I leave a trail of anonymous messages behind me everywhere I go. Nothing too obvious. I do not write on toilet cubicle walls in Sharpie or spray-paint back alleys at night, I don’t tag shop fronts or scratch my name onto bus stops with keys. I’m a 35-year-old tax advisor, for God’s sake. No, what I mean is, I write little notes throughout the day on post-its: frustrations, wishes, any little thoughts that pop into my head, sexy things sometimes. I keep it to one note per post-it, write the message clear and neat, then peel it clean off the pale yellow pad I keep on my tidy desk, fold it carefully as small as and perfectly square as it can go and drop it into the open leather handbag I keep by my feet.
Sometimes I make ten notes a day, sometimes three, sometimes none. I let them collect in the bottom of my bag, I let the little pile grow until the time feels right and then I begin to disperse them. Walking from my office to my bus stop I occasionally pluck one out and flick it onto the street. Nobody notices me do it, but if some keen-eyed observer did catch the little snap of my wrist they would assume I was just a run-of-the-mill litter bug getting rid of a gum wrapper.
If I have a good enough build up of my sticky thoughts I go somewhere slightly out of the way, maybe turn into a laneway at a time when there aren’t too many people around, early morning before work usually; here I can take a handful and throw them into the air like confetti. I watch my tiny packed-tight messages of hope and despair and frustration rain down onto the street, then I turn and walk away leaving them behind.
Once, on my lunch break, I entirely covered a park bench with a huge backlog of notes. It was a grey day and drizzling slightly. Not really a day to take lunch outside, but I had felt more suffocated than usual that morning in the drab office I share with my colleague, Brian, and needed to get out. He had been droning on all morning about how demanding his pregnant wife was being and had snapped at the new receptionist twice. I needed a break from Brian. I told him I had a lunchtime appointment and would be back at two. I stopped at a nearby deli, picked up a pre-packaged tuna salad sandwich and a Diet Coke and came to the park for some peace.
St. Audoen’s Park just off Thomas Street is tiny, tucked away behind a wrought iron fence. I imagine a planner in the council describing it as “an oasis of calm in the middle of the city”, or something equally cliché. On sunny days the park fills with office workers from the surrounding streets, rolling up their sleeves and eating lunch in the grass. On the day I filled the bench it was just me and a man a few benches over drinking cider from a two-litre brown bottle. He paid no mind to me.
I plucked my little squares out one by one and spaced them evenly apart in neat rows up and down the seat. I closed my eyes and breathed a few deep breaths, letting the soft spray of the light rain hit my face. I felt calm out there.
I know most of the thoughts I flick or drop or scatter or carefully place probably end up in the gutter, or swept into the workings of a street sweeper, but I like to think about the rare ones, the ones that stick to the sole of someone’s shoe and come home with them to be deposited on their living room carpet. Maybe it bounces around there for a couple of days before an eagle-eyed occupant spots it and unfolds it. “This is not forever” it might say. The finder would be confused maybe, but also wonder where this little note had come from, but they would smile and maybe stick it on their fridge as a little affirmation, a magic spell, mysterious message sent by fate. Either that or the cat would eat it.
I hope the special messages, the rare ones that make it somewhere, the one that finds its way into someone else’s hand, is one of my good ones. I hope the one in five hundred seen by another human, is one like “keep on truckin’ baby!” and not one of the ones that read “Brian is a cunt!” or something like that. But then I think, maybe there is someone out there dealing with a Brian, trying to get through another day of listening to an awful Brian saying awful things, and they come across my note, affirming all their feelings, “Brian is a cunt!” and they stick it on their fridge and it makes them feel better. It’s harsh but it’s probably one of my truest messages so I keep on sending it.
Catríona O’Rourke is a writer and artist based in Dublin, Ireland. She holds a B.A Honours Degree in Visual Art Practice. Catríona has had work published in Jellyfish Review and is working on a collection of short stories.