Rachael O’Connor hails from Newcastle West, Co. Limerick and holds a Masters in Writing from NUI Galway. She has previously published articles, short stories and excerpts via Campus.ie, The Galway Review, and Sin. Currently she lives in Germany.
I cut through the hospital on my way to college because it’s faster that way. But I feel uneasy, out of place. Sometimes I feel ashamed.
An old woman with an IV in a dressing gown sucks on a cigarette through gasping lungs. I look at my stained fingers and know one day she could be me.
A man sits in his car, head in his hands. I am trespassing in grief-stricken waters, cutting into this private moment with a bag of books on my back. Is it his wife? His child, or a parent?
He lowers his hands. His face is so warped by grief I cannot tell his age.
At night, I look at the darkened buildings with sterile yellow lights pulsing through their windows. Shadows pass; nameless, faceless figures, trapped. I walk freely, into the grounds and out again, and wonder if they will ever leave.
I am guilty of being healthy. I wonder if my presence is resented, if something in my walk or face gives away the fact that I am just passing through. I wonder how many people are still there since my first passage. I wonder how many are not.
I wonder how it will be when I’m the one tied to the grounds; when I see someone walking with friends, someone just passing by.
Will I be jealous? Bitter? Will I wonder where my years have gone; my health and youth?
I know I will think of when I was free, remember sitting on the banks of the Corrib, trying to be self-aware yet knowing it still isn’t real to me.
I will live forever in perfect health and so will everyone around me. Until we won’t.