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.
‘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.