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Vicarious Calligraphies - Ronan Fenton

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

The actor had been brought into the studio for a private discussion with the woman whose life had inspired their most recent film. Two chairs were set back-to-back in an otherwise empty room, facing floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on abandoned sets.

A mouth opened and began to speak.

you weren’t there you didn’t try to find me to know what it felt like you didn’t have to earn my name to bear the weight of it like car headlights on a dark road where you’re lying face-down waiting for the glow to become you and for you to become the glow you didn’t interview the friends and family I’ve come to acquire in the years between now and then you didn’t make rooms from the crime scene photographs and inhabit them like a home you have no concept of the time I slipped through months elapsed in a dark box scratching tongueless cries into the wooden panelling with my untrimmed fingernails breathing nothing but my own scent you left out the claw-marks I scrawled on my eyelids when I was trying to tell if they were open or shut you forgot that little detail didn’t you or you never made the effort to learn you took a cut of the profits instead of a flat salary you monetized my trauma you gambled on its mass appeal you walked beside me from a distance and thought you knew me when my sand is pulled from the white grasses of an alien crater and yours is gold and familiar you put sugar in my coffee when I wanted it black you used prosthetics for scar tissue and not a razor blade you can’t even look me in the face can you I wonder are you mouthing my words as I speak thinking you’re a fraction of a second ahead of me thinking you know me better than I know myself because you’re outside me and that gives you unprecedented closure on what happened way back then but you weren’t there when I had to learn how to sleep how to speak for myself how to trust how to love you only pretended to be living it during takes and then fell away from the pain like I never could you didn’t forget your mother’s face her voice how the moon looks on a clear night how hard it can be to count the stars without losing track of which are in your pocket and which are flung out through the night you weren’t there when it happened or before when you were just yourself and not defined by what was going to be inflicted upon you/

I was somewhere/

don’t interrupt this isn’t about you everyone was somewhere once but only I was in that exact place at that exact time only I saw my future petrified into an arthritic bough that fell from the tree and landed between my feet so small so frail so slender so crooked you weren’t thinking of the wind or the air as a spectre you weren’t dreaming of simple things like a slice of sponge cake resting on a jade plate on what you imagine might be your kitchen table if only you could remember with your mother singing something by the sink and your father pollarding the trees in the back garden sawing through the time you have left in the real world and not the world he would cage you in you were somewhere but not there not really not like I was you didn’t want to meet me until after you’d finished filming to avoid my reality impacting your conception of my character but I am not a character and never have been you spoke of me like I’m not myself like you were in touch with the real me while I was too distanced from myself because of the trauma and the media circus and the process I undertook of rebuilding myself from nothing you wanted the blank slate I was turned into and not the person I have become

The actor started to say something and then stopped, shook their head. They stood up and left the room, muttering something about artistic licence, about integrity, about how no one understood the true nature of the work. Another actor, the one who played the woman’s father, entered the room and sat down.


Ronan Fenton is an Irish writer living in Dublin. He has an MA in Creative Writing from UCD and a BFA in songwriting from BIMM. He writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama and art criticism, and is currently querying his debut novel.

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