Blick auf eine geteilte Stadt: Belfast. View from Cavehill (1995)

Die Love-and-write-Parade auf ist in vollem Gange und da hab ich doch auch noch ein kleine Kurzgeschichte in petto. ‚Streets of death‘ ist entstanden, nachdem ich eine Freundin und ihre Familie in Belfast besucht habe. Der teilweise sehr gewalttätige Konflikt zwischen Katholiken und Protestanten, die sich eine Stadt teilen, ging mir danach sehr nah. Die Eindrücke machten sich in Form einer englischen Shortstory Luft. Gibt es eine Hoffnung für die Liebe zwischen so viel Hass und Gewalt?


Streets of death

Kevin McBride walked along the street against the throng of people who were rushing in the other direction to buy few things for his mother. She had given him a shopping note what he should look for: Two loaves of bread from the baker’s in the next street and meat from the butcher’s. They had only little money and to feed eight mouths. His father had worked in a shoe factory before it closed down and he lost his job. Kevin was only 16 years old, but he had to feed the childrens’ mouths while his father spent their money in the pub.

Kevin was a tall and good-looking fellow with wild brown hair and eager eyes, which seemed to gleam when he was happy. Kevin had to stop school and started to work in a factory, which produced spare parts for cars. He hated his job, because he always felt like in prison. The owner knew that Kevin wasn’t old enough for working and earning money, but he was a friend of the family and knew what was going an with his dad.

Kevin glanced at his watch and nearly got a shock when he realized how late it was. lt was nearly seven o‘ clock and the bakers would close at seven. He rushed through the throng and tried not to knock over somebody. Suddenly a woman shouted at an older man and ordered him rudely to sod off. Kevin watched the scene while he was running. He realised that the old man was homeless and just wanted to sleep next to the wall of the store, which belonged to the shouting woman. Kevin fall sorry for the old man but did not know what to say. Why did the government do nothing against homelessness. So many people died in the street without money and without a family.

While thinking of  any ideas to improve the situation of the homeless people he did not see the girl who hurried along in front of him . She didn’t see him either and so Kevin ran into her and the bag she was holding dropped to the ground and everything she bad bought lay scattered over the floor. “Oh sorry … „, he didn’t know what to say, because he felt so embarrassed. But the girl only knelt down and put each thing back into her bag. Kevin tried again but she didn’t even look at him – „Can I help you?“ he knelt down beside her and helped her collecting some apples which were rolling across the pavement. „Maybe I can invite you for a cup of tea?“ She lifted her head and gave him such a scornful look, which could have killed.  She turned her head back to the apples and potatoes and tried to save them from being squashed by the feet of the people who were heading homewards.  Now the last shops closed and there was nothing left to be sold. „I think I was dreaming. I didn’t see you … “ he tried again, but she remained in her position without saying a word.

“My name is Kevin McBride. He felt so ridiculous, but now she lifted her head again and looked at him. Kevin thought that she had the most beautiful eyes in the world. It seemed as if the whole light of the sun was collected in her blue eyes. ‚My name is Steph Jackson“, she said. Her eyes rested on Kevin’s as if she wanted to test his reaction. Kevin was confused, but then he realized that she wasn’t joking. „Jackson“ wasn’t a Catholic name and if it wasn’t one it must be Protestant! Steph still watched several impressions changing in his face while thinking about the problems he could get. To talk to the severest enemy they had ever had was a crime.

“What are you doing here? You must fear for your life, if you appear in a Catholic district!” he said and his voice trembled. And you are going to shout at your next friend that I’m a Protestant girl, right?” “I would never do anything like that! I really hate violence. But maybe I can prove my innocence with a cup of tea?“ suggested Kevin and he felt more comfortable now. Steph reflected for a moment. „Aye, but not for long!“ she said and smiled at him for the first time. That faint smile stabbed into his heart and Kevin thought that he would never forget that moment. He wanted to take her bag to carry it to the next coffee bar, which was only a few minutes away. „But don’t drop it “ joked Steph.

When Kevin heard his name was being shouted and the voice drawing nearer, he grew pale. He turned around to look for the one who called him. His best friend Stephen ran quickly through the street, trying not to bump into someone. Kevin didn’t know what to say. Should he introduce Steph to Stephan and or not? When Stephan finally reached Kevin, he was out of breath and tried to catch it before he was able to say anything. Kevin used his opportunity and turned to Steph, but she was gone. She had taken her bag before Kevin could do it. Kevin looked along the street and tried to find her, maybe she went on to the bar but he couldn’t spot her.

