I was standing at a bus shelter in Smithfield when it suddenly occurred to me that I was quite alone. I had been staring at a spot on the ground, gurning, when the screaming wind and lashing rain brought me back to reality.
We’d been to a gig the night before. The DJ Jeff Mills had been playing at District 8, and I went with all my friends. We started and ended the night at our friend’s rooftop apartment, but I don’t think any of us still expected to be there until almost half 6 in the morning.
As usual, Saunders and I were the last two to leave. We walked arm in arm to the bus shelter, both of us getting drenched in the rain. When we got there, we smoked the three or four half-finished joints I had left in my pocket, until Saunders’ 67 came by to take her back into town, and I was by myself.
I had been standing there daydreaming so vividly, that I was a bit confused when I looked around. Across the Liffey, the Guinness factory spewed steam into the darkened sky like a sleeping dragon. I supposed it was probably time to get a taxi. It was fucking lashing, so I steeled myself up, balled up my fists, hunched my shoulders up to protect my neck from the rain, and charged out.
I danced around puddles and skipped across the Rory O’More bridge to the other side of the Liffey. Ahead of me, the Wellington Monument loomed from the Phoenix Park. I slowed. That didn’t seem right to me. To get back to Tallaght I had to go … Left? Back towards town?
I was getting confused, and I was getting wet. Frustrated that I’d just gone out in the rain for nothing, I crossed back over the bridge to where I started, and began ambling towards town, a direction, at least, I was familiar with.
Cursing under my breath, I decided I would find another bus shelter to hail a taxi from. I didn’t want to stand under the one where I had just found myself, because I felt like, after getting so wet, I needed to make some actual progress getting home.
I didn’t find another bus shelter, but closer to the Four Courts, I did find a doorway with a sort of shelter over it, just beside a bare bus stop. I stood under that, scanning the road for an approaching taxi.
After what felt like just a second, a car honked its horn in front of me. That was quick. I looked in front of me, but it wasn’t a taxi, it was a silver Ford Focus.
I don’t know why, but I went over to it. I wouldn’t normally do that, but I was still completely out of it, chin jutting, jaw swinging, eyes occasionally rolling back in their sockets.
Unable to see through the window, I thought the driver would roll it down to ask me whatever they wanted to ask me, but when they didn’t, I pulled the passenger door open.
The interior light came on. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a small, middle-aged, blondish grey woman, with a tightly pursed mouth, like a cat’s arse. She was clearly an addict.
I got a fright at first. She looked just like a woman I know from Jobstown called Lucinda. And the Lucinda that I knew was exactly the type of person to pull up to you before 7 am in a silver Ford Focus in town and ask:
“Any gear around?”
“What?” I asked, mostly out of shock, because I’d heard what she said. “Any gear around?” She asked, a bit clearer. What the fuck?
After a beat, I got an idea of what must have happened. I was standing there on the corner, gurning, wearing that black bomber jacket that makes it look like I’m wearing body armour underneath. Thank god it was this moth that pulled up to me and not the Gardaí.
“What are you looking for?” She asked me. Watcheh lookin’ far?
That amused me. I’d had more than enough of what I was looking for, and it was obvious on my face.
“I’m looking for a taxi.” I tried to say it with humour, but my jaw was too stiff, so it came out sounding curt, real matter of fact.
“Trying to get a taxi,” she rasped dreamily at the windshield, already a million miles away from me now that I had made it clear that I didn’t have what she wanted.
“Sorry about that,” I said, feeling like a bit of a spare prick, and shut the door. She took off calmly. I’d say she probably had a fix before she went out hunting. I decided to split before someone else mistook me for a heroin dealer.
Torn between getting a taxi or getting a bus, I decided I’d make my way towards Dame Street, and get a taxi if I gave up. That would at least cut a few quid off the fare.
I crossed the O’Donovan Rossa bridge towards Wood Quay. With each step I took, I noticed a tightness in the back of my jeans. I reached behind, and found a can of Tesco lager stuffed into my back pocket. Score.
I cracked into that, forgetting all about the time and the weather. As I walked up Winetavern Street towards Christ Church, it vaguely occurred to me to check the lane behind Dublin City Council before walking through it onto Fishamble Street. I could get some hassle if some undesirables saw that I was high and thought I had drugs on me.
Taking a peek, I saw only one person there, a homeless man, completely average looking and nondescript, except that he was clearly absolutely hammered. He had the swollen red skin of an alcoholic, and he was sort of swaying on the spot.
People drink in that little park behind DCC. I myself have pre drank there many times with my friends before going out in town.
This guy had all the leftover cans from the night before lined up on the wall as if they were before a firing squad. There were cans of Carling, cans of Heineken, cans of Prazky and Karpackie, cans of Hackenberg and Tesco lager, there were cans of fucking cider, of Bulmer’s and Orchard Thieves. They had probably been in the park all night, getting soaked in the rain.
In his hand was a clear plastic cup full of an amber liquid. He had obviously poured out the remainder of all these cans into the cup. Part of me noted distantly that it was a clever idea, if you had to drink leftover cans.
As I drew level with the guy, him never once seeing or acknowledging me, he raised the cup to his cracked lips, tipped his head back and knocked the whole elixir back as if it was his morning orange juice. The thought of that rain diluted concoction travelling down my throat made me heave, and with some disgust, I realised I still had the can of Terry in my hand. I slugged back as much of it as I could stomach before dumping it into a bin. I got out of there before he mistook me for a fellow homeless alcoholic. Why not; only five minutes before I’d been mistaken for a heroin dealer.
I felt a bit better on Fishamble Street. The rain was dying down and the sky was getting brighter by fractions of degrees. I didn’t feel like I stood out as much, with people and cars milling about as they were at all times of day.
I was surprised I had made it this far. It had felt like it was going to be a much longer journey back in Smithfield.
To get to my bus stop I had to walk past the Gay Spar on the corner of Dame Street and George’s Street. The Gay Spar is weirdly regal and modern for a Spar, with tall glass windows standing on a short black marble wall going all around.
As I approached the Spar, I noticed a young girl sitting on the black marble wall, leaning heavily against the plate glass windows. So heavily, in fact, it was nearly like she was trying to push herself through it.
She was about my age, wearing white trainers, blue jeans, and a black parka with the hood pulled up over her head. She was reading one of those tabloid magazines like Okay or Hello or Closer, the kinds with headlines like My Nightmare Wedding in Majorca, or I Married My Rapist, or My Baby is an Alien.
I wanted to believe that she was just a normal young girl who, like myself, was on her way home, maybe killing some time before her bus or waiting to get a taxi. But there was no bus stop outside the Gay Spar, and empty taxis were passing her by left and right. I could tell she had been there for a while, and would probably be there for a while longer, and as the rain stopped it occurred to me that this was the first sober person I’d seen in about 18 hours.
Jake McGavin is an emerging young writer born and bred in Dublin, Ireland. He is currently working on two novels. This is Jake’s first published piece.