Archive for February, 2010

Knots

February 19, 2010

Lost in endeavours, the splash of the tide
Breaks the stern as they turn, though there’s nowhere to hide
From the waves that they brave as the salty air stings
For the pots caught in knots, for the ropes in the rings

Hooked on their waistlines, and shipped from their ports
Crossed by their stars, retracing their course
For the strays of the surf, the orphans afloat
On coffins so often, the rescuing boat

So call me by name, as I call out for yours
So far, so silent; so far from the shores
The wax and the wane, the calm and the storm
Adrift in a dream, bereft, without form

But no sad-eyed trawler will breach the swell’s crest
Awash in white water, while the crooked crow’s nest
Has long been abandoned as the holds are all full
So the sky is my deck now, the ocean my hull

Chips

February 2, 2010

Christmas party in January. And not early January, but quite late. Almost February. Still, it’s a party and we’re not complaining. The Mongolian Barbeque works thus: you pick your own ingredients, the chefs cook it on a huge metal plate, and they give it back to you. It’s nice in theory, but I’m a shit cook. I don’t know how to cook. I don’t know what ingredients go well with what. My husband does all the cooking at home. I used not be so bad, but he was always much handier in the kitchen. And so, over time, the more he has cooked, the better he has gotten. And, predictably, the opposite has happened to me. Now, the only thing I can make well is toast. So leaving it to me to decide what goes in my dish is like letting one of the weakest students in the class decide what the answers to the test are. A nice gesture, but ultimately, a really bad idea.

In the queue for our dishes, Kevin whispers in my ear that he has been stuck sitting beside our director. I am aware that she is actually right behind him, and able to hear him too, but it’s hard to convey this knowledge to him discretely. He glances around, and his embarrassing gaff dawns on him. He goes instantly red. So red, I feared it might be permanent.  Irish people blush like no other people. It’s due to the depths of our shame. Our director doesn’t seem to mind though. I see her smiling to herself.

We get our food. We sit. We eat. We talk. We drink. We merry. All is well. I have always had my reservations about Christmas parties. There’s something about them that briefly turns adults back into teenagers. They are a lottery of regret. Who will wake up tomorrow regretting what? Who will struggle to maintain eye contact with which colleagues for how many weeks to come? Who will cringe the most in the aftermath? But at this stage of the evening, all is going swimmingly. I like this part. This is nice.

After our meal, in a clear demonstration of the fact that democracy does not work, we decide to go to Buskers. No one can even remember how it got into the hat, but Buskers has been chosen, and I insist, in the spirit of that very same democracy, that we respect the outcome of our own election process. Buskers is naff and full of posers. On the other hand, it is quite near. That may well be its only plus though; its nearness. Just down to Temple Bar Square, up Fleet Street, and we’re there. We enter. It’s early, and there are no bouncers at the door. Inside it is bright and offensive. Four blokes have taken up post by what will become the dance floor. They eye us as we enter, still a few shots short of courage. At the bar, the staff are bright and bubbly. Never a good sign. I get the first round. Our drinks are served and we move off, the ground flickering green and blue. I have never trusted establishments that light their floors.

After some time, and several rounds, a few of us come to realise that Buskers is not so bad, especially if you sit outside on the street. It’s quite pleasant out the front. A bit cold, but we can bear it. The music is absent and there is more to look at. It’s almost like not being at Buskers at all. In fact, had we just bought some cans and some deckchairs and sat a few metres to the right, we could have saved ourselves €20 or €30 each.

Darkness comes on as our spirits lift. Though I have no love for our employers, who treat us with such disdain, I have only affection for my colleagues who I am in this boat with. These are good folk here, and it has been good to work with them. They are people with spark and wit. Real people, with open hearts and lively minds, and I am glad to have known them.

But, alas, I am too far gone now, and I move to leave. Goodbyes are said. Hugs are given and taken, and I stumble off onto the shiny Dublin streets. I am tired and I am homeward. I take the 19a from Westmoreland St and sit up top. The bus crosses The Liffey to the North-side. The river is high this evening. On O’Connell Street, shoppers and commuters scurry along the paths. Friends and strangers, tourists and blind dates, await each other at The Spire. Already-full bins have further rubbish creatively added to their tops, like blocks removed from a game of Jenga; precariously placed. The next contributor to this collective house of cards may cause the whole tower of junk to collapse, and will therefore be responsible for all of the fallen litter, and not just his or her own entry. Them’s the rules, and everybody knows it.

I realise I am hungry again. I have drunk too much and have started feeling woozy. It is not so much hunger as a settling of the stomach I’m in need of. Something to soak up the booze. I need something bad for me. Something hot and bad for me. I want chips. A big bag of chips. No wait! Curry chips. Even better. That’s what I want. I want a tray of curry chips. I begin to imagine them. Begin to crave them. I grow impatient. Wanting them now. Wanting them immediately. My hunger increases at every traffic light that stops us. I think of where is best to get them. Where’s nicest. And where’s nearest. For the second time today, the nearness of the place wins out. I get off two stops before mine, and go to Macari’s where there is no queue. I consider getting onion rings too, but no; chips are all I’m really after. I order and am quickly served.

I leave with brown paper bag in hand. I had planned on waiting till I got home before eating them, but I am weak, and I cannot resist. Holding the paper bag and the lid underneath the tray, so as not to burn my left hand, I take the plastic fork with my other and dig in. I know it could be seen as uncouth or graceless behaviour, but I don’t care. Not here. Not in this city. I turn into my estate, and on to my road. And then, just a few houses from my own, a very weird thing happens. Between numbers 33 and 35 is a lane which runs between the roads, and a skip has been there for the past week or so. And as I pass this, a man jumps out from behind it and starts shaking himself at me. This naked guy!  Completely starkers. No mac. No towel or bathrobe. Just shoes. A pair of black shoes. And nothing else. I scream. A short, sharp, high-pitched scream. He continues to dance there with his lad in his hand, shaking it at me – it’s not erect or anything; he’s just swinging it around. And I bolt. My curry chips go flying into the air. I just run, possibly screaming, I’m not sure. I go as fast as my high heels will let me. I get to my gate, push through and run up to my door. I do not look back. I grab my purse and desperately search for my keys. I find them, get the right one, push it into the slot, turn it, enter, and slam the door behind me. My heart is racing, and I am in a suddenly sobering kind of shock.

My husband, hearing my panicked entrance, comes rushing out of the front room to me.

“What happened? What’s going on? Are you ok?”

I don’t know how to respond, but, eventually manage to tell him that I have been flashed by some guy out in the estate. His predictable reaction is to want to go out and get the flasher, and beat him up, or bring him to the police, or who knows – I’m not sure how far he had thought his plan through. He steps out the door and looks out at the road. He sees no one. Then he steps back in, and looks at me.

“What did he look like?”

I don’t know what to say. It happened so quickly.

“I don’t know. He looked… naked.”

“I mean, what kind of guy was he? Old? Young? Tall? Short? What colour hair? Anything?”

I stare back at him speechlessly. My shoulders and arms pull up into an intense shrug and I can’t think of anything at all. I guess I am still in shock. My mind is drawing a total blank. I have absolutely no clue how to describe him. I open my mouth, but can’t seem to get any words out. He stands in front of me impatiently, with a look of urgency and exasperation on his face. “What kind of guy was he!!!”, he repeats.

“What did he look like?”

“Sh-sh-shoes”, I manage to stutter. “b-b-black shoes.”