Famous Blue Raincoat
She flew to London and then to Los Angeles and then, on a small plane, to Fresno in California where Julie's body lay in a morgue. She had never been in the United States before, and perhaps, she thought, it was the hours flying and the day becoming night as much as the unfamiliarity that seemed to soften everything she saw and felt, seemed to render colours bland and voices hard to make out. The only hotel she knew was the one where Julie had been found. It did not occur to her to go anywhere else. It was a new motel at the edge of the city, and it was only when she had checked in and was lying on the bed that she realised this might not be the best place to stay. She thought of asking to see the manager and requesting him to show her the room where her sister had been found, but she postponed this each day.
She studied the staff, wondering which of them had seen her sister dead and which of them would know if Matt had been with her on the night or day she died.
In all the years that followed, she wondered why she did not go to the police, or find the Irish consul, and she still wondered if one of the men in the morgue who witnessed her signature was not a policeman. She had phoned the number given to her in Dublin and arranged to go to the morgue the next day. She had also given them Matt's name and asked them that if he made contact, they were to tell him where she was. It sounded as though she were making a business transaction and this added to the strangeness of those days when no one recognised her, when no one spoke to her, when she could find no bar or restaurant or coffee shop where she felt comfortable. She was in a land of ghosts.
She remembered the time in Fresno before she went to see her sister's body as interminable, a limbo time in which there was nothing to do, no duty to perform, no possibility of sleeping. She tried to take a taxi to the city centre so she could stroll in the streets, but after much misunderstanding, she discovered that there was no city centre, and there were no streets, merely long leafy rows of houses which led to more of the same, like an enclosed city of the dead, the houses like small tombs. She tried to phone friends in Ireland, but each call had to go through reception; the receptionist was not in the habit of dealing with international calls and mostly failed to connect her. The staff began to view her lurking in the lobby waiting for taxis, her coming and going, with something between hostility and suspicion.
She had seen America in the movies, but nothing she saw in her days here belonged to the images she had seen on the screen. The flatness, the deadness, the long waits for taxis, the tiredness of every object belonged to no Hollywood drama she had ever seen. Only once, in that first day, did she see a sight worthy of the movies. She had felt a craving for Chinese food, and she had asked at reception for the name of the nearest Chinese restaurant. The receptionist seemed to have no idea what she meant. In the end, Lisa spoke directly to the taxi company who dispatched a driver after 45 minutes to take her to a nearby mall.