Stephen won his breath back and realized that something was wrong. He saw Kevin with a blond girl, but now his friend was alone. “ Hey, where’s the blonde?”  „Gone“, said Kevin briefly. He walked on disappointed and Stephen followed him. He had dreadful news for Kevin, who didn’t really listen. „The shop burned out and Mrs O’Brian is seriously injured. The doc says that he didn’t know, if she’ll make it! The youngest of the McIntyre family was in the shop when the bomb exploded and he was blown out of it!“ Kevin looked at Stephen. His eager eyes were so full of hatred that Kevin’s blood ran cold. Maybe the next house is mine or yours, said his look. „Kevin , we must do something against these beasts. They’ll kill us, everyone who even looks Catholic!” He put his hands on Kevin’s shoulders and looked straight into his eyes. Kevin forgot his incident with Steph.

And what is going to happen next?” Kevin asked doubtfully, „How do you want to find the guys who threw the bomb?” Irritated, Stephen shook his head, as if to say how stupid Kevin was. His head came nearer to Kevin’s ear and he whispered:

“Don’t you know what date next Friday is? The 12th of July. Orange day!“ His eyes widened when he said it to Kevin and suddenly he had a broad smile upon his face. But Kevin’s face darkened. „But they’ve nothing to do with it at all! Do you want to injure innocent people?“ Stephen was so fixed to his idea that he didn’t want to listen to Kevin. “They’re lousy Prods and as soon as they’ll be old enough they’ll do the same as their fathers, discriminating Catholics. Do you think this is OK?“ Kevin didn’t want to make Stephen angrier as he already was, but he reflected to long before he answered. „What side are you on?”

The date Stephen was talking about was a holiday for all Protestants. It was Orange day. Kevin frowned. Few years ago a friend of his went to a party which was near the Prod district and he crawled back to his home. It was Orange day and a few Protestants got lost in the Catholic area. There were five of them and his friend was on his own. Kevin visited him at home and when he saw how cruel they’d beaten him up he swore to himself that he wouldn’t set his foot on the street when the Prods celebrated their holidays. „I have to go now „, he finally said when he realized that the street was nearly empty. They’ve all done their shopping and were now sitting in front of the TV. Kevin was angry and decided to go home now, too. He turned homewards when Stephen grabbed his arm and pulled him back. „Will you be there? Everyone will!“ he said and looked straight into Kevin’s eyes. „Don’t know, see you, Stephen“, Kevin broke free from the heavy grip of Stephen and went home.

He thought the whole way about what Stephen had said. On the one hand Stephen was right. Soon, there would be more dead poeple and the next building which burns could be his own. He thought about his little brothers and remembered how they’d played their war games in the street, just like he did when he was younger. And then he imagined the little boy who was blown through the shop out onto the street when the bomb guttered. Kevin trembled and moved on. Maybe the children who would be injured next Friday were Prods, but they were human beings like his brother and like himself and that gave him the miserable feeling of guilt. They had nothing to do with the bomb in the shop, though Stephen wanted to beat them up.

Kevin looked up and saw the moon shining brightly and smiling at him. He always thought that there were little men with green skin and big brown eyes living on it, but when he grew older his parents told him that there was nothing but God up in heaven. They dragged him along to the mess each Sunday, he had to wear his black suit which was so uncomfortable that he threw it into the next corner when church was over. Kevin smiled when he thought about it. Suddenly he was pulled out of his dreams by a tilting voice, which belonged to a middle-aged woman who hung out of her ground floor window. She waved so heavily at Kevin that he thought she would fall out of it if he didn’t follow her wild gestures. When he reached her, he saw that she fought for breath and that he had to wait few minutes until she won it back. Mrs MacDonald wore her dressing gown and her head was covered with lots of funny looking curlers. It was obvious that she was waiting for her husband who was sitting in the pub and spent his last pennies for his beer. He looked at his watch again and feared that he would never reach home. „Kevin, …“ , she gasped and grabbed his arm like an old woman who couldn’t cross the street without being helped, „Kevin, do you know about the bomb in the shop?‘ she tightened her grip and Kevin feared for his arm .

