"Handbags"

Handbags. That's my new thing. My only thing now. I’ve been prepping for weeks, but getting ready to work again is an unsettling novelty.

It’s important to look clean-cut tonight. I put on my suit, shave for the first time in a month and tell myself that I still look good for mid-forties. I choked down a slice and a half of toast earlier. I feel like puking it into the sink.

Arriving at the bar, I brush past the doorman with no interaction. It's close to capacity and the music is thumping. I don't know if it's the bass or my heartrate that's bringing pounding to my ears. I order a lager.

In the lounge area a narrow gap separates two rows of tables. Just as I hoped, at one of the tables a stool is devoted to a mound of coats with a handbag nestled atop. The mound is in the passageway. The passageway leads directly to the side exit.

A girl is turned toward her two friends on the inside of the table. The three of them are hunched together, lost in an atmosphere of belonging and white wine. She looks young and innocent. Straw hair, freckles. It’s not supposed to matter, but it does.

I panic and hurry to the bathroom. In the stall I look down and see a dull image of my face in the toilet bowl. It’s filled with piss. I haven’t dwelled over a toilet since I got my notice months ago. This time I resolve not to go home empty handed.

I barge the stall door open. Eyes down, I go back towards the noise. Passing the stool covered with coats and the handbag, I let my overcoat drop onto the mound. My leather heels spin on the wooden floor. Balancing my drink in one hand, I bend over with exaggeration, allowing my chest touch the mound. The environment changes, like sinking underwater. I can hear the girls’ voices over the music. With my arm plunging deep into the mound, I sweep up my coat and the handbag underneath. I pull back up. The music returns and I march straight through the door.

Powering home unnoticed with the bundle under my arm, I’m breathless by the time I open my creaky apartment door. I shove the bundle into the hall closet and hide it behind the ironing board. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.

I peer into the bedroom. Stillness. He’s gurgling, deep in sleep. Oblivious to it all. His mother shifts beside him in the bed.

“How’d it go?” she croaks. “Will he get you something?”

“Maybe. I’m meeting him again next week.”

“That’s a good sign.”

“It is, yeah.”

I go into the living room and sit on the couch. I pull out the laptop. Energized, I log onto the sites for the first time in weeks and resume my hunt. I open up my CV. I make a change. Resourceful. A resourceful product manager.


About the author: Ronan Keenan

I am originally from Dublin, Ireland and now live in Washington, D.C. My nonfiction writing has appeared in a variety of publications such as The Atlantic and The Irish Times. I have not published any fiction to-date, although I recently won the Bray Literary Festival flash fiction competition.


Ronan Keenan