Sweet or salty? – Sue Divin

Popcorn was the only way to say it. Sweet or salty? The only ticket if you were from Strathcairn estate on that end of town and fancied breathing a lock of years yet. Strathcairn wasn’t the big smoke and equality was bollocks. Your only route was kissing pavements. Or girls. Fiacra fancied neither.

The cinema was where he’d learnt to look sideways. Where he’d first caught the flick of Ruairí’s eyes clocking yer man Dornan. Low like. Age fourteen in an eighteen movie but no-one gave a shit about that. This was different. Deadly. His heart hammered. 

The medium bucket was the job. Built for sharing, yet small enough for chance encounters or excuses if it backfired. Sorry lad, caught up in the flick there. Never realised… Perfection would be waiting till one of them scenes Nan muted on the telly, blessing herself. He could let on to be engrossed in the girl – easy acting. He’d been living this Oscar since he was ten.

One hand on his jeans, he buries the other in popcorn. Hesitates, timing it for the blare of the soundtrack, the blanket of volume and dark. Inhales through his nose, imprisoning the breath till his lungs burn. On the exhale, edges his wee finger through the kernels and over to Ruairí’s hand. Forbidden land.

Contact. The dry heat of skin on skin. One second. Two. Stares dead ahead. Imagines Ruairí blinks. Three seconds. Four. On five, Ruairí jolts away his fingers. Popcorn explodes over seats and sticky carpet. Fiacra withdraws his hand. Swallows. Shuffles lower in the seat. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Suicide. 

He hears Ruairí fecking about every which way, flicking popcorn off his joggers, then down at his socks and runners. Christ, is he fishing for a blade? A cold sweat ghosts Fiacra’s skin. The muscles in his chest tighten. Rigid. 

Barely perceptible, the brush against Fiacra’s leg as Ruairí straightens. Accidental, most like. Fiacra chances a slight twist of his head and catches Ruairí’s eye.

Ruairí turns away. Stares straight at the screen. Whispers sideways, ‘Sorry about the popcorn.’

But Fiacra hears nothing. The movie glints off the wet in his eyes. Every sense blazing, his body taut to the touch of Ruairí’s hand, trembling on his thigh and Ruairí’s fingers drawing tiny imperceptible circles through a rip in the denim.

The lads breathe in unison. They like the same popcorn. Sweet.

Return to Splonk Issue 1