you say you come back to my room? You can have some whiskey," he breathed in her ear. "Drink some whiskey will ya?" he continued.

         "We can talk. You can tell me what you like. No more worries fer yea. And if you get in this pickle again, I can just fix you up, no problem, and if it's mine, I'll only charge yea a bit. How does that sound my sweet slag?" Humphrey cooed.

Lita sat still for a moment; she wanted him to believe that this actually comforted her, as she eyed her money in the front pocket of his shirt. She turned her head and looked right into his eyes. She smiled and he smiled back. He closed his eyes and leaned in to kiss her. As soon as she saw his eyes close, in one swift motion she grabbed the euros sticking out of his chest, and with the same hand she punched his jaw so hard that she sent him backwards into the tub.

 

       "You fecking whore!" cried Humphrey, caught in the moldy shower curtain clutching his face. 

       Lita broke into a run. She did not pay any attention to Shane's yelling; in fact she did not even take in what he was saying. She ran faster than she had in years. She opened the grubby little door and climbed up the stairs, past the garbage and through the gate. She did not stop running. She clutched the money in her hands, and shook her head. Her bun fell out of its tight weave. Her long blonde hair sparkled in the afternoon sun, as sweat began to build on her forehead. She kept running. She did not look back. My baby will be someone special. She said over and over in her head as she ran down a dirt road.

The wind began to pick up after some time; the sky began to grow dark. Still she kept running. My baby will be someone special. She quickened her already fast pace, as she felt raindrops hit her chest and face. Down another dirt road she sprinted, nearly two miles from the place she was working on erasing from her memory. She did not stop running, until she began skipping. She smiled as the rain began to come down in buckets. She skipped past an old girlfriend's house and her smile widened. She skipped past the large Whitebeam tree that she had engraved her name in five years previous. She laughed and cried, as she stopped to touch the mark, still as clear as the summer day when she'd carved it.  She fell to her knees and put her arms up to the sky. Tears and rain streamed down her cheeks, a mix of hot and cold. Her clothes became mud splattered but she did not care.

 

She stood up again; she could see her little farm in the distance. She ran as fast as she could, as if Humphrey and Shane were at her heels. She made it to the front steps, and stopped short, to appear calm once again. She rubbed her eyes. The smile came naturally. She tapped softly on the door; it opened immediately. The warmth of her home surrounded her. A woman with red curly hair met her eyes.

 

          "Lita! My god!" her mother gasped, but was unable to hid her distinct happiness of seeing her daughter.

          "Ma" Lita said with the sincerest of smiles, a smile that she never brought to Dublin, "I need to tell you something."