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The International Writers Magazine: Dublin, Ireland 2006 - Archives

The Duke
• John P Brady
I met a girl in a bar the usual way, whatever the hell that is, a few days before and we had exchanged numbers. I waited the normal amount of time before contacting her, so as not to frighten her off or give her the impression that I was over interested. While I was waiting she contacted me.

The Duke

Next came the complicated procedure of choosing a place to meet. I had to choose a place where I would feel comfortable, where the music was loud, but not too loud, where the lights were low, but not too low, where there were people, but not too many, the kind of place that indicates to her the kind of cool relaxed life I led, the kind of place that relations with said woman could flourish naturally, but most importantly the kind of place where the Guinness was good.

I invited her for a drink at Bruxelles, ‘Dublin’s Cosmopolitan Bar,’ a place I frequented on occasion. We were to meet the following night. She agreed to meet me there but, in her calculated approach to the event, threw in a not so subtle hint that I had chosen a poor location.

Catherine: Oh aye so meet you there; might pick another location after a while though.

So rather than just meet me at the place we had arranged, she being a strange sort of a woman, the kind that are usually most interesting, in fact, decided to get scuttered drunk with her friends at exactly the same time in a completely different location.

So, I threw a dinner into me, got ready to leave the house to meet her at the time and place agreed. I then received a text message from the strange woman on that often socially retarded piece of equipment they call a mobile phone. The message was simple: She was waiting for me at The Duke. I began to write a reply but immediately the phone rang.

‘Hey! Are you coming in? When do you think you’ll be here?’ she said all at once.

There was no more or no less to it, if I expected an explanation I wasn’t getting it. I simply had to appear there. I prepared to go into town via Dublin’s wonderfully confused bus service.

‘It’s the worst public transport system in the EU,’ I heard a young guy at the bus stop remark in a Sunny South-East accent. ‘They’re all feckin’ ejjits. I’ve been here half a feckin’ hour man!’ He looked at me expectantly. Would I agree with this stranger simply to appease him?

Now it wouldn’t be my style to passionately defend the merits of Dublin Bus but nonetheless, I asked him: ‘Where else in the EU have you been?’ What had he to compare it to, I wondered.

It transpired that this opinionated country blow-in had been to Germany once.

‘Where else?’ I waited.

‘What do you mean?’ he demanded. He looked at me confused, as though with this, he had already established proof that he was a cosmopolitan gent, free from prejudice and suitably qualified by experience to make this statement. I pointed out that Germany was only one country and that a visit there did not represent a comprehensive understanding of European Union inner city transport services.

I was about to inform him that Germany had one of the most efficient transport networks if not in the world, then certainly in Europe since post World War II redevelopments and that comparing Dublin’s transport services to those of the biggest economy in Europe was unrealistic but then the bus came. I had been waiting 5 minutes. Most of that time had flown by anyway putting this fiend in his place.

I walked up Grafton Street, taking a left onto Duke Street passing a busker who sang ‘Dirty Old Town’ with solemn conviction. When I got to the door of the bar it struck me - What the hell did she look like?

As most blossoming relationships in Dublin have their roots in a night under the heavy sedation of ‘a drop of the hard stuff’, I was suitably confused as to her appearance. Was she tall? Yes, well tall’ish. Slim? Yes. Was she good looking? I think so (I had been lucky) well I wasn’t really sure but I guessed I would soon find out...

The bar was very busy and filled by loud conversation, fanatical laughter and the smell of stout. I went inside and trying to take everything and everyone in, staring wildly around me I almost forgot to look where I was going. I immediately bumped into her. She looked just as surprised as I was.

She led me upstairs to a where her friends were and unknown territory. I was presented to a table of wide-eyed strangers all of whom knew the circumstances of my arrival. She worked with these introverted strangers in a busy book shop, she told me later. They were mostly passably attractive, intelligent females ranging from early to late twenties. Bumbling introductions followed and then a long silence as some continued to gaze at me while others had seen enough to make up their minds. This moment was broken only by some hushed tones and whispers between some concerning her selection of date material.

She saw that I was now sitting alone, not talking to anyone, so she charitably sat down beside me. At this point I will finally name her. She is Catherine, a Dubliner, a hippy and a ball of energy.

‘I’ve just had 6 pints,’ she slurred merrily. I was astounded. I was not surprised at an Irish girl drinking so much or that this was her preparation for meeting a new date. No. I was shocked because she held it so well. Not a sign of drunkenness about her. Next she confessed to being awake for 36 hours straight:

‘I didn’t get to bed last night,’ she remarked and began to tell a story of suitable madness which passed over my head the way clouds do.

‘I need a cigarette,’ she said quickly. 'Do you smoke?’

‘Yeah, why not?’ I replied so that I could get outside with her away from the staring faces.

‘Well, let’s go out for a fag,’ she asserted and we left the table, her leading the way, marching confidently towards the exit. Everyone was looking for their coats and it seemed as though we would soon be alone at the table anyway. There was much confusion as ten drunken girls searched for their jackets. It appeared as though they would have left the bar before we returned.

Outside Catherine talked at the pace of something really fast.

‘I’ve got these friends,’ she excitedly revealed between puffs of her cigarette, ‘and they’re really cool, you’ll like them.’ I hated them already.

‘They live really close and they have loads of drugs. You like weed? Everybody does.’

Her chat was like Speedy Gonzales after a simultaneous mainline of amphetamine and cocaine. Not waiting for me to express any interest in this proposition, she continued to sell this idea to me pointing out that she wasn’t going to any more bars. She added that if I didn’t want to go I could go to Monkeyland or wherever I wanted, because she would be going anyway.

