Monday, 14 November 2005


Zambia, 2005

The sound makes me turn from the post office counter.


The post office security guard is belting some guy. I don't know what the man has done. Perhaps he has tried to steal something, perhaps he pushed someone, maybe he called the security guard's mother a ho. But whatever it was, it cannot call for this bitchslapping him upside the head. The man does not even retaliate. In fact, he has no aura of threat or aggression about him whatsoever. Neither is he shouting or causing any commotion. The only noise is that made by the security guard.


The man tries to back away as the guard continues to hit him. A crowd starts to form. I get out of there, no desire to be caught up in it.

Out on the street I see a police truck pull up. The security guard and the police start to drag the man out of the post office. I am amazed. That there is an emergency number in Zambia. That works. That the police answer. That they have a vehicle. Which works. That they arrive quickly. In itself, this sequence of events is incredible.

The man is now quite close to me. He is still not resisting, despite the violence being inflicted on him. I would guess that he either has a slight mental disability, or possibly he is a bit drunk. The police manhandle him into the back of the truck and pull off.


USA, 1995

"Ma'am, ma'am! Is she gonna expire?"

The police officer is leaning over me. I am leaning over my friend Rosa. I am confused. No-one has ever called me 'ma'am' before, and I don't know what he means by expire. Rosa has stretched Happy Hour into Happy All Night Long, and suddenly the path - no, the sidewalk - looks like a great place to lie down and sleep off all the margaritas. I look into the officer's face, and I see that he has never had the need to feel a cold hard tile pressed against his cheek. And then my slow brain translates the copspeak and I realise what he is asking me.

"No, of course she's not going to die." I drag her up, and we stagger off, laughing.


Ireland, 1990

I am running late. Late, late, late. A crust of toast in one hand, packing my bag with the other, trying to wriggle into my coat, sprinting for the front door. Just as I get to it, the doorbell rings. Arse. I can't just ignore it, wait for whoever it is to go away, I am late! But if I open it, I will get caught up dealing with whoever it is. The bell rings again, insistently. I need to get away. I wrench open the door and try to step out. Four large men are blocking my path.

"Garda Drug Squad", says the biggest one, waving something at me. Big arse with cherry on top. I don't have time for this.

"Do you know Seamus O'Toole?" a Garda in the middle of the posse says.
"Mmm, not personally, but I think he lives in the flat upstairs."
"Fine," he says, elbowing his way in.

I brush past the others and race towards my bike. And I spend the next few weeks convinced that Seamus O' Toole is some major drug baron who will find me and cut me for confirming to the Gardai where he lives.