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First person

BACK OF THE LINE #3: I am just resting my eyes

By January 16, 2021No Comments

Back of the line is a series of stories, written by our columnist Senator Lynn Ruane, from the back of the line…


“People who need support the most are often least likely to receive it. Whether that be health, housing or any other service. I have had hundreds of conversations over the twenty years in the addiction, homeless and community sector. I have used these conversations to inspire my writing. These stories are fictionalised to protect people’s identities. They are written in a way that helps the reader to walk alongside the person.

These stories contain references to mental health, addiction, sexual abuse, suicide and violence, so please read with caution – Lynn.”

I am just resting my eyes

Tough love, you imagine, but it has been nine months now of tough love. Ever since that one day you made that one mistake and fell asleep inside the kitchen press. Asleep is a stretch. You were resting your eyes.

‘Daddy, don’t be silly, we’re playing hide and seek,’ said your innocent seven-year-old daughter, Millie.

‘Silly daddy fell asleep mammy’.

The truth is, when Millie was counting to 20, you shot up your pre-prepared works. Recently you migrated from the crook of your elbow to the tip of your toes, and now Millie wants to play hide and seek. You tell her to turn around, count and then you run to the biggest kitchen press and, oh the relief, as the withdrawal left your body.

‘I’ll just close my eyes’, you tell yourself, ‘I will hear her coming,’ you’re convinced of it.

Always convinced of it, bloody heroin is still lying to you. You come around with a needle at your feet and a girlfriend looming over you. ‘Enough’ she says. ‘You need to take a long hard look at yourself. You’re out’.

‘Daddy will be back soon Millie,’ you say.

Daddy’s gone. It’s been nine months and the risk of being caught, or not getting giving out to, appeals to your addiction in the beginning. Now though, you are sat on the ground outside the local Spar. ‘You need to have a long hard look at yourself’, she said that day. Nine months later, you consider what such a thing would entail.

‘Alright, Peno! What’s the story, Peno? How’re the kids Peno? You still on that shit, Peno?’

You’re always below them; head slightly tipped up to make it appear you’re looking them in the face.

You are not.

Your shame only allows a half acknowledgement of the fact that your peers, your old teammates and classmates will soon come back out of the shop to drop their odds at your feet. People talk and walk around you and most of the time you stare at the crumpled up litter and wonder what the difference is between you and that empty packet of Tayto. You are an object of pity here on the cold ground. At home, a thing of anger for letting everyone down.

Heroin was your object of desire; then it became your object of shame. ‘Take a look at yourself’ she said; Not now. I will just rest my eyes.

You have learned to rest sitting up. Scabbing odds at the shops takes patience and time, stamina, commitment, and you must get comfortable in a cross-legged meditative pose. Trance is what you want. Exist in a daze. You have woken from your disassociation meditation (as you like to call it) with the force of water in your face and laughter of young fellas running away with water guns. ‘That was fucking piss in those water in the guns,’ says Kev, your auld pal.

You begin to cry. You haven’t cried since you were a little boy. But you cry loudly snots and all. Kev, who used to be your best friend, hands you a fiver and says “sort your fucking self out mate, will ya, you’re making a show of your family at this shop every day”.

You rise to your feet, your legs are as thin as pencils and your jeans so big they look like they are floating. You run after Kev throwing him back his crumpled up fiver.

“You fucking think this is a walk in the park for me do ya?”

“You think I like sitting there, kids pissing on me, you judging me? I am still me, I am here watching you, feeling you, feeling everyone fucking staring at me or not staring at me which is just as bad. What do you wanna feel Kev? Do you feel life inside your body? Because every time you judge me the light goes out of mine. At my core, nothing changes, even as I hang here on the edge of our existence. You don’t get to push me; further, you think space between is empty? Am I standing between you and something beautiful, or does my pain make you uncomfortable?”

Walking away, you put your reality back in your pocket, or maybe it was the fiver because you didn’t really say all that to Kev. You actually never stood up at all, you’re getting good at that. Performing stillness in the shame, only imagining what it would be like to speak up from behind the scruffy c*nt, scumbag, waster smack head that you are.

You begin to chant quietly in your mind. Do you feel the pain or create the pain and how, just how, do you let it go? Breathe it in and out, let it slide off your back and down your legs and let it hit the pavement. Stop carrying it like a punishment for being here. You visualise being a submarine, submerging into deep water and crossing an ocean of colour. Giant aliens with tentacles the same length as the street you sit on – the wonder and awe under the surface, with its oranges, blues and whites.

I wonder if the Samuel Becket Bridge is a good thing to be, you wonder. You fall deep in thought about being a bridge, the connection between one side and the other, north and south, good and bad, right and wrong, island and mainland. All the people and their conversations as they stroll on you, people stopping mid-bridge, taking in the sunrise and the sunsets. Being a bridge, homeless people would sit on me in the blistering cold. They’d never turn their heads to take in the same sunset as the couple standing directly adjacent to his begging cup. Even as a bridge I don’t think I could take that sight.

The pain that would seep from the beggars core as he says “any spare change” and the same people who stood upright moments ago staring at the beautiful sun. They no longer know how to lift their heads with their feet suddenly becoming the thing they stare at—the beauty of the sun evaporating for them with his words of help. Nah, I couldn’t be a bridge.

You open your eyes from their resting state as someone else’s spare change hits the bottom of your empty cup.

‘Please take a look at yourself’. What does she mean? I am fucking looking at myself, you scream (or don’t scream – you know longer recognise what happens in your mind versus what happens on this cement patch outside Spar). I am the only one sitting in silence for hours on end, sitting with myself, my thoughts, and so what. They are intoxicated thoughts, but they’re thoughts nonetheless.

‘Alright, Peno! What’s the story, Peno?! How’re the kids, Peno? You still on that shit, Peno?’

Again, below them; again, not looking them in the face.

Every day it is the same shame, the same dialogue and the same chasing of an end to the withdrawal. ‘Looking at myself would be a worse hell than this’, you think. ‘Look at you; you don’t even know you have a self,’ you mouth to your reflection in the window. You sit on your heels, nowhere to shower, nowhere to be, and stay the course on your narrow path to death. You are looking at yourself, and it’s too painful, revealing your history is too big. So, instead, when the shame rises, you rest your eyes.

I’m not asleep, I am just resting my eyes. I hear and feel your judgement, your name-calling, and I see you turning your head. Am I standing between you and something beautiful, or does my pain make you uncomfortable?


Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash