Something New

By David Keane



Ryan fumbled in his pocket for his house keys, staring at his front door blankly. The mixture of anger and disappointment was not a feeling that was necessarily pleasurable. In fact, it even left his stomach feeling rather uneasy. Ryan was never one to 'Be in his feelings' but today was just... rotten. Twisting the key, he pushed his way into his small one bedroom apartment, threw his keys in the bowl and exhaled deeply, the tension releasing from his shoulders. 19:01 pm. Dinner time.


Fumbling through the cupboards and the compact fridge, the only meal that stood out was quick and easy ramen noodles. Ryan usually excelled with his culinary skills, being able to produce substantial meals with little to no effort, but the heavy, dense feeling bearing on his mind just stopped him from doing anything more that providing his body with substance. Chicken flavoured Ramen. It was a meal Ryan never usually considered a "meal" and only ate it for snack purposes, considering the sodium content.


Just as Ryan pulled the pot to the stove and flicked the kettle, his phone buzzed. The screen lit up with the name "Brent Calling". Ryan waivered. Brent was a guy a few blocks over. He was a "friend". You know. The kind of friend who scratches your back when you scratch theirs. He was someone who made the lonely nights feel a little less sad. But today wasn't one of those days. Ryan pressed the red "X" to decline the call. It wasn't the night for intimate pleasantries. But as Ryan stared at his phone, he pulled up his contact list and scrolled to "Trish". His twin sister. He pressed the call button, putting the phone to his ear with a forceful sigh.


"Hey, hello" Trish said, picking up after two rings. She was nearly always on her phone for work, so that wasn't at all surprising.


"Hey Trish. What're you doing?" Ryan asked, finishing his sentence with another reinforcing sigh.


"Just at Dad's place. He needed help with his new desktop. How about you?" she replied, their father's voice echoing in the background. Ryan heard her whisper "It's Ryan" to him.


"I'm just home. Have you a minute to chat?" Ryan said, his voice sounded rather desperate, ending the question.


“Of course, what’s going on? Are you okay?” Trish questioned, sounding slightly concerned.


“It’s… eh… work” Ryan started. “I got made redundant, basically” he said with an even bigger exhale.


“Wait, what?” Trish asked, with shock in her voice.


“Yeah. I’m… feeling a bit… is discombobulated the right word?” Ryan said and continued, “John, you know John, the owner? Well yeah, he basically liquidated the business and done a runner.”


“No way!” Trish said, loudly. “What did they tell you?”


“Just that we were being let go and with whatever money the company had left, they’d give us a severance package” Ryan explained.


“Will it be much?” Trish asked in response.


“Who knows?... I just have no idea what I’m gonna do now. I’ve been there since I left school” Ryan answered with a waiver in his voice.


“Ryan… I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m hardly the most stable person, in terms of employment. I mean, how are you for money?” she questioned. Ryan hated that when he was younger, his sister helped put him through school, but since their mother died, it was hard for them to stay afloat, financially.


“I have some savings. I guess working there for 6 years, I’ve built up a nest egg. And I still have some of the money Nana left me. I guess… Being so far from Philadelphia and far from you guys, I just feel so lonely. I feel a bit lost” Ryan replied, he could feel the tears building in his eyes.


“Ryan… Ryan” he heard his father on the phone this time. “You’re probably the most ambitious young man I’ve ever known. And remember why your Nan left you the money in the first place”


“Dad, I know. I have a good chunk of it left. I’m just a bit overwhelmed right now” Ryan told his Dad.


“Right. Trish just booked you a ticket to come home. It sounds like you need to be here right now” his Dad said. “Come and spend some time here, try and reconfigure yourself. Even just for a few days”


“Dad… I can’t just… I shouldn’t… Well… I mean, it’s not like I have work to do” Ryan sighed and nodded to himself “When’s my flight then?”


