Chip Shop (Story by Risa Peris)

Northern Ireland. 1985. I had one thing in my mind. Madonna. Well, two things. Colm. My friend Sheena went to the same school as I. We were close. Like super close. She knew all about me. I knew all about her. She was kind of a dork. I got that word from American movies. She had spiraled curls and wide eyes. She liked fluorescent and multi-colored shorts. When we weren’t listening to music in my room we were attending the Catholic school. Our uniforms were navy blue and maroon. Most of the girls looked smart in their uniforms except for Sheena who always looked disheveled and a few of the heavier girls who strained in their uniforms. Colm went to the boys school and I saw him after school as Sheena and I walked past. Colm was cute, nice. He walked with Sheena and I to Duff Road and then he split. Chip shop. He invited us but our moms were strict. We had to be home for tea. Sheena and I went to my house and sang Madonna and OMD. We talked about American movies. We tore photos from Teen Beat and pasted them on my walls.

“What do you think, Sheena? Will Colm be my man?”

Sheena was sitting at my desk staring at Matthew Broderick. “Do you want him to be your man?”

“I do. I do.” I fell on my bed flushed with passion and amateur love. “We should go to the chip shop one day.”

“Your Ma would beat ya.”

“Oh, forget her.” I loosened my school uniform.

The next day Colm walked us to Duff Road. He didn’t say much. Just asked if I had seen Sixteen Candles and what I thought of Molly Ringwald. When it was time to split, he waved and then kissed my cheek. I blushed hard. It wasn’t possible for more blood to rush to my head.

“You’ll come to the chip shop tomorrow? Ask your Ma.” And then he walked off with a grin. My heart was very near bursting.

“Do you think your Ma will let you to the chip shop?” asked Sheena.

“I don’t care. I’m going anyway. Besides, she’s always busy with the babes.” We sang Like a Virgin as we skipped down the road.

When we got home Ma pulled me close to her. Da pulled Sheena close. I saw Sheena’s Ma sitting on the sofa. She was shaking and wiping tears.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Sheena looked clueless on her usual way. “What’s goin’?” she asked.

“There’s been a bomb,” my Da said.

“A bomb?” I was bored. It seemed there were always bombs.

“Someone bombed Duff Street. The chip shop and some other buildings.” My Da was wiping tears.

“We knew you girls crossed Duff Street.” Sheena’s Ma was still wiping tears. “We thought…”

My heart grew hard then wept. I rushed to the TV.

“Who died?” I asked. The names were scrolling and I saw Colm on there and I almost fainted. Colm died by a bomb. “I loved, Colm,” I said. I turned and saw Sheena with her wide eyes and messy appearance. There was a smudge of dirt from the schoolyard on her face. I loved that face. I hugged Sheena and we stood there crying as our parents looked at us relieved and sad.

I wondered, very vaguely, what my child might look like if I had married Colm. The look of the baby made me cry harder. Colm was dead. And my young heart died a little too.

It’s now 2019 and a part of my heart is still dead. I married a good man and had three children but I always wonder about Colm. Would it have been better with him? Would we have escaped to London to be artists? I don’t know. But there’s something evil in a life taken too early. There’s something evil in a bomb no matter what side you are on.

I closed my yearbook. 2019. Moving on. I listen to Lady Gaga now. Not Madonna. Music changes your heart. Music marks the time and every disaster. Music marks your heart and love.


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