The Conquering Twilight of Dublin.

All the hotels in Dublin were gone. Gone. Stone gone. Not a hope, sold out, and forget it, Micky. Go somewhere else. Shopped around, booking websites, Air B&B, standby rooms, all gone, gone, gone. There’s one or two places out of reach, maybe. How’s 250 euro a night? Will that do?  

You’re sound, thanks.

Eventually ended up getting a hostel. Back to the roots, the good old days on the road. Sure it’ll be grand. It was a six bed dorm with a fella that couldn’t stop blinking. He had an accent like Billy Bob Thornton and he was after a long flight from somewhere. Omaha, Ohio, Oregon, Dakota, one of them. He was up for talking shite, about life, and travel, and Ireland. And isn’t Dublin a nice city? And does it really rain as much as they say in Ireland? 

There was a stir across the way. A sort of a creak of the metal frames of the beds and then a blond strand of hair came out over the pillow. You might be expecting some sort of a Swedish bombshell, somehow staying in a cheap hostel, but no, it was a blue-eyed lad with airpods and an opened book that he didn’t really seem to be reading. It was like he was waiting for something, some sign, or a phone call. Had the look of a lad on Annual Leave from a UFO cult but now he was bored and wanted to get back to work. Maybe there was a convention down the road. Some place with balloons shaped like alien’s heads and lads with beards selling DVD’s of extraterrestrial autopsies. Billy Bob Said: ‘I was thinking of going to Galway, too.’ 

‘Do.’ 

I went downstairs, through a horde of Spanish students, all loud and jumpy. Two other men were at the lift, had the temporary look of confused Ukrainians, still getting used to things, it was all a mystery now. The lift, the Spanish kids, the sweet smell of sweat and leather and vague piss. I said: ‘How’s things?’  

And walked out. 

There was a bus stop outside. About 25 people were waiting for the 46 something. They all looked around, frozen for a second, their eyes like cyborgs cameras fixated on this apparition from the hole in the hostel wall. Time herself forgot her purpose, struggled against gravity to keep the world moving. That woman in the white jacket and her hair tied tight and her big kryptonite stare like diamonds impossibly embedded in her pale severe skull. The moment passed, the curiosity waned in tandem with the arrival of the green dragonian bus. It heaved up like a tired ass, snottering and hissing, and spreading her gills like the doors of a trojan horse, and all the commuting Greeks hopped off, hopped on, disappeared into phones and the monoxide fumes and the loud tick tock of the big yellow indicator.  

Went around the corner, Temple Bar, sun dipping, traffic calming, people smoking their problems, their impatience, their time, as they waited for the next great moment, only ever a moment away, through the nicotine clouds and dwindling day and the soft hint of the conquering twilight. Big shtuff. 

Poor Craytures.

Got the call to go down to Marian. She wanted to sign up. I was in the area. How am I fixed?

This was good news on a bad Friday. Needed a fast sale and get home. Marian sounded the type that could just sign up, tick all the boxes, and the weekend could sing.
Got there and she invited me in with a flurry. ‘Come in! Come in….come in. I’ve been waiting for ye!’

‘Great.’

‘Sit down,’ she said. ‘This other crowd are robbin me.’

‘That’s what we like to hear.’

‘And I have a wedding you know?’

‘You do?’

‘I do. Tomorrow. A wedding. And I got this bill in the door – how am I supposed to pay it?’

‘Tis high alright.’

‘And I’ve no work.’

‘No?’

‘No. I used to have a great job but it closed down. I was a manager in a shop.’

‘Which shop?’

‘It was a high end clothes shop. Really expensive stuff. Someone like you probably wouldn’t know it.’

‘You’re probably right.’

‘And then it closed and I have zero. Zilch. Nothin. And a wedding tomorrow.’

‘Who’s getting married?’

‘Oh it’s a distant cousin on my husband’s side. But you have to go. Show face. We’re not paupers. You know?’

‘What’s the address here so?’

She gave it to me, I typed it in. She made herself a coffee. Didn’t offer me one. Sat back down, asked: ‘Are ye cheaper?’

‘We are.’

‘That’s good. I have to put €200 in a card this evening.’

‘For the wedding?’

‘Yeah. And we had to tax the car, pay for the holiday and I have to get my hair done yet.’

‘Flat out.’

‘I’m telling you. And by the time you buy a few drinks, pay for the hotel, and the day after, and all the rest of it. Oh my God….’

‘And no sign of work at all?’

‘Not a thing. I’ve been looking and looking and looking and asking everybody. It’s terrible.’

‘Tis. What’s your bank details?’

