art by Damien O'Reilly



by Noel Harrington

i’m 19 years old and margaret thatcher is the empress of london. i’m here on my first stop into the exotic of the unknown and somewhere in this seething city lies isabel.


isabel the true exotic, with her mediterranean complexion from the flat north midlands of smalltown ireland. isabel the imaginative. isabel the girl who knows her place among the leaders of the world and feels no need to shout it. isabel the slim, looks like a belly dancer with limbs charming as a snake and teeth a white flash in the midnight. isabel my friend, who kisses me like i’m a girl, whom i kiss like she’s foreign. who talks to me like i’m a diary, one that will never be found. isabel who waits for no man, but for that 45 minutes standing, slumping, strolling, stamping before oxford circus; me thinking it was oxford street. who absolves a smile with an unbidden one of her own.


isabel the occasionally foul-mouthed. isabel the free.


isabel the garrulous. isabel the cook. isabel the shimmering chameleon. isabel qui parle parfaitement le français, isabel who flits from tongue to tongue, gaeilge, francais, deutsche, anglais. isabel the impossible.


there was a house i went with my roommate. it held little promise but the pooling of time to cook, before heading back to study. and our kerryman host listing: “the yank i never see, jp sound as a pound, the other tommy who’s gone, and a crazy cavan bitch d’mind her.” isabel the crazy cavan bitch. how did it begin? my shy politeness or she being who she is? what allowed me speak beyond a painful ‘hello’ – was it the kindness of her mind or the intensity of her heart? clever girl isabel. she couldn’t but see the bullshit. she couldn’t but laugh for the bullshit. time and again till it built up to an aching heart that bled anger for the folly of it all.


and here we are in the summer in london. when we are young and in love with our friendship. when this night club hot spot place-to-be holds no attraction but for the talk between our mouths, fighting the music from lips to ear. drinks unfinished we leave for the real night out. a walk a bus ride her head on my shoulder till she slips to sleep and misses her stop. and i not knowing where we are but not wishing her disturbed, this gentle weight, this kissable isabel.


but wake she does, isabel of the start. a long walk back toward tea and toast – soak it up. we sit amid this typical rented scene, these typical rented mugs. this summer wind thinks endless isabels but i know only one. this night is alive with the talk of us, for isabel knows no restraint, nor invites any from me. isabel talks from her heart, her body, her dreams. she can describe a kiss with outlandish adjectives and you know exactly what she means. isabel the painter. isabel the lively. isabel will go on.


but not tonight, for isabel succumbs to the tiredness and we fall onto her bed. isabel the lithesome, isabel the languorous. it’s a hot london summer night, windows open to the somewhere thames, the never sleeping traffic and hoped for breeze. we sweat for sure, for the humans that we are. isabel the glowing. isabel the restless. i see the shine of her black hair in the moonlight, the glistening of her neck. i know she is sleeping and i wish her sweet dreams, for none dreams quite like isabel. isabel the outrageous. isabel the cake and eat it. isabel the girl-child. 


she mutters in her sleep, an incoherent monologue. isabel on hyde park corner, putting the world to right, and first to go are the pious, the sanctimonious, the platitudinous mass of middle class respectable hypocrites. isabel the honest. isabel the rebel. isabel the romantic.


i have to be up in three hours, it’s time to close my eyes on isabel. i fall asleep, reflecting on how comfortable our young bodies are, how entwined our minds.