Free Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Book: Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colm Tóibín
Tags: prose_contemporary
but when she tried it at Mrs. Kehoe's the flavour was new to her. She was not sure what it was, but she liked it because it masked the taste of the bread and the butter, just as three spoons of sugar managed to mask the taste of the tea and milk.
    She had spent some of Rose's money on shoes. The first pair she had bought had looked comfortable but after a few days had begun to pinch her feet slightly. The second pair were flat and plain but fitted perfectly; she carried them in her bag and changed into them once she arrived at work.
    She hated it when Patty or Diana paid too much attention to her. She was the new girl, and the youngest, and they could not stop giving her advice, or making criticisms or comments. She wondered how long it would go on for, and was trying to let them know how little appreciated their interest was by smiling faintly at them when they spoke or, a few times, especially in the morning, by looking at them vacantly as though she did not understand a word they said.
    Having had her breakfast and washed her cup and saucer and plate, paying no heed to Patty, who had just arrived, Eilis slipped quietly out of the house, leaving herself plenty of time to get to work. This was her third week, and, although she had written a number of times to her mother and Rose and once to her brothers in Birmingham, she still had received no letters from them. It struck her as she crossed the street that by the time she arrived home at six thirty a whole world of things would have happened that she could tell them about; each moment appeared to bring some new sight or sensation or piece of information. The days at work so far had not been boring for her, the hours passing easily enough.
    It was later, when she got home and lay in the bed after her evening meal, that the day she had just spent would seem like one of the longest of her life as she would find herself going through it scene by scene. Even tiny details stayed in her mind. When she deliberately tried to think about something else, or leave her mind blank, events from the day would come quickly back. For each day, she thought, she needed a whole other day to contemplate what had happened and store it away, get it out of her system so that it did not keep her awake at night or fill her dreams with flashes of what had actually happened and other flashes that had nothing to do with anything familiar, but were full of rushes of colour or crowds of people, everything frenzied and fast.
    She liked the morning air and the quietness of these few leafy streets, streets that had shops only on the corners, streets where people lived, where there were three or four apartments in each house and where she passed women accompanying their children to school as she went to work. As she walked along, however, she knew she was getting close to the real world, which had wider streets and more traffic. Once she arrived at Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn began to feel like a strange place to her, with so many gaps between buildings and so many derelict buildings. And then suddenly, when she arrived at Fulton Street, there would be so many people crowding to cross the street, and in such dense clusters, that on the first morning she thought a fight had broken out or someone was injured and they had gathered to get a good view. Most mornings she stood back for a minute or two, waiting for the crowds to disperse.
    In Bartocci's, she had to clock in, which was easy, and then go to her locker in the women's room downstairs and change into the blue uniform that girls on the shop floor had to wear. She was there most mornings before most of the other girls arrived. Some of them often did not appear until the last second. Miss Fortini, who was the supervisor, disapproved of this, Eilis knew. On her first day, Father Flood had taken her to the main office and she had had an interview with Elisabetta Bartocci, the daughter of the owner, who she thought was the most perfectly dressed woman she had ever

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