Story Wine Prize runner-up: 6 pm Saturday Night

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6pm Saturday night. In a Boulevard town, mum and I debate about whether it’s too early for a cocktail or if my hair is too early or if we’ll even get in. We do the hair in the sliver of light on the black outside of a 711. The bar staff don’t seem as concerned as we are about our cardigans and the flowers we’ve just bought for ourselves at the market – they just want us to buy a drink. I go for the old staple. Mum orders best. Her rose lychee martini looks like the Great Gatsby in a glass. My espresso martini looks weak. At 6pm. Always listen to your mother.

We talk about people we both know in the lighting by the ball bearing curtains we both think we know from somewhere, from someone else’s movie and we talk sideways. And we sip. Below us in the street two cops in full Kev talk about something serious and then when we’re back on that street a young woman who could have been twenty last year puts her headphones in and tries to look like her legs and her breasts aren’t walking her into work. Mum flinches. And I clutch the flowers we bought for ourselves. At the video store the guy behind the counter says, ‘Weird name for a flower company – Blue Moon.’ And I want to ignore him but my mum, social on any status, says, ‘Oh yeah? Why’s that?’

And he says, ‘Well pretty stupid name if you want guys to buy you flowers a lot.’

We leave with the movie we just rented that we don’t realise is about sex addicts. We won’t end up watching it anyway. On the verandah we talk about all the bastards we used to work for. Walking into rooms backwards with the tea trays. On command. Hiding our legs. And the others. The old man with the big feet – how he walked mum into the Rugby Club and told the bartenders to have her drink ready for the rest of her life – how not all men are pricks. Then we put Lana Del Ray on and mum says, ‘Do you always listen to music before you go to sleep?’ and I say no, ‘Do you? Because of the break in? Because of the noises?’ And she says, ‘No, because of my head.’

We decide to put mum in the over 50s club on RSVP because it’s been too long, too long trying not to show you’re not really lonely. I keep saying, ‘He looks alright’ and when we have to fill in the box named my ideal man mum says with a bit more lean in her chair, ‘I only want to bring someone home you’ll be proud of’. Her comment and all the old men selfies make me sad. They look to me like someone I could love. As a new dad. As a long gone. And mum says, ‘No too fat.’

We have to take a photo and I put a filter on to hide mums wrinkles and feel bad about this but she agrees the filter does make everything seem better. I want to hug her when she looks nervous about the special interests section but then I look at her and say, ‘How can we sell this?’ all business mode. We keep looking at the screen. Later Mum takes her makeup off. I sit outside in the heavy wind and the big lights wanting to conjure a man vast enough to take care of the both of us. But he’s already dead and I wonder where all these avatars sleep. Why the ghosts don’t return. When they could be right here in a small touch on the hand that is never quite what we remember. Or is the only real thing. Somehow we keep telling this story that it’s easy to be in love, that it’s easy not to feel alone. When I think about going to bed my head is still saying something about how much my mum is the best woman I’ve ever known and I think about posting it and then I think about editing it and then I think about when I was five and she took my picture on the stairs when I had new hair and I ruined it five minutes later by falling in the pool, then I think about some guy I don’t really know and I think about my mum again sleeping in the back room and I think there’s not long now and you should be better, I say to myself, you should be true. And I think about when mum said earlier tonight pointing out to the sky looks there’s a falling star and I said no it’s just a plane because I am not prepared for the light. I am not prepared for all this light to fade out.



Sally Breen

Sally Breen is the author of The Causals (2011) and Atomic City (2013).

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