Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature, Summer Soap, a daily fictional serial told over 12 episodes. The latest Soap begins today. Called Bleach, it was written by Beau Williams (right), from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this first episode, we meet the main characters, Matthew and Jordan, as they are reunited in Cork city. But for Matthew, there’s an underlying sense of foreboding
THE CityLink bus from Dublin Airport pulled into St Patrick’s Quay eleven minutes late and the wind tore a grey rain from the sky.
A man with a tight beard and a thin idea of where to go, stepped off the bus. It had been a few years since he was in this city, but it came back quickly. Cork struck him as wetter in the day; hardly any ghosts.
His GPS brought him to Phoenix, a local café with a larger than life wall painting of neon butterflies and a single giant phoenix that stretched across the ceiling like wildfire. The tables were all inspired by flame and metallic colours, which counteracted the dreaded dampness of the poor saps, young and old, who’d find their way in.
The sharp head of the Phoenix angled down and the beak pointed to a table in the far back. Jordan had been waiting there, one long leg over the other, with her black cup of coffee and her platinum extensions, her black eye makeup, plain white shirt, ripped black jeans, and heavy Army boots that she got from a charity shop. The boots were twelve years old and half her age.
“Matthew!” She leapt from her chair, bounded over to him, and wrapped him in her arms.
Matthew lit up. He dropped his bag and caught her; he held her tight as if trying to fit two years of hugs into one moment. He could feel her spine through her shirt and it didn’t quite worry him but he noticed.
“How was the flight? Do you want a coffee?”
“Ah, I’m good on coffee, makes me jittery. The flight was great. I slept the whole way.”
She grabbed his bags and they headed to the table under the beak. “God, I missed Ireland. Didn’t miss this rain though.” They sat down and she set his things under the chair.
“Yup. It’s not quite that Boston weather we grew up with, is it? You get used to it though.”
“No. Actually, it sucks. I’ve been here for two years and I’m not about it. But it’s like New England snow, you know? We all bitch about it together and then later we all feel like we’ve overcome something.”
She took a sip of her coffee and crossed her legs again.
“Got it. Hey, thanks again for letting me stay with you while I find a place. First day of class is tomorrow and I will start apartment hunting once I’m all collected.”
“Sure, hey,” she said, “if you’d just let me woo you already, you could move in with me.” She winked in that playful way he was used to. He rolled his eyes in the way that she expected.
Matthew had met Jordan at a five-day folk festival in western Massachusetts a handful of years back. He was smoking a joint alone when she walked up, took it out of his mouth, and took a hit. They got to talking and discovered they were both from New England. They bonded over their Irish/American heritage and which Tom Waits album was best.
They spent the rest of the festival dancing, eating, and talking into the night. He was older and she flirted with him, but with the understanding that for him, he just enjoyed her company.
“Jordan, you look great! Where are you working now?”
“Still tending bar at the Hall of Fame on Western. They serve pizza too. It’s whatever. Pays the bills.
They caught up quick, as they tended to. The conversation was easy. It rolled out smooth as bath water drawn.
“So, are you still with Stephanie?” Matthew asked her.
Jordan scoffed. “Ehh no, that ship sailed. Actually, it crashed and sunk to the bottom of the sea, is more like it. But you know me, if the break-up isn’t messy, was it even true love?” She laughed a little and sipped her coffee.
“You’ve always enjoyed making a spectacle.” He nodded at her in a half-kidding sort of way. “I remember her being really cool. What happened?”
“Matthew, she was a jerk! You remember how she always kept trying to hang out with literally everyone BUT me? Then she would get all upset with me when I would yell at her for it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to show a little love and attention sometimes.” Her breath rate quickened and her eyes became fierce.
Matthew started: “I mean, hell, I wasn’t in the relationship. I only saw it from the outside and on social media. You’d know better than me, I suppose. That’s too bad, hun. I’m sorry.” He tried not to get nervous. “So, what is the plan for tonight?”
“Look, I have to close up the bar tonight, but this is the key to mine. I already texted you the address. Hollyhill is a bitch to walk from here, but the view at the top is worth it. Orla is my housemate. She knows you’re staying.”
Matthew thought he saw her eyes shift at her words as if to reel them back.
“She’s f****n’ weird” Jordan snapped. Matthew always got nervous when she snapped. “Orla. She’s old, like 40. She’s too quiet, touches my things! Gives me the creeps.”
Jordan was known to flip a fuse quick and he’d rather avoid that situation if he could. She collected herself and her things.
“Anyway, help yourself to whatever’s in the kitchen and I’ll be home around five. You’re staying in the guest room. It’s up the stairs. It will be the door in the middle; I’ll leave the door open.”
She kissed him on the cheek and a cold tremor rippled up his back like a curse.
DON'T MISS THE NEXT INSTALLMENT:
“Matthew couldn’t find the light switch so he climbed the stairs in the dark. The dim nightlight shone through the banister.”