I wish so bad that I could REMEMBER how we met. I have tried and tried to recall, but it’s all such a blur, my teenage years soaked in cheap cider.
When Martin asked me to write something about Edel, my initial response was a sad but certain ‘No’, mainly because I genuinely have such a bad memory I didn’t think I could do her justice. But with a little coercion and much soul-searching, I felt it would be remiss of me not to put pen to paper, to at least make some effort at remembering the amazing, huge impact this absolutely tiny dyke had on my life.
So who cares how me met? The important thing is that we met.
Dundalk in the mid-1990s was not the gay metropolis it is today! And yet four of us found each other; as my mam says, “Water finds its own level”.
We were quite the gang. Two baby dykes and two baby gays. We were out and proud at 16, and no one really bothered us. We had a big circle of oddball friends, we went to Ceasar’s indie disco every weekend, moshed around drunk on two pints, swooned over boys and girls, went back to one of our houses and all passed out in the same bed. Nothing and no one could touch us.
I remember Edel. A tiny beautiful gentle girl who sometimes people mistook for a boy. Leather trousers; I didn’t know they made leather trousers that small. She always had a smile on her face, and such a filthy laugh.
I don’t know how we met, but she was there. As close as sisters. She even makes an appearance in my sister’s 21st/debs/family history video, which I just recently watched.
I remember the last time I saw her in The Spirit Store. It had been years. Maybe 12 or 13 years. We’d had a stupid teenage falling-out. I was ‘in love’ with our mate, made up some story to make him jealous that backfired, and we fell out.
Summer ended. School ended. Life took me out of the town. And I rarely went back. So it was pure chance that we bumped into each other in the pub. I knew immediately something was wrong. She was fighting that shit hard. But she gave me her beautiful smile, we hugged, laughed about what had come to pass, how foolish we were to let childish games end our friendship. Shrugged off the past and picked up almost where we left off.
She told me she was going to Mexico for some intensive treatments, but she was adamant she wouldn’t be beaten. I guess the illness got her, but I think this collection of stories shows that Edel wasn’t beaten. She is still smiling on all of us; I can still hear that filthy laugh of hers.
Things have changed so much for gay kids since Edel and I were running around Dundalk together. I married the founder and CEO of the national LGBTQ youth organisation BeLonG To three years ago, so I’m immersed in the ever-evolving face of LGBTQ youth life in Ireland.
It’s amazing to see these changes sweep across the land. Youth groups and drop-ins have been set up in over 15 locations all over the country, so kids don’t have to travel for five hours from Donegal just to get two hours every second week where they feel like they aren’t “the only gay in the village”.
I think about Edel pretty much every day now. The girl she was seeing, when we were teenagers, coincidentally works at my gym. When we stop to chat, we share a laugh about what wild things we were back then, and then we smile a bit and get a little maudlin thinking about wee Edel. Then one of us will remember something silly that she did, or said, and we will be off laughing again.