When All This is Over Go To Pat’s Flat by Shelley Hastings


(15 Guidelines For a Swift Recovery) 


    1. Put on that leopard print dress with its elastic rah-rah skirt and low slit on the neck that’s been at the back of the cupboard for two decades. The last time you wore it, maybe your twenty-first, long before kids.

    2. Pull on thin black tights and shiny leather boots with chunky heels. Ricardo should put on that powder blue suit he was wearing when you first saw him. The one that is too tight on the crotch and has a split on the arse. Get it fixed up. No one will notice in the dark.

    3. Get a cab. Don’t walk. The party has started. Little Mo is on the decks, he’s wearing his Moondance T-shirt from the millennium, swaying, can in hand. He whacks you on the back as you go past and starts playing that tune, the one with the piano riff, the classic you all loved when you used to go to Mass.

    4. Leave your coat on Pat’s bed. You can’t find her anywhere. The kitchen is heaving. Sambuca shots lined up on the counter. Mo’s chicken, rice, and coleslaw under foil on the cooker. Paper plates on the side.

    5. Squeeze down the hall. Everyone is grinning, shiny, faces open. The school mums and dads wearing new clothes and smart shoes. There is no need to say anything to anyone. What is there to say? You are all here. Slap shoulders, kiss cheeks, stroke backs.

    6. Make cocktails. Take the watermelon and vodka out of your plastic carrier. The sink is bulging with beers in lukewarm water, the blender on top of the microwave. Find the bread knife and hack at the fruit. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then use your fingers, pull sweet chunks out the middle, chuck the skin.

    7. Find the ice in the bottom of the freezer. Send cubes skittering across the kitchen floor. Some people kick them aside like pucks, others pick them up, before slipping them down the back of an unsuspecting neck. Slosh in vodka, force the lid. Press hard as the blender crunches loudly. Divide up the pink frothy liquid into whatever you can find: coffee mugs, trifle glasses, coloured plastic cups.

    8. Offer them out. Shai comes up behind you. Her head on your shoulder, her arm around your waist. She is handing out dabs of MDMA from a tin with a cherry on the top and people reach over, dipping in little fingers, making faces like, ‘Oops, yes please.’

    9. Dance. Go to the corner where it’s dark, the rug rolled up. Time warps. Nell appears in black sparkles. Do stupid moves together, point to the floor, her face, the cooker, the sky. Be robots. Be crap at it. Become so hysterical you double up in pain. It’s infectious. Others start. The school mums and Bristolians and dodgy neighbours, some of them too slick, showing off, like they went to robot school.

    10. Shout for Pat. She’s in the hallway, holding a champagne flute. Wearing a snakeskin dress and gold looped earrings. You wait for her robot move but she drops to the floor instead, on the beat, knees bent in a crouch, not spilling a drop of her drink, then straight back up. It is so unexpected and so good. An elastic move. The room roars. Everyone does it, or tries to, but one of the school dad’s legs buckle, his knees in agony. He gets stuck, puffed out. Little Mo drags him up.

    11. Get stoned. Curl up in the mustard armchair with Pat and Nell. Think about how much you needed this. Think about how you love them but don’t say it. Eventually you are so squashed you can’t feel your legs. Push them off. Get a plate of chicken and salad and sit on the counter, your heels kicking the cupboards to the beat. The school dads lose their shit as the music turns to happy hardcore. Heads down, like they’re running a marathon. Hands drawing shapes in the air as they remember some dark club years ago, before they were going bald and doing back exercises.

    12. Watch Ricardo in the corner in his suit, sleeves rolled up. He seems to be looking for something on the ceiling, amazed. Feel deep love for him and his newly mended trousers. He catches you looking at him. Don’t call him over, just raise your glass.

    13. Remove your boots. Unpeel the sticky leather and let your stockinged feet slide about on the melted ice and sloshy muck that’s been trodden in from the garden. Ski to the music. Little Mo turns on a microphone and starts to MC. The school dads gather round the decks. The music is too fast. Pat appears. ‘For fuck’s sake, Mo. This is shit.’

    14. Pull open the patio door. Just as you are about to escape that tune will come on. That Neiked one. The I’m feeling sexual one with its eighties sax solo in the middle. Feel overcome. You know all the words to this one. All the women stream in from the hallway and toilet. Kerry, Shai, Patty, Isha, Sylvia, Hanna, Louise, Nell, and Pat. 

    15. Let loose. Become a throbbing circle of sax playing women. Perform your jazz solo, one leg hitched on the chair, ladders running up your tights. Root down to the ground and way back up, like you’ve been waiting for this moment all your life. Everyone else does it too, in beautiful symmetry, and when it’s done you hold each other up. You are sweating, and on the right side of queasy, so when the tune finally finishes, splash your face and skid out to the patio. Wrap yourself in a blanket and smoke menthols. Watch the sun rise over the sweet summer grass. 


Shelley Hastings is a writer, dramaturg and producer. Her writing has been published by Southword Magazine, Galley Beggar Press and Unbound. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Seán O’Faoláin Prize, The Pat Kavanagh Award and The Writers and Artists Award amongst others.

17 May 2021