Ryan hung up the phone as soon as he got his flight details. A few days back in Philly will be just what he needs. Salt Lake City was his second home. It’s where he went to college. It is where he fell in love with his first guy, Roman. The thought of Roman gave Ryan a shiver in his spine. Two years they dated. They did bring out the best in each other. Roman eventually took a job at the US Embassy in Portugal, a job which meant Roman moving to Europe. Ryan just began his job in FreeThrow. FreeThrow was a start-up tech company based in Salt Lake City. Ryan and two of his classmates in university were all poached for their coding skills by the company and he was eventually given a good paying, strong position in the company… until today.


After Roman, Ryan dated here and there. There was Chelsea, a waitress at a restaurant Ryan went to once. They had a casual thing going for four months until she decided her ex-boyfriend seemed more of a fit for her. Then there was Paula. She was an intern at FreeThrow. They began a risqué workplace relationship which, in-turn, Ryan ended up getting written up to HR about. There was a period of single-life for a couple of years until Alex came around. He was a post-grad in USU and was an exchange student from Chile. Without Alex, Ryan could have never known about the passions of life and how to engage with emotions. Alex eventually cheated on Ryan with his teaching assistant, so there was that. This all leads up to where Ryan felt he is today.


Inconsistency.


There has always felt like an inconsistency in Ryan’s life. He has felt happiness but he’s never been happy. After his mom died when he was fifteen, his emotions kind of became secondary to what always had to be done. It was frustrating. He pushed himself to get his Masters in Software Engineering, he pushed to work right after university… but things just felt unbalanced. With all that happened on this particular day, all of that needed to be paused. Ryan needed to go back to Pennsylvania.


He touched down in Philadelphia and was greeted by Trish at the terminal doors. She gave him a hug which instantly drew tears to his eyes. As she comforted him, she took his bag and got the two of them settled into the car. They drove the ten minutes to Chester, just outside the city. He could just see the Delaware River. A place where he and his friends would hang out after school. A memory of nearly drowning crossed his mind… Those guys could play rough…


Ryan got his bags to the spare bedroom in his dad’s house. His dad moved from their family home when Trish and Ryan moved out. He wanted his own space and not be living with the memories of his wife, which was understandable. Ryan helped his dad move in, mostly because he wanted to know where exactly his stuff was being put.


Just as Ryan had his back unpacked and washed his face, the call came for dinner. The three of them sat down and got to chatting over some of his dad’s infamous spicy ribs, a family favourite. Ryan cherished his dad. He was a hard worker. A tough man but always someone who gave sound advice. Ryan came out to his dad when he was sixteen. His dad totally accepted this, saying something along the lines of “Just be happy” and was just pleased I wasn’t racking my brain over being bisexual.


“So what’s your plan now?” Trish asked, wiping her mouth.


“Well. I guess I better get my finances finished. I pretty much looked at my savings and other accounts on the flight. All in all, I have nearly 50,000 in savings and with my shares and stuff” Ryan told them.


“What about Nan’s money then?” his dad questioned “You said you have a chunk left?”


“Yeah, with that added, I could have nearly 80 k” Ryan explained.


“So you do have a bit of a safety net then, which is good” Trish stated “Maybe while you’re here, you can perhaps find things to maybe do with the money…”she added, taking his plate.


“In what way?” Ryan questioned.


“Maybe you could use the money to do your own thing. You invested in some things before, right?” Trish asked, rhetorically “It could, if you wanted to, put the money towards starting your own business, or finding things to invest in again”


“I guess that could be something to think about. I do plan to take a walk downtown tomorrow, so maybe I can get some inspiration that way… or maybe check out the storage unit” he pondered.


“See? I say you just needed some of your dad’s ribs to get the juices flowing” Dad said with a smirk “Now, I’m not taking no for an answer, but we’re having a drink” he said and made his way to his liquor cabinet.


They made a toast to new opportunities. Chatted some more over a nice, neat bourbon before bedtime.


Ryan began his day with an idea. Go to his lockup a few blocks away and use his time there to figure out his next life move. He was never one of those people to ‘Stand still’ for and get lazy, so this was the best way to occupy his mind and time.


He took the key hanging from the hook next to the door, the keys to his dad’s truck. He took the truck and drove towards the lockup, stopping for a coffee in the nearest drive-thru coffee shop. He got to the lockup a good ten minutes later and lifted the giant orange roller door.


