Diaspora (Autobiographical)

Diaspora (Autobiographical) Diaspora (Autobiographical)

Status: Finished

Genre: Memoir


Status: Finished

Genre: Memoir


Brenda Borg left her native troubled Irish borderlands aged 16. Here's why.


Brenda Borg left her native troubled Irish borderlands aged 16. Here's why.


Submitted: October 16, 2012

A A A | A A A


Submitted: October 16, 2012








The first sentence of this little biog is that there is no big Irish sky.

No, sir. Nothing like that.

I know it because it’s the first thing Hugs said to me the first time that I met him.

And for all that happened between he and me, he never lied.

He always told me the truth. When he contacted me for the last time, he told the truth again.

“You have to leave Ireland forever, you can never come back,” he said. “You will never see me again.”

I left that night.


It started at the Irish border, at a low-lit British army checkpoint between Fermanagh and Donegal.

Me and my girls used to flirt like mad with the soldiers when we passed through on a Saturday night.

They’d be from Liverpool, Devon, Glasgow, couped up and fearing for their lives in their tough little sangars in no man’s land for days on end.

We could be the enemy.

But we had cans of beer, lipstick, short skirts, cigarettes and we felt like we were so dangerous we were on fire.

Camouflage or not, you could see the temptation all over their faces.

We loved being irresistible.

I don’t know how many times we ended up outside the car, giggling as they went through the motions of searching it, weapons in hand.

We would dash off, in and around their little dark base, and they would chase us, confused, scared, thrilled.

“No love, you can’t go in there!”

“No – that’s secret!”

I spent a ferocious five minutes with one, called Michael, inside a cramped little toilet once.

He kissed my neck and rubbed my bare arse cheeks as I looked at the photo montage of faces of IRA men on the back of the door.

“Do you sit here and shit and look at them,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, finding my undecided hole. “They come and go through the checkpoint, we have to see who they’re with and all of that.”

I told Michael I recognised some of them as he told me he loved me.


Hugs was 33 when he met me walking home down a county road, all 16 years of me.

His accent was north of England.

It was confident, alien, warm.

The hair was shaggy, a thick blue sweater and jeans.

He was fearless, powerful.

“There is no big Irish sky,” he said.

I was standing on grass as I leaned in the window, his car so close.

“I beg your fucking pardon?”

“I’m a myth-buster, Brenda. There’s no big Irish sky.”

“I never said there was. Who said there was?”

“Dunno. Just in case someone does. There’s plenty of other more established myths we can talk over if you like.”

“Let me guess – while in your car with your hand inside my bra?”

“If you like. Get in. I won’t do you any harm,” he said, revving the engine. “You know what I am and why I’m here. I’m not going to bullshit you.”

He didn’t.

He told me my father had died, my mother was on the edge of madness, my place in the world was uncertain.

And it was all true.


He was Hugs because all the girls loved to hug him.

On the base, back in his home town, in the pub, people loved to hug him.

He was quick-witted, lovely, but a dangerous bastard too.

We used to go to a hotel in Co Monaghan.

He’d check in with a perfect Dublin accent, pay cash and wink at the receptionist.

I’d say: “You’re a dangerous bastard, aren’t you?”


“Are you a killer?”

“I might be.”

“No bullshit.

“Okay, yes I am.”

He told me everything he knew about people I knew.

There was one man I knew, he told me, and he needed to know more.

“Will you seduce him, Brenda?”

“He’s the father of my friend.”

“Doesn’t that make it more exciting?”


I slept with Hugs 15 times and loved them all.

We would drink and smoke and laugh and he would tell me things that were going to happen.

Terrible things, silly things, amazing things, secret, secret things.

I would watch the news and he was always right.

One day, out-of-the-blue, I went to my friend’s father’s house when I knew he was alone.

It felt like I had to.

He brought me inside.

“Cold, isn’t it,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve been meaning to get some extra thick tights.”

He looked at me and laughed at my clumsiness.

He brought me into his back yard and told me to look at the hills.

He stood in front of me, blocking them from my view, and punched me in the face.

I came round, streaming with blood, broken nose.

“I’ve made a place in those hills where I can bury people if I need to,” he said.


I walked home, pathetic and bloody.

I told my sister I had fallen and we left it at that.

The next day a woman in a shop spat in her face.

On the day after that, a lad I hardly knew held up a sheet of A4 on which he had drawn, badly and without colour, a pistol and a tricolour flag.

On the day after that, no one in the world spoke to me, not even the person who rang our house thirteen times; not the person who painted ‘whore’ on the road outside; not the person who came to our doorstep at 4.04am, car lights beaming, and softly sang ‘The Men Behind the Wire’ without knocking.

That afternoon, Hugs pulled up beside me on that same stretch of road.

There wasn’t a flicker of surprise at my black eyes, my bent nose, my unslept self.

“You have to go, Brenda. You understand me? Get your mother, your sister, and go, right away or you will be killed, you understand me. You have to leave Ireland forever, you can never come back.

“You will never see me again.”

He gave me an envelope and nodded.

“There’s no big Irish sky, Brenda,” he said. “There’s no fuck all here when it comes down to it.”

I had never said there was.

Myself, my sister, my mother... we were only too glad to go.


I never did lie down in the USA and dream of a big Irish sky.

I never did become some uproot, some member of some deracinated diaspora.

I’m just a girl who got in and out of cars.


(that one was true)

© Copyright 2018 Brenda Borg. All rights reserved.

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