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Everyone you meet knows someone you know, and sooner or later everyone knows your story. But all this bloody sunshine makes it much more difficult to be alone. I constantly feel like I should be sitting with a group of friends in a beer garden or taking romantic seaside strolls. I should have thought about this before moving to Australia on my own.
Maybe I should have gone to Seattle, I hear it rains a lot there. The recession was my official excuse for leaving but mostly I was trying to get away from my parents. Birthdays are the worst. While she will remain forever 21, and perfect, I continue to age, with the croakiness and crankiness that that brings. We all wonder what she would be like if she were here. Would she have made it as an actress? Got married? Had kids? We picture a parallel universe, one with her in it.
The Americans really buy into all that stuff. We never experienced that sort of psychic connection. That said, on the night she died, 3, miles across the Atlantic, I sat bolt upright in my bed at 4am, as if waking from one of those nightmares that has a silent scream at the end. It was 11pm in New York, which I later learned was the time the taxi slammed into Molly as she walked home from a night out in Brooklyn.
I had cut my summer short by returning to Dublin to repeat my oral Irish exam. That fact has haunted me for years. Even though I was at home while she was living it up in the Big Apple, the independence was freeing.
In the months after, he turned up at my door late one night looking for a Molly-shaped shoulder to cry on. I opened a bottle of wine and we sat up talking for hours. We kept most of our clothes on even when he was inside me, and we were ever so quiet although there was no-one to hear us, as if being quiet somehow made it less of a crime.
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As he sobbed into the crook of my neck, I wondered if my skin tasted like hers. I saw him a few times after, but we never found a way to talk about what happened.
After that, I tried changing my look, thinking it might be easier for everyone if I looked less like Molly. I cut my hair short and bleached it blonde, invested in a new wardrobe, ditching the jeans and hoodies we used to wear. Now here I am in Melbourne, with my new hair and my new clothes.
This part of Brunswick Street reminds me of Brooklyn, with its vintage shops and cafes selling types of bitter-tasting coffee. But I barely have time to experience the pang Brooklyn brings before I hear a voice that unmistakably belongs to Deirdre McCarthy from school. How are you doing? I came here to break free of the past, not to meet it for a pint in an Irish pub in St Kilda. In fact, I seem to think about Molly more than ever these days. Early on, one of them was bitching about her sister taking her favourite leather jacket without asking, and she asked me if I had any siblings and I said I was an only child.
I enter and ask if they can fit me in.
Same same but different, a short story by Anne Hayden
Cut and colour? Just a colour, but not the blonde I have now, it never suited me anyway. I want to go back to being a brunette, I say. He hopes my tooth is alright, wants to see me again. She never wants to hear the phone ring in the middle of the night again. We meet a few days later near Flinders Street Station in the city centre and walk to a bar in one of the graffiti-lined laneways. We stay for another drink, and another. What about you, have you got brothers or sisters? To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
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Same same but different, a short story by Anne Hayden A young woman, bereft since the death of her twin, tries to forge a new, singular identity Sat, Apr 2, , Anne Hayden. More from The Irish Times Books.