Dear Madge, How are you? Do you miss me already? Or are you glad to have rid of me? I know I’m only gone and your probably thinking that idiot should be out enjoying himself but I just thought I’d check in on everyone back in Ballybeg and see how they are doing. I promised to you that I’d write and that’s a promise I intend to keep, just in case you ever see me again, I wouldn’t want you shouting at me for not writing. It’ll be hard keeping my promise but because here, in Philadelphia, it seems I cant get a minute to myself. Its not like Ballybeg a small, sleepy village where everyone knows everyone and the people gossip about each other.
It’s the very opposite this city never sleeps and people don’t have time for each other, whether its good or bad I don’t know. I work so much sometimes I just wish I could go home to Ballybeg to salt fish and do nothing. My job in the hotel is alright although its nearly as exciting as working for old screwballs. The only difference is that I get paid well if you include tips. Sometimes I’d rather return to gutting and salting fish, this job kills my back and I have to work some desperate hours. Is my job still vacant? Or has old Screwballs had me replaced.
I bet he just wants to try and keep the money for himself. How is old screwballs is he still moping around mumbling and grumbling, regular as clockwork. Sometimes I wish I could watch he go through his daily routine. I live for the day that he does something out of the ordinary if I was to see that I would die a happy man I think. I know it may sound to you that I’m making it out to be worse than it is and maybe your right, he always meant well and tried to take care of both of us, I still cant believe that in all my life I only have one memory of him as a happy man and when he was happy I was happy too.
Even though he never made me laugh and smile he has always been fair and helpful he looked after me well. He gave me a roof over my head and kept me employed. He didn’t even say much when I dropped out of university, sometimes I wonder if that was a good or bad thing but. Just before I left he did something that broke his daily routine. I don’t think it was good enough to let me die a happy man but I was shocked by it. The night before I left I found him downstairs drinking tea. I couldn’t sleep with anxiety, the thought of leaving had me excited and scared all at the one time I was never going to sleep.
I went down to the kitchen for some tablets and old Screwballs was there. I got the feeling that he was worried about me leaving and that he actually cared about me it was then I thought I’d started to understand old Screwvballs. We sat in the scullery awkwardly making conversation but, slowly, it started to feel like we were having a normal conversation unlike the usual nonsense we talk just to break the silence. We had sat there for a while and then you came in. this is when we tried to evoke some of Screwballs memories of me.
He couldn’t remember my particular favourite; sometimes I think I dreamt it. He did have his own memory, you knew about it too. At that moment I felt like me and Screwballs were father and son. It made me wish id given him more of a chance and tried to get him to talk to me more often maybe we could have became closer. I never tried and I may never know if I could have made him like a real father to me. I really miss him sometimes and I still always wonder what could have been if I had left id love to come back and see what happens.
Does he still dice with debt, gambling his life away, playing his daring games of checkers with the Cannon? He needs to see that the Cannon is an ignorant and a fool. Do you not see how he picks on Master Boyle? I know what you think of Master Boyle. You may think that the cannon has the right idea. Everyone including you and the Cannon think he is an old worthless drunk that should not be teaching children. I accept the fact that Boyle is a bit strange and that maybe he should not be teaching in his state. I still think he’s a nice and humble man even if he is a bit rough around the edges.
I think that I may have ended up like poor old Boyle if I was still living in Ballybeg, we had quite a lot in common, and I know what Ballybeg does to a man like him. Just remember Madge that man could have been my father if Screwballs hadn’t taken her from him. He loved my mother but lost her to another man. This was because he was a loser and a failure just like me, an academic drop out who lost his true love Kate Dougan. Do me a favour Madge, tell him I was looking out for magazines to put his poems in and also, be nice to him because without me to be nice to him no one will.
That just reminded me of how I left things with Kate. I wish I hadn’t been so rude and arrogant; I just wouldn’t listen to what she had to say. I was frustrated at the time and my anger needed to be released, so I released it on her. I have often let my anger out on her for things that were not her fault. After she married Francis I have always lived in denial blaming her for our break up, that was never true, she never thought she was too good for me. The whole thing was my fault, it was all because I was insecure I never thought I would be able to please her, I made so many promises I couldn’t keep.
I had the chance to marry her, she want me to marry her. In the end I backed out her rich and powerful father intimidated me. He was rich and powerful and expected someone who was worthy of his daughter and I was not, I showed this by backing out. I was never what he expected I knew that from the start, so did Kate. He had always expected her to marry a rich man, like Francis, a man who could provide and care for her. He knew I could never do this with my lousy job gutting and salting fish. If you se her tell her I’m sorry I didn’t mean what I said it was just that I was angry.
The boys had called round and they acted like idiots, as usual, they never even acknowledged the fact that I was leaving Ballybeg forever. Sometimes I wonder how I stuck them for so long. They were big idiots I knew that and so did you but still for some reason I miss them, we did have some good times together. You always told me they were an irritable bunch of losers and I never disagreed with you Madge but if you saw them the way I did you may change your mind, they were not as bad as you thought, they had their good point and their flaws, just like everyone.
If you could see pat their masks, as I have done, you would see that beyond their hard external there was normal men and if you saw past our forced looking relationship you would see that there was some kind of friendship and although it was not the strongest it was something, more than I have out here in Philadelphia and so I miss them. They put on a sow and pretend to be hard; they didn’t even acknowledge my leaving. I’ve thought about that a lot, I was angry at them, I thought they were not real friends. It was then that I realised that this is all because they are scared of reality; they have never faced up to it.
They are so afraid that they try to live in their own small pack, a fantasy world they create for themselves. They have a selective and imaginative memory; they put their own spin on their stories to suit them. Remember Madge I was one of they boys, and I wasn’t that bad, they’re the same down inside, you just have to look for it. The boys need this imaginary world, their own small sub-culture, so that they can survive within Ballybeg. They are not acceptable within Ballybeg; people see them as being socially inadequate. Without the group each man would be lost.
This group makes each of them feel powerful, proud and mighty, here they have some kind of status and everyone does not reject them. If the boys returned to reality and realised their insignificance no one would boost their confidence and self esteem. Staying within their sub-cultural society protects them and so they do not face reality. They are needed in the group. Their references to sex and violence mask their emotions and make them feel manly. They have to show masculinity, which mean not showing their emotions. This is why they did not acknowledge my leaving this would show their emotion. Read also I wish i hadn’t said those hurtful essay word
If I leave them a piece of their sub-culture is taken away making it small and weaker. The boys depend on safety in numbers. Soon it may split up for good, the boys are scared, and if this were to happen they would have to face reality. Slowly they are all starting to return to reality, by God, Ned even give me a present, even if he did mask his true reason for giving me it I could see his emotion. Give them time Madge they will change. Madge you may be wondering why I wrote to you, why didn’t I write the boys or Screwballs.
You’re the only one I ever felt I could open up to, I could express my feelings with you and you gave me your honest opinion. I can confide in you. You’re strong and sensible and always help me out, I’ve needed you a lot and you’ve always been there for me like a mother. The thing is that I’m not sue whether Philadelphia is right for me I agreed to go when I wanted out of Ballybeg. It was Kate Dougan’s wedding and I wanted to get away from it all, the Aunt Lizzy offered me an escape. Looking back at Ballybeg it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’ll keep in touch Madge. P. S. – There’s an elephant on its way for wee Madge