It transpired that she had already arranged to call over to their house. This was on top of arranging to meet the group of wide-eyed, book loving, work colleagues upstairs in The Duke, yours truly for our supposed “date”, which was supposed to be in a different bar.

There was no debate. We left and began walking to the house of ill repute which it became apparent, was not really close at all. Fascination was the only explanation for my sustained presence, as her outlandish and recklessly exciting life intrigued me. It was certainly better than sitting in my cold kitchen, drinking tea and wondering when I’d meet an interesting female.

We walked and walked and she opened her ears for the first time to put me on the spot. She quizzed me on my interests, ambitions, musical taste (which was of critical importance apparently) and my general habits as a human being. She was a woman after all, and I had now discovered she was maybe not so strange.

We hit it off to a great extent on our walk through the south inner city. As Renelagh got closer and my feet wearied she finally announced: ‘We’re there.’

She addressed the intercom of a flat in an old historic Georgian building. A female voice answered in audibly excited tones. A tall, bored looking, guy opened the door and barely managed to grumble a ‘hello’.

Not good, I thought. I have to enter this stranger’s dwelling and he appears to offer little in the way of welcome. Michael was his name and I think we would have gotten no further than that if not for the magic created by Catherine’s colourful conversational techniques and general excitability.

Catherine ran up the stairs and greeted her good-looking friend. I remembered her face and unusually, her name also. It was Aoife, she had been at the bar when I met Catherine a few days previously. In fact my friend, also called Michael, had wasted an entire night trying to convince her they should be together in a strictly non-platonic capacity. She waited until the end of the night before telling him she already had a Michael and she was quite happy with him.

In their one room combined kitchen, living room, laundry room and music studio, I sat on an armchair and watched Catherine and Aoife relentlessly embrace and laugh. They loved each other - it was obvious.

Michael sat across from me on a sofa, looking now slightly more bored. He had assembled the necessary items to construct a joint. While this industrious young man busied himself at what he considered to be the first point of hospitality, I asked him about his large collection of musical equipment. He answered cryptically and as briefly as possible.

He had a huge Mac which continually displayed rotations of album covers from his collection. In the absence of conversation this occupied my attention. Next to this was a keyboard, various pedals and boxes which were all connected by a myriad of cables.

Soon we were getting baked in the hot Dublin night. Twenty minutes or so must have elapsed since we arrived at the house and by now time and space was becoming something transient and detached. It was then that I began to notice some changes in the girls. They had moved from the sofa and armchair respectfully and were now in the throes of a merry dance around the kitchen. Another unusual thing occurred: they offered me pills. (E, Ex, yokes, ecstasy).

‘Let’s take some pills!’ Catherine suggested with eager impatience.

‘Come on Michael you’ll take one!’ they urged the piece of stone sitting across from me.

‘No I’m tired,’ he responded in the monotone sound he preferred to speech. They didn’t let up there.

‘Go on!’ they shouted.

‘No, I’m too tired, gonna go to sleep soon,’ he tried, pleaded almost.

‘Ah, sure it’ll wake ya up a bit!’ Catherine persisted, sensing weakness. Maybe he was about to give in. They continued to press him and at last he agreed. He consumed it swiftly and thoughtlessly in a manner befitting one accustomed to such things.

I had no interest in taking Class A drugs with people I didn’t know, in a place I was not familiar with, late at night and miles from home. Also the prospect of talking to a human stone while higher than the Sears Tower appealed to me not at all.

Michael and Aoife looked at each other for perhaps the first time all night (she had been distracted by Catherine’s arrival and besides, as I mentioned earlier, he was quite boring) although they were going out together and sharing the same house.

‘I just moved in last week,’ Aoife had informed me. They began to share a private moment which allowed my ‘date’ and I to do likewise.

‘You want to take one?’ she persisted, concentrating on me.

‘No, it’s not my thing,’ I said for hopefully, the last time.

‘Ok, well do mind if I take one?’ She looked me in the eye.

‘You can do whatever you want,’ I said hoping she would choose not to.

‘Well, I actually already did!’ she confessed, ‘I dropped it when we got to the house. So did Aoife. And they’re starting to kick in!’ she announced. She looked fixedly at me then broke into little distracted smiles before looking back again. The drug was working on her.

‘You don’t mind do you?’ she asked for my approval again.

‘No, it’s cool,’ I assured her, although I considered that the situation dramatically differed from “cool.”

I sat back on the armchair as I watched the surreal sight before me. The two girls were dancing around the kitchen to some horrific blend of traffic noise, hooting, shouting, pumping shite they considered a suitable musical choice.

I looked over at the stone. He was in the latter stages of constructing another mind bending smoking mixture.

I sat for a few minutes taking it all in. The sounds of laughter and intoxication from the girls were louder now. They danced on the spot in the kitchen, eyes locked on each other and smiling from ear to ear.

‘Wow it’s great!’ said one, shaking her head around.

I looked back at the conversational cabbage on the sofa who was now virtually in a coma while still possibly awake. I think he called it living.

The girls turned their attention to us, coming over and dancing relentlessly in front of the sofa. They were looking for some gesture of reassurance. They rolled around on the ground, talked rubbish, laughed and then danced again. This was amusing for the first hour or so then I had enough. They seemed to be locked on repeat.

Time to get out of here. I got up and made like I was going to leave. Catherine protested. Insisting I should take a pill and join them dancing or at least hang around until later. She gave me a suggestive wink to make sure I got the message. I was leaving and that was it. She went into a sudden guilty terror.

‘Oh no! I ignored you all night and now you’re gonna leave and not call me again.’

She hugged me and I tried to dislodge myself, assuring her that I would indeed call and meet her again soon.

She kissed me, pressing her breasts into my chest. I could have stayed but I didn’t.

© John P Brady Feb 2014


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