On the train from Ireland’s west coast to Dublin a bearded man in filthy jeans is talking to the girl sitting opposite. It’s lunchtime. The man is drinking a can of Dutch Gold. He’s been drinking all morning. He’s full of emotion and talk and wants to open his heart. He’s a painter by trade, he says, and a writer by hobby. He paints landscapes and writes science-fiction and children’s stories, three of which have been published. His fiancée hung herself eight weeks ago and he’s been drinking ever since. Nothing seems real to him. Life doesn’t seem worth it but he doesn’t have the strength to strap a rope round his neck like she did. He smiles while talking, a melancholic smile. He says he has enough sadness to share around and that he cries at night and smiles during the day. If he was to write the story of the love he shared with his fiancée it would be more tragic than Romeo and Juliet, he says. They loved each other so much, spent all their time together, and he knew she had problems but…
He still sleeps in the room in which he found her hanging. Well, he tries to sleep but he can’t. He sees her still hanging there, dangling, pale. He’s fed up, he says, sick and tired of the world. He accidentally spills some beer over the girl’s coat and onto the table. He apologises, profusely. The girl says that’s okay, no need to apologise. He asks her what she does for a living. She’s a doctor, she says. He tells her there’s a world of emotion in her, that she keeps a diary which she should publish because, he believes, she has stories people want to hear. Promise me now, he says, promise me you’ll write, promise me you’ll try get something published. You see things at work people wouldn’t see every day of the week. The girl agrees meekly that she’ll try. During the day she works professionally, with her logic, without emotion, so there must be a world of untold emotion inside her. She should, she must, use her imagination, because if you don’t have your imagination you have nothing, the man says.
The train stops at Ballyhaunis. Swallowing the last of his beer the man alights. The girl breathes what might be a sigh of relief. Outside, standing on the platform, the man looks in the carriage window and waves at the girl. She buries her head in a magazine. The train begins to pull off. The man leaves the platform. The people in the carriage begin to laugh. An older woman looks at the girl.
Oh, I felt so sorry for you, thank God he wasn’t going all the way to Dublin.