The industrial light flickered on. Inside was everything he owned. All his possessions from the his childhood, his old school books and notes, furniture, old computers and just some odd pieces from their old home. In the corner was an old desk with a swivel chair he used to have in his bedroom. Still as he remembered it. A dusty red colour with a couple of holes dug out, most likely from his nail biting high school finals. Those tests used to make his anxiety SKYROCKET.


He took a seat at the desk and moves some of the clutter away so that he could get to work on his laptop. He had to find this nugget that could get him out of this bad spell. He wanted to find something he could sink his teeth into and basically set himself up with that one thing he could love and nurture.


He sat for a half hour… an hour… and hour and a half. All he came to find out what how much money he had. Web search after web search. And no ideas were good enough to be business-worthy or good enough to be competitive. Tech is where Ryan shined. But all of his thoughts in that area were in very saturated markets.


He swivelled in the chair, picking at the hollowed out hole beside his left leg. Sipping the last bit of his now cold cappuccino. He knew one thing. He wasn’t going back to Salt Lake City with no new prospect.


He looked at some of the labelled boxes. Maybe rooting through them could give him a brainwave. It was worth a shot.


He stood and reached to the top shelf next to him, pulling out some of his elementary school books and drawings. It was one of his favourite hobbies in school, art. He would sometimes just sit in a classroom and draw from his imagination. He even won an art competition ran by the local newspaper in town. His mom was over the moon the day they found out. She sat by the radio listening for Ryan’s name. Once Ryan won, she came and picked him up early from school and brought him to get ice-cream in Downtown Philadelphia. He really missed his mom.


Another hour passed by. At this point, Ryan was caked in dust from all the old trinkets and books. He had read through high school notes, looked at magazines and even took some time to play with his old action figures, which brought him right back to his early childhood. “One more box” he told himself before he’d head into Philadelphia for lunch.


He pulled down a dark red box. He hadn’t seen this box in quite a while. It was a box of his mom’s photos and books. One of her most treasured items. It contained a lot of memories and mementos from both her and our childhoods. She used to fish out a photo or two whenever he or Trish brought friends home or guests came to visit. Ryan distinctly remembered one Christmas where his cousins came to visit from Maine, cousins they had not seen in a few years and his mom digging out the most embarrassing pictures. It was mortifying.


He pulled out some photos. Trish and their dad out on a boat, doing some fishing. Ryan and Trish in a bunkbed when they went travelling to Niagara Falls. Trish putting Ryan in a headlock at the top of the stairs. Mom and Dad having a drink on the porch. All memories Ryan cherished. His hands were getting dry from the dust. He lifted out the books now. Some of the books were quite old. A lot were classics. Tom Sawyer. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen.


Eventually, he picked up a soft notebook. It’s a notebook Ryan never recalled seeing his mom with. She had journals and stuff but this notebook in particular. It read “Leabhar Cocaireachta”. He recognized the language as Gaelic. His mom was the daughter of Irish immigrants who moved from County Clare in Ireland to Philadelphia in the 1940’s. His mom was very proud of her Irish heritage, even taking their family to Ireland a couple of times.

Ryan never really enjoyed his time in Ireland. It was always chilly. And whenever their mom would take them to see cousins and distant relatives, they’d always live in old, freezing cottages and would be difficult to understand. Nevertheless, Ryan enjoyed the nature and loved seeing his mother happy.


“Cook Book” is what the book translated to. He flicked through the book, seeing ingredients, methods and hand drawn sketches of different foods. He came to the last page where there was a little note: “All my favourite foods from home. They should be made with love and eaten with loved ones. Enjoy – A.D”. He wasn’t too familiar with the initials. But he looked at the sketches again. Soups. Stews. Breads and cakes. Food Ryan wasn’t too used to. He’d been to Ireland but the food wasn’t something he distinctly remembered, and he’d eaten at Irish Bars in Salt Lake City but they were just Americanised foods.


Some of the handwriting was his mother’s but there was another person’s writing in there too. Ryan wondered who else wrote in it. But he did come across a recipe for “Mary’s Brown Bread”. His mom’s bread. He began to think of his mom’s homemade loaf. He used to smear his bread with butter and raspberry jam and it was one of his favourite things to eat. It was something, he thought, he had to give a go.


