Rebecca Spicer was born in and currently resides in Galway, Ireland. She grew up in Michigan and has had her fair share of snow. She is a recent graduate of the MA in Writing programme at NUI Galway. In December, Rebecca’s first published short story, ‘Summer Street’, will feature in The Incubator.
Dolmas on the bus
The story begins at TGO Falafel Bar where I purchased a traditional falafel wrap and five dolmas. I had every intention to find a spot in Eyre Square and eat slowly so that I might eventually write a food review. Forever I will have good intentions. But forever will they go wrong.
That morning was particularly frustrating, my aunt’s car wasn’t working, the printer froze, I walked forty minutes to the bus stop, the bus arrived late, and I in return was half an hour late for class. Lovely. That’s alright, I thought, we’ll start the day again.
With my brown bag filled with food, I looked forward to sitting in the park for an hour or two before I took the bus home to Corofin. I took a quick pit-stop in the 20c automated toilets, and then walked down the path, passed a boy who was hiding from his brother and signalled me to say nothing, passed the café kiosk whose exotic jungle theme contrasted with Galway’s grey sky, and passed the flower beds in need of maintenance.
I could see it parked, waiting for me. Burke’s Bus. My earlier decision of lingering in Eyre Square was wavering. The weather was cold and I only had one falafel wrap and five dolmas to occupy my time. I chose the earlier bus completely aware that my uncle might not be home from work so I may or may not have a ride home. The bus was a newer model with elevated seats and wooden flooring. I thought it must be a sign that my uncle would be home. I rang my cousin Abby.
“Hiyah, Abby, I’ve just hopped on the bus. Is Brian home?”
“No, sorry, he won’t be back for another hour.”
Well, shit. “That’s alright, Abby. I’ll just walk home.”
The sun was already setting at 4:00. It would be black by the time the bus dropped me at Corofin Cross. This was a shitty decision. Ireland’s country roads are not meant to be enjoyed by pedestrians. They are narrow, bendy, and without sidewalks. Most of them have stone walls built nearly at the edge of the road so pedestrians can barely even walk through the grass.
But I had forty minutes to sit on a warm bus and ponder the dangers of Corofin road. Rain began to slap the windows. I was grateful for the pink umbrella I’d forgotten in my purse. It was bright pink and if nothing else the cars might see the big beacon of pink making its way down the road. I looked around to see if anyone was spying, then pried open the plastic food container.
Dolmas have a unique smell; of lemon, garlic, and mint. The smell would give me away eventually. I’d only take one. One would be enough. When biting into the stuffed grape leaf, I was surprised by the flavour. More pickles than lemon. The distinct flavour was still present but with a hint of vinegar and jarred peppers. I have tried stuffed grape leaves from multiple stores but never had I tasted ones like these. I ate another. And then another. Soon I didn’t care who saw me. I didn’t care about the sign that dictated “No food or drink” or the bus driver who’d eyed my brown bag warily. I stopped closing the container after each bite and finished them all. The flavour of spiced pickles lingered on my tongue all the way to Corofin Cross.
Falafel wraps with soggy bottoms
I stepped off the bus and crossed the traffic-heavy road. There was slight drizzle in the air and I followed Plan A, opening my pink umbrella. The sun hadn’t fully set but it threatened a dark night. I was wearing my mesh tennis shoes and already moisture was making my socks wet as I jumped over to the grass every now and then as the cars passed. Each driver could see me presently and created a wide distance between myself and their vehicle. But the farther I walked the more I noticed cars were no longer caring much about my safety.
I looked up. Instead of a bright pink umbrella, the colour had faded and was mixing with the dark grey of the sky. They couldn’t see me. The cars couldn’t see. Begin panic attack. One car beeped as they passed me. Probably out of surprise.
“You had plenty of room!” I yelled at its disappearing form.
The brown bag with the falafel wrap was stuffed into my purse and I held it close to me knowing that the wrap would be smushed by the time I got back.
“I’m going to die,” I said, not caring if the sheep heard me. “I want to go home.” At that moment I didn’t mean my aunt’s house. I meant 151 Summer Street. A place where they have sidewalks even in the countryside or enough grass to walk safely without the threat of being crushed against a stone wall. Sure, there was that added element of urban grunge: rubbish floating in the wind, dilapidated buildings, and cars that honked for the sake of honking, but all I could see were the images of wide concrete sidewalks and bike paths.
The sky was dark now and I dodged each car that came my way; climbing up onto the grass, into the brambles, cutting my legs and soaking my shoes. I imagined what I looked like, the light giving me form as I waited for them to pass by. A frightening figure, miserable and cold, staring into the souls of each driver.
“This is the day I die,” I mumbled, as I pushed my body into the overgrown bushes. It wasn’t just the terrifying experience of walking home in the dark, it was the feeling that this could be my last memory while in Ireland. No job. An arts degree. Heaps of debt waiting for me in the States. No money; the last of it having been spent on a falafel wrap that was sure to be soggy. And now I was going to be hit by some jack-ass who was driving too fast on a narrow winding road.
I turned on the light of my phone and held it out in front of me. For a while I kept the light to the ground but soon I gave up and held the phone in a such a way that it might blind each passer-by. My iPhone would serve where the umbrella failed. A beacon of anxiety. A lighthouse that warned cars not to kill the neurotic redhead.
I’ll admit I did a lot of praying to my mom. Obviously she couldn’t do much for me. It was comforting to cry like a child, uttering “Mommy!” mixed with “I hate–” basically everything. The cows as they observed from some nearby field were probably laughing at me. “Who is this chick?” they were probably saying. “We’re out here, like, 24/7, without a jacket or umbrella.”
Defeated and ready to say slán to Ireland I finally approached the corner of Curry Oughter. My phone buzzed. I looked down. It was a text from Abby. “Are you nearly home? Because dad’s coming near Corofin now so he might be able to give you a lift the rest of the way home.”
I let out a long sigh and considered sitting on the side of the road and waiting for Brian to drive me the rest of the fifty steps to the house. My poor sad life: so dependent on other people for transportation that I seriously contemplated a lift that I could easily walk. It took a second for reason to smack me in the face. I walked to the house.
Abby opened the door. “You made it,” she smiled.
I couldn’t help but smile as well. “I’m alive.”
After taking off my mucky trainers and peeling away the wet socks, I went straight to the kitchen and opened up the falafel. It was nearly flattened and juices had escaped from small rips in the flour wrap. I’ve never tasted anything so satisfying. The deep-fried balls of chickpea and spices blended expertly with the lettuce, mint, and beetroot salad. Poured over it was tahini with lemon and a coriander sauce. The bottom of the falafel was just a soggy tortilla that had soaked in all the juice. I ate this in a matter of seconds and then dipped my finger into whatever was left on wrapper.