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Image by Rhamely


with the martello journal

26-Year Age Gap

You know Harry Styles came here when he was in Dublin? Cian ran his hand through the
purplish flowers budding from the top of the long grass. Will raised his eyebrows and
stretched the bottom half of his face in mock-surprise. Cian glanced over as he was jumping
down the hill. Well, not really a hill, it’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s one of those paths that
only exists because people walk there all the time? The ground looks like fossilised
chocolate mousse.
I don’t think it does.
Cmon! Cian teased. Oh! He stumbled. Fuck. He caught himself on Will’s forearms.
Jesus don’t fall, you could actually die. The boys stood still for a second, Cian was breathing
hard. I told you not to wear the sliders.
You literally didn’t. They both smiled. It would be a really cool way to die though right? The
wind whipped around their legs. Cian peered down the cliff face. I would become- Will wasn’t
reacting to this. Part of the ocean! My guts food for the gulls and my thoughts sea-foam for
the swimmers.

Will smiled into the sun as they descended. Passers-by ogled at him. Cian could almost see
the look of disappointment on their faces that they were leaving the baths before getting to
see Will without his t-shirt on. That means people got to see Harry Styles topless - in real
life. Come on, that is crazy?
Doesn’t he do that at, like all of his concerts? Will rolled his eyes at Cian, smiling.
Oh look, we’re here. Cian jogged for a moment and slowed down when a few faces turned
towards him. Where do you want to put your stuff? Will looked around, the swimming spot
was peppered with families and small friend groups with beards and tote bags. They settled
behind a group of teenage boys in black shoes and neon shorts. Cian faced the hill while he
took off his top. The grass bloomed yellow against the sky’s blue.

Hey soul sister, I just wanna miss a single thing you do-ooo, tonight.
Terrible song.
Can you help me with my towel, I don’t want to flash people here. Cian held a handful of
towel in Will’s direction, squinting his eyes against the light reflected across the slow water
surface. So what were you saying about Clara? I think I interrupted you before. Will took the
two corners of the towel and looked down at his feet. Why did you wear underwear
underneath your -
Why are my articles of clothing - wait answer my question.
I was just saying that I don’t think we are going to work, as in, I don’t - that’s all really. Cian
stood up straight again from the clambering he was doing underneath the towel. She’s too,
Will tilted his head from one shoulder to the other. Cian took the fabric out of his friend’s grip,
inhaled and started climbing down to the water.

Once when Cian stayed at Will’s mum’s house in Cork, a small, fat, black and white bird set
up camp with its chicks in the air vent beside the kitchen. The young birds tweeted from
midday until dawn, a sound Cian thought added to the home’s rural, summery ambiance.
Will kept saying he was going to turn on the fan and make chicken tenders. Please don’t
splash me. Forty seconds earlier Cian had pleaded with Will not to push him from the slick
steps they flirted with the sea from. You’re already wet, it won’t make a difference. Will had
pushed himself away from the land like an Olympian. The sunlight rippled over his body
through the inches of teal water at the surface. I haven’t gotten my head wet, and I don’t
want to. A tuft of hair fell over Cian’s eyes, he picked it up with his hand and fixed it so it
wouldn't fall again.

Will glanced behind his shoulder as he floated into the darker water. A drop running down
Cian’s nose from the hair he touched ran into his mouth. It was salty. Wait, wait, Cian swam
like a dog trying to keep its carefully groomed fur dry. I’m just here, Will replied. The pair
faced each other in the water, they looked at their respective views. Will saw the rocky
platforms and bright blue railings of the baths and Cian saw across the wide bay and the
white houses stacked in expensive rows on its hills. Have I told you about constructed,
inherited hierarchical value system theory before? Cian’s chin slapped the sea’s surface as
he spoke. I don’t think so, Will squinted through the sun at Cian.
Well, that’s not really what it’s called. I don’t remember what it’s actual name is, but you get
what I mean don’t you?
I think so. Did you read about it somewhere? Will turned around with his legs under the
water, a little like a sea lion doing tricks for fish. Yeah. It’s like, the way that our values in
terms of hierarchical values, like the way we perceive merit and subjective, or even objective
quality, are both constructed by societies but also inherited from groups over time or context
within those societies. Cian spoke quite slowly. Will wasn’t going to reply to this. So like, that
idea is 100% translatable and transferable into literally everything, everyone and every way
we perceive. Do you understand? He was excited now.
Give me an example.
Genuinely anything. The fact that you think Harry Styles’ music is bad and I don’t. He said
this provocatively. Will’s face scrunched a little. That’s just taste.
Exactly! Taste! Cian didn’t pause before continuing. And that people from some countries
have a higher spice tolerance than people raised in other countries. Eugenics isn’t real you
know? Will was disinterested now. That I found the water cold? That certain behaviours are
acceptable in some spaces and rejected in others? I’m talking countries, communities,
genders, age groups, hobby spaces, do you see what I mean?

Yeah, he lied. After a few seconds Will submerged his head completely underwater.
Cian turned idly towards the Vico. An older man in sunglasses with two friends in pastel
string tops and bright coloured towels was getting ready beside the stocky whitewashed
changing-hut. Cian heard Will say something casual about the setting sun. The man had an
Apple watch on his wrist. He turned towards one of his friends and made some joke Cian
couldn't make out. He saw the man’s teeth. The snarl of his grin. Cian felt something large
and dark move around in his stomach. Breath caught tight in his throat. Can we get out now?
I’m freezing.
Yeah I’ll be another minute.

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