Ah there you are Margaret. I thought you were never coming in. Are you on your own? I know how busy the girls are, with dinners to cook and shopping to do for their families. Are the lads still working? Sure isn’t it great that they all have jobs to go to. Visiting times in this place are not very convenient for them. Tell them I understand and sure can’t they pop over to the house at the weekend. Did you bring my clothes with you? I’m going home today. I’m not going to that place they’re talking about. They said they’re bringing me to a nursing home. Why in the name of God would I be going to a nursing home when I have my own home; my own house, with my own front door. Look in my handbag Margaret; I have my key in there. It’s on the key ring that Shamie brought back from Ibiza for me; the one of the flamenco dancer. He knew I loved the flamenco dancers. I love the sound of the hard shoes tapping on the wooden floor; A bit like Irish dancing. We were great at the Irish dancing when we were young ones. We loved the hornpipe but we never got a pair of the shoes with the big silver buckle on the front. Mam couldn’t afford them. Not with eleven of us to feed and Da away in England working and sending very little money home.
Remember the first time we went to Salou and we saw the flamenco dancers in that posh restaurant on the seafront? We thought the flamenco was so much more exciting than the hornpipe, didn’t we Maggie? The shoes were much prettier too, and watching the bailaores as they stomped and twirled around the floor clapping their hands was so exhilarating. They had lovely ankles too didn’t they? May Byrne had fierce thick ankles when she did the hornpipe, remember Margaret? The state of her in that horrible bottle green and yellow dress she wore for all the feis’s. Those flamenco dancers wore fabulous silk taffeta dresses, edged with lace. They trailed the ground, swishing as they danced. Remember Margaret? They were a gorgeous red with black polka dots. They wore those lovely lacy tights and mantillas too. I never saw a mantilla look that good on an Irish girl in Mass of a Sunday did you Margaret? Some of them would have looked better wearing them over their faces.Will we go back to Salou Margaret? It’s been too long since we’ve been.
I’ll never forget the heat that hit us every time we got off the plane. It was like the blast of heat you get on your face when you open the door to take out the Sunday roast. We had great times there after Paddy and Jack died. We were like merry widows. They wouldn’t come with us when they were alive. They hated dancing. They preferred to stand at the bar down the pub every night. Even when we got them to come with us on a Saturday night to the club they were the same. Up at the bar, knocking back pints until closing time, then telling us to hurry up just because they were finished. We always wanted to stay for the last dance. Ah we were so young back then. Dancing kept us young didn’t it Margaret? Me and you…The dancing Queens.
Come over and help me to pack my bag Margaret, quick before the nurse comes back. She keeps giving me those pitying looks. I don’t need her pity, and I don’t need a nursing home. I have my own home, with my own front door and my own key on a key ring; the one with the flamenco dancer.
I think she’s mixing me up with that poor old woman in the bed by the window. God love her. She never has any visitors. She must have no family. I’m so lucky to have you come visit me every day.
I’ll light a big fire in the front room when we get home. We’ll have our dinner on the coffee table in front of the telly and watch ‘Come Dancing’ like we always do on a Saturday night. I have a nice bottle of wine hidden under the sink behind the bleach so that Breda one can’t find it. She’s a terrible one for the drink isn’t she Margaret? I hope she didn’t find it while I was in here. Although with the amount of cleaning she does, that’s hardly likely.
We’ll celebrate my freedom from this stinking hospital. Why am I here so long Margaret?It seems like forever since I was home. I hate this place. It smells of urine and boiled cabbage. It reminds me of Mad Molly’s house down the lane from Granny Kelly’s in Inchicore. Poor Molly, God love her. I don’t think she was mad at all. She was just demented looking after her Ma all those years. Pissy Chrissy we called her Ma, because of the smell off her. We were terrible weren’t we Margaret; but we were only children. We didn’t mean to be bad but she mustn’t have had a bath in years. She drove Molly mad alright. Even after Chrissy died, Molly always looked a bit bewildered. I wonder whatever became of her Margaret. The poor old sole, she spent most of her life looking after her Mother, and never living her dreams. I wonder what her dreams were. We’ve lived our dreams, haven’t we Margaret. Remember when we used to sing in bed when we were children? ‘Merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream’.
You look great today Margaret, like a young one again. I love that dress on you. The cornflower blue brings out the colour of your eyes. You have such lovely eyes. Isn’t that the dress you wore the night we had that party? I can see you now, standing by the fireplace, laughing away as you puffed on your woodbine and chatted to Bob Hughes. I think he fancies you, you know. Will I ask him over when we get home Margaret? He’ll be delighted. What a great party that was. Everyone was so happy. We sang and danced all night until… Oh look, here comes that bloody nurse again. She never comes when you want her, when you’re dying for a drink of water or a cup of tea, when your throat is as dry as the Sahara desert. She’s just in for a nose because you’re here; the busy body. Look at the state of her. Legs like tree trunks in those brown tights, and look at the kankles on her. She must have been an Irish dancer in her day, like May Byrne.
Margaret. Where are you going? Don’t leave without me. Nurse, can you tell Margaret to come back. Why does she leave every time you come in? What did you say to her? I hope you’re not upsetting her. What do you mean Margaret who? It’s my sister Margaret. You just passed her over by the door. There she is just there. Margaret, come over and tell this nurse what I told you about going home. She’s on at me again about that bloody nursing home. Tell her I’m going home with you Maggie.
Nurse, get your hands off me. I’m going nowhere, except with my sister. What do you mean I don’t have a sister? Of course I have a sister. Margaret, come in and talk to the nurse. Tell her we’re having a party tonight and I have to go home and get ready. The others will be wondering where I am. Tell her Margaret, and you, nurse, why are you saying Margaret is not here. She’s right by the door, wearing her lovely blue dress. She’s waving at me. Why is she waving? Come back Margaret. Wait for me. Please. Don’t go without me. They said I’m going to the nursing home today. I’m not going. That place is for old people. They said I have to go because I’ve no family to look after me.
I heard them whispering outside my door… her and that doctor. They think I’m deaf. They think I’m stupid. I heard them say how sad it was that my family all died in a fire at our house after a party. Imagine them saying that Margaret.
Sure we haven’t had a party since… since the night…since…
Oh my God Margaret…