Ourselves ~ fiction by Mike Lee

Siobhán picked me up from the apartment and drove us into Brooklyn.

She sang along with Bowie’s “Golden Years” playing off her iPhone. She turned to face me as we barreled up Bedford Avenue near McCarren Park. “ANNNNGELLLLL.”

“Oh, good fuckin’ Lord. Watch the street,” I said.

She laughed. “I always keep one eye on the road.”

Siobhán is a pale bottle blond with coal-black eyes. One of the diehard Irish from Woodlawn, in the Bronx. Her Da worked in construction before retiring to the Redneck Rivera, and her mother was dead. She’s physically younger than fifty and, in experience, older than the bricks and mortar of the McLean Avenue storefronts where she worked while going from Bronx Science High School to Fordham. After that, it was hello, Brooklyn.

Once there, Siobhán bought a Gibson Firebird like her idol PJ Harvey and played in garage bands. I first saw her at a Wild Girls a Go-Go show. Siobhán wore a skirt made of spoons strung on a wire and a crossed pair of spatulas as a top, hitting bursts of fuzz resonating deep in the drunken echoes of a Coney Island bar.

Two singles and a compilation later, life became bartending in the East Village and occasionally dragging out the Firebird for studio work or for herself. She finally got into editorial and survived the layoffs during the 2008 crash, where she slowly built her 401(k) while working two shifts a week at a bar on Avenue B.

That’s where we met. I recognized Siobhán the moment I watched her pulling stouts.

I reminded Siobhán of that time thirty years ago, dressed in spoons and spatulas.

Surprisingly, it worked.


I bought her a couple of poetry books.

She studied the one by the Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik. “I’ve read her. Her books are au courant for my taste,” Siobhán said. “Oh, I have your pants in the car.”

“Thank you, babe,” I responded. “And thank you for bringing the pants.”

“Of course. With great care, I washed these dusty dungarees,” Siobhán said. She smiled as she pushed the books into her battered black leather computer shoulder bag.

After some vintage store browsing and picking up more books at Book Thug in Williamsburg, we drove back to the East Village to the bar.

It was a slow night for both of us, so we had time to chat. People know I’m the boyfriend, making me a popular guy. Being now quite an occasional musician, Siobhán is known by some of the studio gang. Some of that rubs off on me; I hang out with the regulars, primarily producers tossing back cold ones during breaks between sessions at the recording studio nearby.

We were both born on the eleventh day of separate months, a little feral and sometimes too innovative for our own good.

When I told Siobhán this, she laughed. “And so our troubles began!” Then, she brought a pair of shot glasses and filled them with Jameson’s Black.

“We had a fun day today, baby.”

We kissed. “Sometimes you just have to keep staring at the ceiling and pretend it’s the sky,” she said. She calls me the boyfriend she finally likes but won’t commit to moving in together. I remain patient. My therapist says Siobhán is afraid, and I must work with her. A friend commented that she’s a pixie dream girl.

I don’t talk to him very much anymore. Siobhán isn’t into rescue, and we don’t talk much about our respective pasts. However, the relationship isn’t an idyll—it’s more about finding the means to catch our breaths until we step forward.

When she slammed the glass on the bar, Siobhán cupped my face and said, “Reminder: I am the now.”

She poured another round, some craft bourbon her boss told her to push. It wasn’t bad or of much good either. Just was.

Siobhán kissed me on the forehead and checked on other customers while I sat staring at fragments of my face scattered reflected between the rows of bottles.

Still not much of a buzz, and sipped a Guinness while jotting thoughts in my journal. Two and a half pages already. I thought I had a new story coming.

Siobhán changed the Spotify mix to one she made for me on my birthday. Bal Pare’s Palais D’Amour came on. German electronic, mid-eighties, if I recall.

I raised my Guinness and smiled, my brain floating in a tranquil sea.

I return to writing in my journal while Siobhán shakes up a pair of martinis for a hip-hop producer and his client.

Tonight was a damn sight better than the days when the dawn appeared, and the clouds rolled in. While possible, those times may return—one cannot predict the future—the night is warm, and hope lingers.

Suddenly, my phone goes off. Siobhán must have seen the look on my face when she slapped my hand away from the phone. With that, I thought about pixies and rescue then dropped it into a compartment.

Suddenly I feel she doesn’t seem real. I may bring it up in the next session.

“When the Irish say ‘you’re dead,’ there is nothing you can do,” Siobhán said. “Leave it be. As Pizarnik wrote, ‘The abandoned bonfire kills its own light.’”

Mike Lee is a writer and editor at a trade union in New York City and the chief blogger for Focus on the Story. His work appears in or is forthcoming in Press Pause, Flash Boulevard, BULL, The Quarantine Review, Drunk Monkeys, and many others. His story collection, The Northern Line, is available on Amazon. Twitter: @lml1962.

Show Mike some love via PayPal at mike.quinam(at)gmail(dot)com.