AN AITIUIL: AN ANTHOLOGY
with the martello journal
You Know It When You Feel It
by daragh fleming
We elected to play table tennis.
Months had passed since I last saw them. Them; the wonderfully Italian woman and
incredulously optimistic man from Cork. We met in Milan months before and now we were here,
they drinking Murphy’s and me drinking water like the temporary dullard I had to be. A
friendship magic’d out of thin air. In the grand calculus of the universe, it was all so incredibly
unlikely. They’d fallen in love, God bless them, on the road before we’d met. And now we were
what you’d call good friends. Not seeing each other often but making time when we could. You
can’t predict the road, nor who will walk along it beside you.
Other memories from travelling are not so fond. Other friendships did not persevere.
Tenuous social media connections are all that remain. Not every destination can be a highlight
real. Not every trip lives up to expectations. The bar is set so high, how could every place on
Earth succeed in meeting?
Berlin, for example. Perhaps it’s because I lost a love there. Or maybe it’s because every
other day in Berlin is spent hungover or worse. Whatever the case, the capital city of Germany
strikes an unsettled chord within me.
London, a place I hope to one day live for at least a little while, strikes me directly in this
way like sunlight through the curtains. Sadness sits in the stomach, yesterday’s optimism
drowning. I could never put my finger on why exactly this is. Until we played table tennis in
Cork while I drank an embarrassing pint of water. It sort of just emerged from the ether.
It’s the uncanny valley. Sort of.
London reminds me of home in that everyone speaks in the same way, and more or less
has the same sense of humour, and diversity of values and all the rest. Nothing feels alien, the
way things do in Spain or France, with foreign words stupidly falling out of my incapable mouth.
London feels like home in all the ways aside from the ones that are necessary.
Home, in its essence, is a sense of belonging. It runs deeper than familiarity. Have you
ever returned to a childhood home where a new family now lives? Familiar, but you don’t
belonging there. It’s no longer home. Just a house you used to live in.
London for me causes this uncanny valley flavoured melancholy. It feels like home but I
am alone there, without belonging, and thus it is not home. There is no love, no tribe, no sense of
adhesion. It’s the veneer of home without the feel of it. Artificial. Like swimming in a pool rather
than the ocean, there’s something indescribable missing. Walking around London produces a
sense of unease, and – until recently - unplaceable nausea. It’s as if my very atoms are screaming
for home, thinking it exists in London, and finding that there is no semblance of it to be found.
The ghost of belonging is all I find there. Something so very close that I might easily
tolerate it for years without really noticing it. Until I return home. And my shoulders relax. And
harmony washes over my soul. It’s in these small inexplicable subtleties. A range of tiny
nothings that compile into everything.
You can’t really describe home, but you know it when you feel it.
I delivered this sermon of sorts to Italy and Cork, a pint of water in one hand, a worn table
tennis paddle in the other, and I remarked that I should attempt write it down.
So I did, and now I have.
My name is Daragh Fleming. I'm a short fiction writer and poet from Cork
in Ireland. Currently, I have two collections of short stories in
publication with Riversong Books. Most recently, I won the Cork Arts
Short Story Competition with my story, Evening Walk. I also have work
published in a number of literary magazines, with new stories published
recently by Époque Press and The Ogham Stone. My first chapbook of poems
was published in February by Bottlecap Press, and a second chapbook,
Poems that Were Written On Trains, released in July 2022 with Dark
Thirty Poetry. My debut nonfiction book releases later this year with
BookHub Publishing. Apart from this, I also write regularly in outlets
such as A Lust For Life and HeadStuff.org