You came in, stern-faced: ‘We need to talk,’ you said

Welcome to the latest Summer Soap — a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts. Called 12 Letters From Home, this story was written by Luisa Geisler, a Brazilian living in Cork city, and was chosen from work submitted by students of the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this eighth episode, the main character ponders her life as an immigrant in Cork
You came in, stern-faced: ‘We need to talk,’ you said
The Shandon Bells and Tower, Church Street, Shandon, Cork City, Ireland. Picture Dan Linehan


Dear Connor,

I don’t think I can talk to you about Steve. I mean, that sentence is confusing: it’s not that I don’t think. I know I can’t. I can’t make some pasta carbonara, sit in front of you on the dinner table and say: “Do you remember Steve, our AirBnB guest? So, your baby may be Asian.”

Maybe we can wait and see?

I know I can.

Maybe I’m running away from some larger discomfort. As I said in my last letter, sometimes, being in a foreign country can mean being in a limbo where you don’t know all the rules.

And I’m not talking about laws, of course, I’m talking about the informal rules. When people say they will meet you at five in the afternoon, what time will they arrive? That depends so much. Even in Brazil that changes a lot. In Rio, if you say you’ll meet at five and you want to arrive early, you get there at six. In the South, it’s a little different, but still looser. Being in Ireland can be discomforting because of that.

The thing an immigrant (or expatriate, I’m never quite sure of the difference) wants the most is to fit in. You know how those racists are always saying “Those foreigners need to learn our culture”? I swear we’re trying.

On the other hand, I’m beginning to get used to the fact that pubs in Ireland close around one in the morning. I’m getting used to the fact that I can drink beer that was brewed in Cork. I think I could stay in Cork forever if that meant only drinking a Sunbeam lager.

I’m not sure if you remember, but you were the one who taught me all the beer vocabulary. When we started sharing a room (and not just the apartment), I didn’t even know the translation for stout. I called beers by the colour.

“That one is black, that other is light yellow,” I joked.

Then you said we had to go on a tour at the Rising Sons Brewery. Do you remember that? You insisted so much and I called you a tourist. I mocked the Americans that were on the tour with us. I only agreed with a bargain: I would go on the brewery tour if we went up all the steps at Shandon and rang the bell. All my classmates in the English class had done it. One touristic attraction for another.

That’s not this letter’s reason, but we never did go up Shandon Tower. I hope we still have time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m terrified of feeling comfortable here. I’m terrified of missing Cork, of growing attached to it. I’m terrified of ending my sentences in ‘like’. I’m terrified of caring about hurling, even though you do.

Or maybe you can change the word ‘Cork’ for ‘you’. I’m so afraid that we may not be together one day that I think maybe we should end this before it’s too late. Because I’m happy here and happiness is scary, because then you can lose it. Like a superhero that now has a child and now he can’t be reckless. Like a man who can’t lose his job because he has a family to support. That is you, by the way.

Right now, I’m thinking about your weird tall face. And that’s not a mistake. You have a tall face. And that’s when your tall face enters the apartment. A serious expression on your face. Stern.

“We need to talk,” you said.

“About what?”

But that’s a reason for next letter,


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