Archive for November, 2008


November 30, 2008

I call Germany, but get through to the internet. I have 200 minutes, but no one to talk to. Then, I call the Molvanian. She lives nearby. She answers. I ask her for directions.

“Do you see a large, green, electrical box thing?” she asks.

“No” I say.

“Ok” she replies, “Go past that and you’ll see a housing estate. Take the second entrance to the estate, and then, take the first right”

I look at the petrol station opposite, the giant roundabout to my left, and the stadium behind me, and wish I’d gotten through to the internet again. I cycle on. The leaves are dry and crunch beneath the tyres. I love that autumn sound.

Her house is deceptive. The sitting room is in the bedroom. The kitchen is in the attic. The toilet is in the kitchen and the attic is on the ground floor. On the walls of the stairs are room-height, frameless mirrors, which appear like doorways and are destined for drunken calamity. It is a nice place, nonetheless.

She has not slept much, but is lively. We sing of animals and football. We drink tea while Padraig searches for sugar. The Pole insists on vodka and apple juice. I do not like its taste. I leave, but am sworn to return. I realise I have to. I have forgotten my bag.

I call the American. She is in. Her directions are impeccable. Her house has no stairs. I like this. She reminds me of the time I had woken up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. I had forgotten the story. Friends often serve me as my memory. I had been living in a place where my room was on the ground floor and the toilet was on the first floor. After using the bathroom, still half-asleep, I fell at the top of the stairs and tumbled downwards, landing in the tray of kitty-litter and kitty-shit that was there on the ground at the foot. I was then fully awake and covered in cat-crap.

In college, I had had a similar fall. I was at a party. I was coming down the stairs, and had just gone a step or two when I bumped into someone I knew coming up the stairs, but who I hadn’t seen in a while. We stayed there talking for several minutes, then, saying she had to use the loo badly, she continued on her way, and I turned to go mine. Unfortunately, I had forgotten where we had been standing, and saying “later”, turned to go as though I had been standing on level ground. I immediately noticed that the ground was a lot lower than where I had expected it to be. In fact it didn’t seem to be there at all. My foot and the universal force of gravity pulled the remainder of my body in the direction of the ground, with my fringe going down last, making an apparent jump upwards in an attempt to keep itself in the place where it had expected to be, but was overcome by the draw of the rest of me. Down I went, sliding ungraciously, in a conflict of emotions, ranging from shame, fear, and regret to surprise, pride and genuine enthusiasm for the fall. I clattered off the steps, creating a lovely drum-roll sound, not unlike that of a percussive washboard. Fortunately, there was no kitty litter this time. Or, unfortunately. The kitty-litter would have made it the funniest fall in the history of falling down stairs. That would have been the icing on the cake. In the distance future, people will ponder over the expression ‘that would be the cat-shit in the tray’, and wonder about its origins. Only we will know. I lay there laughing. I could not get up, but not because I was hurt.

I leave the American. She is drunk and giggling on the couch. She is torn between fits of laughter and pain. She has drawn me a map. It is pleasing, but impractical. I turn off the lights and leave her sleep.

I go back to the Molvanian’s. They are in fine fettle. The songs have turned to shanties. I stay a while and sing along.

‘Everybody wants to be around the sun’s rays’.

It is the kind of song that makes you feel drunker than you are, or at least more jovial. It is fine company indeed, but I am far from home. I leave again, but forget my bag. I return.

“I forgot my bag again” I say, “and I think I should use the loo before I go.”

I use the facilities and go without saying a third goodbye.

I cycle home drunk. It is not advisable. I had had that one drink too many, twice. I had a few more for the road too. Cyclists can get away with anything. The gardai once saw me flying off my bicycle into the road – I mean, I actually crashed into the road! It didn’t appear from nowhere. I had seen it clearly. It had been there, in clear view, beneath my wheels. It was a feat that is almost impossible to pull off. There are seasoned circus clowns who couldn’t have done it with less grace, but in my drunkenness I managed to do the kind of slapstick bike-crash that Laurel and Hardy would have envied. The gardai, who saw the crash, pulled up beside me and asked if I was ok – I clearly wasn’t: I was clearly drunk and bleeding badly – but of course I lied. I didn’t want them to have to get out of the car and do their job, which would have been to charge me, and luckily for me, they didn’t want to get out of their car and do their job either. So, it worked out for all of us. They drove off, and I pretended to walk my bike onwards, but predictably got back up after ten steps and cycled the rest of the way.

My present journey is longer, with more traffic, no daylight, and I am more intoxicated. It is a long and wobbly route home. As I cross the bridge, I think of putting on my jacket, but it is in my bag, which I have left in the house of mirrors for a third time. It is too far away, and too embarrassing to turn back now. Eventually, I arrive home, unbruised, but shattered. I enter the house, bring my bike through, and park it out the back.

Back inside, I contemplate the stairs. They too seem quite wobbly. I approach with caution. I do not fall often, but when I do, it tends to be spectacular. I begin the ascent. I clear the first few steps. I pause, clutching the rail, and regain my balance. With one hand on the banister and the other on the steps, I slowly half-crawl, half-stumble up towards the landing. I reach it successfully. I pull myself upright, and turn to cast a wry mocking smile at the defeated stairway. I chuckle to myself, and enter my bedroom.

In my room, I get ready for bed. I lift my left leg to pull off my shoe without unlacing it. It sticks. I pull harder, and slip on my other foot pulling the cord from the lamp, knocking it off the table, taking a pint glass of water with it, which splashes on me, electrocuting me, and causing me to recoil and fall backwards out my open window, crashing into the collection of bottles amassed on the ground below, and causing the bicycles to tip from their position down upon me. A pedal catches me in the abdomen; a handlebar in the eye. I remain still, flat on my back, as the silence returns. The sound of smashing echoes and slowly fades. Inside, I can hear the stairs snickering. I look up at the night sky, and see that my room is on fire, and the chuckle of the stairs is really the crackling of my possessions being burnt to cinders in my blazing bedroom. ‘That really is the cat shit in the tray’ I say to myself. And I could not get up, but not because I was laughing.