She called them out, went on with: ‘This government is a disgrace.’

‘That’s one word for them.’

‘The economy is supposed to be booming. Jobs everywhere. Where are they?’

‘Hard to know. Sign there.’

She signed. I told her about the contract, all that. She waved her hand, said: ‘Yeah…go on go on…do you like this job?’

‘I do.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh.’

A knock on the door. Then a woman entered. Brazilian. Two kids. Big smile. Marian said: ‘Hi…Sonza…’

‘Hi, Marian.’ Said Sonza. ‘Do you still have…’

‘Oh yes. The bag, the bag. Of course. Hang on….’ She looked at me. ‘Are you alright there for a second?’

‘Sound.’

Marian went off. Came back with a black bag full of clothes. ‘Here you go, Sonza. Lovely to see ye. Are you calling around for lunch on Monday?’

‘Ok…’

‘That’d be lovely….please do.’

‘Ok. Bye. I see you.’

‘Bye…..’

Sonza left. Marian sat down. Rolled her eyes, conspiratorially, said: “Poor craytures.’

‘How do ya mean?’

‘I do give them all the old…crap we don’t want. Stuff I’d never use and can’t rid off. It was either that or dump it. Sure what can you do?’

‘What can you do?’

‘It’s the likes of all them refugees that are taking the jobs anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a racist or anything…’

‘Sign there again so and we’re finished.’

‘Oh great. Thanks. Then I’ll go and start getting ready for this bloody wedding.’

‘Do. And if you’re still looking for a job next week give us a shout. We’re hiring.’

‘Doing what? Your job? This?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t be seen dead doing your job.’

All the bad news on the radio.

Wasn’t even sure I wanted to go but, fuck it, here I was. Drink around, upturned ashtrays, cheap wine, cold night, dim light, Family Guy on the telly and me waiting to give a lift home but no stir, all talk and be ready in five minutes and all that.

Then I remembered I was in the same estate yesterday. Sitting in the car, listening to all the bad news on the radio, when a man hobbled by. So I asked the girl there: ‘Do yo know a fella around here, walks funny, saw him yesterday.’

Yeah, she said, that’s Brian.

‘Brian?

‘Yeah, he has problems.’

And then I knew I was right. That it was him and the years hadn’t been good. Days gone by. Before the world crumbled, back when mystery was still a thing, and life hung on friendships and intuition and knowing one of your own. He was a journalist, looking to get into the fiction game. Smart mind, good with people, knew how the world worked. Musta been, what, ten years ago, fifteen now, who knows. Last I saw him we had a session before I hit the road. Did the town. Places around Galway that are long closed since. Johnny Cash was only after dying and everyone was singing Folsom Prison Blues and then time went on. Different countries, different lives, different histories.

Girl here now is making mention of things. Alcoholism, drugs maybe, could be schizophrenia. He shouts a lot. Keeps locking the door, then opening it again, then locking it again. Some days it looks like he can’t walk properly, others that he can. Talks to himself. Always shaking, tremors, nerves, something.

Most people walk by in disgust, fear, nervous misunderstanding. And yet there was a time when his hands didn’t shake and his mouth didn’t quiver and his walk didn’t slope and he was going to be a writer. Had met plenty through the papers and the material was there. Somewhere in the mind, beyond the Galway rain and the cold cider, behind eyes that hovered on the ledge of sanity. He’d lost weight too. Thin now, delicate musculature, imminently breakable. Acne, stubble, torn shoes and rotting teeth. There was a girl somewhere I think. A daughter maybe, a past lover, some story of love and loss. He was working through it at the time, waiting for the cloud to pass and age to do her thing and find the level where they could work it out. Maybe settle down, maybe try again. Maybe find a room where the world could quieten down and he could let the demons sing, purge them on a page lit by the warm sun of peace and possibility. Listen to the laughter of life downstairs and leave the horror locked in the words and it would all be ok.

Girl here now says she doesn’t like him. Nobody does. He has a housemate that wants to move out. Or him to move out. Or something. He should really be put somewhere, sent somewhere, some home, some place, somewhere else. Last time I saw him we were outside a pub at some unholy time. There was mongs selling cheap wine on the street, a flavour of pizza in the air from Monroes pub across he road. Boom time style and opulence glittered at the taxi rank, looking for the next lift to nowhere. I had a flight in a few hours and I said to Brian I’d be in touch, and I’d see him around, and good luck with the writing. Sound, he said, and I’ll catch you when you’re home and we’ll have a pint and we’ll compare stories. And we shook hands and he left and I hadn’t seen him since. Until now.