„Yes I know it and I’m really sorry for Mr 0′ Brian and for the family of the little boy“, he said calmly. She nodded with agreement and started again: “Yes, and I hope, that these lousy bastards will …“ “I know, Mrs MacDonald, they’ll pay for it!“ he interrupted the flood of words before she could try to keep him even longer beneath her window. „Did you see Jack on your trip through the city?“ she asked scornfully as if Kevin was one of Jack’s companions who squashed the last money out of him to get his beer. „No, I didn’t. Sorry, but it’s late and my mum will get a fit if I don’t appear at home now“, he said and tried to smile while he loosened her grip around his joint. It ached and he rubbed it when he got free. „Good night“, Kevin said and fled.

When he finally arrived at home, Kevin announced briefly that he was back and rushed up before his mum could realize that he didn’t buy the things he was sent for hours ago. He forgot to brush his teeth and let himself drop into his bed without thinking of anything, which had happened in the town. He woke up in the middle of the night, bathed in his own sweat. Kevin had a terrible nightmare, but he couldn’t remember about what he had dreamed. He got up and tip toed across his room which lay above the bedroom of his parents. He therefore tried not to cause any noise.  His mom had opened the window, before he arrived at home and the heavy curtains moved to and fro with every breath of the wind. The air was clear from dust and smoke and the street was so calm and friendly as if everybody had forgotten that any second could be one’s last. Kevin took a deep breath and his gaze drifted across the street. Far on the other side he saw a star, which twinkled on the dark sky. It was the only star he could see and it was as if he looked into Steph’s eyes. They had the same spark and the same dark blue colour as the sky at night. He went back to his bed and wrapped his feet into the blanket. Kevin thought about how it would be, if she was a Catholic girl, but then he brushed this thought out of his head. A Catholic boy ought to have a Catholic girl and if it was the other way round it would be a crime. They would shout at him that he was a traitor and his friends would avoid him like an illness. He decided not to accompany Stephen on the 12th of July and fell asleep.

„Kevin, get up!“ his sister Claire stood next to his bed, she was dressed ready for work and shook him softly. „Had been late last night, hadn’t it?“ Kevin didn’t answer; he sat straight in his bed and rubbed his eyes until he could see his sister. „I’m all right, Claire!” Claire went downstairs and prepared Kevin’s lunch, which he took with him every morning. When Kevin came into the kitchen, Claire was gone and his lunch lay on the table. In the afternoon Kevin went back to the place where they had met the day before. He looked around, but he saw nobody who looked like Steph. Of course it was hopeless to meet her again, but Kevin’s heart was much stronger than his mind. After he had stood for an hour and watched the people hurrying through the streets, he recognized her blond hair in the midst of people on the other side of the street. Kevin waved at her, but she didn’t seem to recognize him from the distance. He shouted her name, but his voice was swallowed by the sound of the engines.

He felt so weak and sad that he wanted to scream. Steph rushed with all the other people in the other direction and the distance between her and Kevin grew bigger and bigger. It was impossible for Kevin to cross the road, because of the heavy traffic. He gazed after her and when she reached a place where he could she her alone, Kevin took both arms and waved so heavily that few passers-by looked at him puzzled. He began to shout and suddenly bright rays of light and a sound of an explosion filled the air. „Nooooo!“ Kevin wanted to cross the road and run to the shop where Steph had been when the bomb detonated, but an elder man grabbed him by the arm and held him back. It was hot and the flames grew bigger, Kevin broke free and when he reached the burning building he saw her lying on the ground. Her knelt beside her and shook her motionless body. „Steph, come on, open your eyes and look at me!“ he said and tears rolled down his hot face. Steph remained motionless and Kevin embraced her, moved her to and fro, kissed her, but nothing happened. When the ambulance arrived, firemen had to break her free from Kevin. He didn’t want to leave her alone.

They put her into and plastic bag and carried it to the car. One of the ambulance came over to Kevin who stood there, trembling. „Did you know her?“ he asked. Kevin was in shock and said nothing. He didn’t realize that the man who was standing beside him just wanted to help. He gazed after the ambulance car with its blue lights and fainted.

Kevin awoke in his bed and he thought that he had a terrible nightmare, but when he came into the kitchen he saw the newspaper lying upon the kitchen table and started to cry and left the room quickly. The first page was covered with photos of the last bomb explosion and the big written headlines:

Bomb explosion in the city! Protestant girl was killed.