26th January

The Rules

Outside the restaurant I paused. It was cold on the street – not much above zero – but I wanted a little preview, so I pretended to inspect the menu in the window while taking a look inside. The glass was quite steamed up but I could see figures in there, their heads and hands moving as they talked and ate. It seemed busy, but that was understandable: it was early evening, people had finished work and were having a drink or a meal before whatever was going to happen next in their lives.

I could see my girlfriend, sitting at a table about halfway back. She was waiting for me, as agreed. She wasn’t alone. Kieran, a guy from her work, was with her. I liked Kieran, I’d met him a few times and we’d played foot- ball together once or twice, but why was he with her now? What was going on? Probably nothing. They’d finished work and were having a drink before I turned up and Kieran went home or somewhere else. That was all, probably.

He was an attractive man, Kieran. I kind of admired him but he worried me too. My girlfriend was an attractive woman. Probably I didn’t need to be worried but that wasn’t the point. You can’t just tell yourself not to feel something. They worked together all day and after work they went for a drink. Couldn’t they get enough of each other’s company?

You’re not supposed to feel jealous. It’s not considered civilised or adult. But when you have a girlfriend you really want to keep, and you remember how you got her but you don’t know why she’s still with you, it’s hard to stick to the rules. I could feel myself boiling up inside. I wanted to burst in there like a tornado, asking no questions and accepting no explanations.

But I knew what I was going to do was slide like a snake into the jungly heat of the place, give her a loving kiss, then clasp hands with Kieran and say, ‘How are you, Kieran? Good to see you.’ Because that was the civilised, adult way to behave, even if it was killing me.

Reader: Angus Taylor
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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