He spent another half hour in the storage unit. He dug out old photos and notes his mom had from Ireland, even some pictures from their trips. She did just love capturing moments like that. He left the unit and got into the truck, with his computer and the Irish-related items. His next port of call – Grocery shopping. He was going to try his hand at baking and making some of the items in the book. It would certainly bring back memories of his childhood even more.


He went to the market down the street from his dad’s house. Doing his best to dust off before entering. He spent a solid twenty minutes browsing and picking up items for what was going be an Irish food bonanza. His idea was to make a classic Irish Stew, Brown Soda Bread and something called “Brack” which, according to the recipe, was a fruit cake. He picked out his ingredients, paid and made his way to his dad’s house.


He immediately got to work. He changed his dusty clothes and entered the kitchen in a tee and shorts, throwing an apron over his outfit. He pulled out his ingredients and all the equipment needed. Mixing bowls, pans, whisks, spoons and measuring apparatuses. He measured out his flour, he measured out his wet ingredients. His plan was to have the bread ready and the stew cooking by the time his dad was home and his sister came over. She was bringing her kid with her, so it was going to be nice to have some real hearty food for everyone.


He mixed and whisked until the bread was ready to bake. As the round loaf heated up in the oven, Ryan got onto the next part of the meal. He started dicing some beef, peeling vegetables and started working on the star of the course, the potatoes. As he peeled the potatoes, he remembered how his mother’s potatoes tasted and the times he used to help her in the kitchen. Real heart-warming memories.


The stew was placed in the slow cooker, as per the updated recipe. The cook book gave step by step instructions which Ryan followed to the letter. He wasn’t going to mess it up. As he cooked, it really did get his mind racing about business opportunities and what his next adventure was going to be. Really, it was a chance for Ryan to map and think about what was his goals for the next few years. It was tough. Salt Lake City really was the place that he considered home. After spending the past six or so years there, it was where his friends were, it was where his work was and he just genuinely loved the feeling of the city. Not to mention, there was an excellent food places he loved. As the bread baked and the stew cooked in the pot, he took the time to head out to the back yard and do an impromptu workout. Got to make the bread, while he made the bread, was his mentality.


After a good and active cardio session with jump rope, Ryan heard the oven buzzing for him to check it. As he ran inside, he heard the front door open and shut. His sister and her daughter, Eva arrived.


“This place smells so good” Trish said, coming in and placing a platter of cupcakes on the counter.


“Right? What does it remind you of?” Ryan replied with a smile on his face.

Trish quickly scanned the room and her eyes widened “Smells like mom’s cooking!” she shouted.


“I found her old cookbooks and pictures of our trips to Ireland when I was going through my unit” Ryan explained.


“What’s on the menu then?” she asked, both her and Eva had a look of ‘now I’m really hungry’.


Ryan explained what was on the menu. The bread. The stew. And now they had cupcakes for dessert. Ryan also took out a bottle of Irish Cream Liquor so that they could have boozy coffee. Trish had a beaming smile and looked at Ryan with real kind eyes.


“Hah, impressed?” Ryan asked her with a chuffed smile.


“Yes but also you seem really happy. It’s like… Maybe mom is guiding you with this. Maybe this is what you were looking for” she said and held up the cookbook.


“What? Making a business from meat and potatoes?” Ryan replied, with a sarcastic tone.


“No, but perhaps an Irish restaurant? You always hear of Irish pubs and bars but what about a dedicated restaurant?” Trish suggested.


Just as Ryan was about to respond, he heard the front door close and the sound of a “whoa” coming in.


“Whatever is cooking, it smells super good!” Dad said coming in the kitchen. “Hey Evie!” he said and picked up Evie in a hug.


“Yeah, I found Mom’s Irish cookbook” Ryan said and waved the book at his dad.


“Oh damn! She used to make the best potatoes. Man, I miss those” he exclaimed, sitting down at his lounge chair in the kitchen, with Evie under his arm.