I am reading Qiu Miaojin in Pearse station, waiting for the Dart. I am going to Howth to walk around in the cold and look at fish and rocks. I have brought my schoolbag, and in it some nuts, a notebook, another book, an aspirational dictionary. A bottle of water. The Dart arrives at quarter to two. There aren't many people on it, and together we go on; out from Pearse, out to Raheny, to Sutton. Sutton is a long grey puddle, and salty air streamlines the burpy linger of the tram when the doors open. I am a little hungover but determined to do something that is not panicking in the city. Going to Howth is one way to go somewhere without really going anywhere. It is a way to delay leaving properly; the progression from place to other place provides an immediate and attainable goal — to come home after.
Howth is enclosed and wealthy, the landscape interrupted by brightly painted houses, neatly lined against larger skies of hill and water. I walk around in the cold. I do not own gloves, and after ten minutes my hands freeze white, almost immovably so, and splotch widely in highlighter orange. Reynaud's. I walk to the waterfront and take painful pictures of the shady blues, the cobalt, the turquoise, the ultramarine. My eyes sting. Obnoxious yellows swirl into stone, yellows so toxic they look like spilled paint, or a type of nuclear moss. There are snaking purples, hidden, that melt somehow to silver when I try to look directly at them. I feel as though I am underground. I hear nothing but the blunt whip of wind and occasional intake of breath. Towards the lighthouse, there is a couple eating fish and chips from newspapers. One of them tries not to get hair in their face. I laugh a little.
I take pictures and examine the graffiti on the lighthouse. I walk around more. After half an hour of this, I turn back and head to Beshoff’s fish market. I've never bought fish from here because it’s expensive but I love to look at everything. The spiny gambas prawns, the salmon pate and rainbow trout. Mussels and oysters, shells for sucking. The manta ray. My mouth opens wide to say manta ray. When I was a kid I was terrified of the staring eyes of the fish in the supermarket, gape-mouthed and slightly evil, laid out long on their contained terrain of ice and decorative netting. Now I am not afraid of them. A colleague told me at a buffet that, as children, she and her siblings used to fight over the eyeballs of fish during dinner because they were the tastiest part. I try to examine all the eyeballs of the fish as closely as possible without attracting the attention of the fishmonger or worse, other customers. There are two older women behind me, looking at the cured meats and cheese, items wrapped expensively in gingham and string.
Prawn eyes look the most alien, like black orbs, waiting to be popped. In prawn farming, eyestalk ablation is performed on female prawns. This releases a hormone which induces ovarian maturation, and therefore incredible amounts of offspring. The ablation consists of removing one or both eyestalks of the female by different methods, including pinching, razor blades, or cauterization. My favourite way to eat prawns is pan-fried, in creamy paprika sauce, making sure to properly grind the glassy shell with my back teeth before swallowing. The first time I made it I felt almost sick because it tasted so good and so rich, particularly the heavy mush of head, its salty strands. I was unsure that I could even eat the heads.
I stop to look at the lobsters in the tank. I have never eaten lobster. These ones look like sentient rock, a pile of cracked black pepper made host to brain and nerves. They move floatingly. I imagine that they are relaxed individuals, pleasantly surprised to encounter anything in their random movements around the tank, until they do.I leave the shop, trailing my fingers on the wall. It’s still grey outside, but darker. It’s only half five but it feels much later. There are no people around.I decide to be decadent. I have a glass of Peroni in an empty restaurant that looks out onto the village. I feel a little drunk, mostly because I want to and because I'm by myself. It looks, and feels, like it is about to rain. I wish I could want things consistently.
I take out my book in the restaurant and read. I underline funny and important things. I write sentimental notes in the margins and spill a little beer on myself. I try to control my thoughts and live in the moment and soak it all in. I have turned my phone off twice already today. I turn it back on.The only messages are from group chats and I flick through them quickly. I was supposed to be meeting someone for drinks this evening, but he did not message me. I think, it’s fine, I didn’t hugely want to go anyways – he only ever talks about his panic attacks. It’s boring. I can go home and read the rest of my Qiu Miaojin and finally have some time to myself. When I check his page it appears, fantastically, that he has gone to Sweden for the long weekend.