Tonight is the night that we brace ourselves. Instead of heading to our usual local haunt we are going to take a deep breath and jump on a 46A into Town. Something’s been niggling at us both lately. A call to expand ourselves beyond the suburban circle. To re-experience the colour and thrum of a Saturday night in Town. The last time we attempted this sort of spontaneity we were cruelly let down. Back in the boom. We hauled what we thought then were our ageing bodies from bar to pumping seatless bar. We couldn’t hear ourselves speak. All we wanted was a quiet corner somewhere to catch up with one another. There wasn’t a quiet corner to be had in Town. We ended up flagging a taxi back out to the burbs. But not before witnessing a brawl on George’s Street. Sirens, the lot. Stunned silence all the way home. We’re too old for this lark, a conspiratorial telepathic squeeze of the hands said. Never again.
Near on a decade later and we’ve summoned up the courage. We’re nervous and excited all at once. Like the good old days going out when you wouldn’t know what to expect. Not like the bad old days of parental exhaustion and knowing full well what to expect. But first, discussions of what to wear? Where to go? Bring the pepper spray or not?
Mid discussion marque 4 interrupts.
‘Mum, we should get the new Dyson V6 Hoover, it can suck up much more when you’re going over a surface and…’
‘What if you Hoover up the hamster?’ Marque 3 interjects.
‘With our Hoover she’d just be sucked into the bag. With the Dyson she’d be sucked into the drum and spun around and around. She’d be dead, sliced into little tiny pieces, whereas with our Hoover…’
Ahhhh. Let me out of here. They argue on. Prices. How we won’t be able to afford heating oil if we buy the Dyson. We’d be freezing cold with a dead hamster. Where do they get their acute sense of drama from?
We discuss trying to catch a show. An utter impossibility. They all begin at 7.30. Seven bloody thirty. How uncivilised is that? We’d have to leave the house at 6.00. How can parents of lots of kids be expected to leave their house at 6.00? The theatre world is missing out on a whole segment of society, which is their loss.
What does a vintage woman wear into town on a Saturday night I ask out loud, not expecting an answer.
‘A dress’ he says.
‘A dress? How do you know?’ I ask, a slight accusatory tone slipping out. Oh well.
‘Because I work in town and go to things after work’.
Oh, do you now?
A frock it is. A frock with black tights and boots he suggests. How very specific. He really seems to know his stuff.
At some stage before we leave he e-mails me a story of his. A story to be critiqued. Critiqued for discussion in a jam packed bar in town. I’m beginning to get cold feet. What if I don’t like the story? What if I’m standing, being squished to death, holding a bottle of Heineken over my head, shouting at him that there’s no climax to it, not really, no little epiphanies, or too many of them, that he’ll need to work on the whole damn thing, just my opinion, and he disappears, wounded into the night, leaving me alone in my frock, boots and tights? Ok ok, that’s where they get it from. What hope have they, after all, of being steady undramatic creatures with the parents they’ve been landed?
The bus seems to be going backwards. Half an hour on it and we’re still in the suburbs. His phone rings with my mother’s name on the screen. Great, I think. Something’s gone wrong at home already. We’ll have to turn around. But it’s only marque 3 looking for an iPad. Phew. The appetite for the escapist night out takes a jolt forwards. The bus stops at UCD for a minute. Something spectral bubbles in us as we look into the dark campus, the place where we met and married. It still feels like our special place even if hundreds of thousands of others have passed through its walls since. It holds the ghosts of our young, purist selves, with our hopes and our dreams.
He passes a tip on. Exactly when to stand up and go down the stairs. The bus must be stationary. We no longer have the bones and joints, apparently, to leap up at our leisure and descend while the bus rounds a corner. We must be mindful of our knees and things. It was a moment of sadness when he came to realise this loss of youth, he tells me cheerfully, when he had to start timing his descent. Being very exact about it. Now he’s shared it with me. As if wearing my biker’s jacket holds no protective sway in such matters. I’m pretty sure it does. I’m going to rebel, I tell myself. I’m going to refuse to time my descent.
The woman standing in front of me is wearing my exact outfit. Biker’s jacket, dress, tights, ankle boots, the lot. The fact that she’s twenty and a half doesn’t disturb me at all. Not one little bit. Especially after learning about my fast approaching decline. We get off the bus onto a thrumming Dawson street. Music seeps out of bars. Very beautifully dressed men and women spill out of doors onto the street. Smokers perfume the chilly night air. I inhale deeply. We’re in Town, together. At last.
There’s a flatulence problem in the Dawson Lounge – the smallest pub in Dublin. We descend the red narrow stair case down into the tiny space. The novelty of its minuteness cannot compensate for the fact that someone around here has eaten too much curry. I have not come all the way into Town to have a drink in a fart infused cylinder of a room. We meander on around to Neary’s, sensible creatures that we are, and sink comfortably onto a couch. Drinks arrive without fuss or fanfare. The down to earth bar man delivers them to the table. No lounge staff required. We remember ourselves. I tell him of the time fifteen and a half years ago that I sat in this very seat with my family for my birthday lunch. How I had really felt that I was pregnant. We had decided a month before that it was time to get that particular show on the road. So I did a test, right there in the loo. I wanted to know if I could have a birthday drink or not. The test said that I wasn’t. Who the hell would get pregnant on their first try, anyway? I enjoyed two lovely bottles of Bulmer’s cider and a hot roast chicken sandwich. A few days later I did another test. Marque 1 joined our world within eight months.
We meander around to the Steps of Rome. An old Saturday afternoon haunt of ours. Rectangular individual slices of deliciously authentic pizza. Strong Italian coffee. We’ve never been in at night. We choose our favourite from all the years ago – melanzane – and order only to discover that the slices are a day time treat. The night menu is different. Circular whole pizzas instead. They do not disappoint and half a carafe of house red eases the transition for us while writing and reading and Rome are discussed. A vast picture of the Steps, where he once took a group of students, hangs on the wall. He tells me how the teachers told the students if they ran up and down the steps three times, it would bring good luck. They had lovely exercised serene students from there on in.
We choose Keogh’s for the last bit of the night, another perfectly atmospheric pub, pumping. This is a pub that seems to be Christmasy all year round. We get a seat in a corner – a rare treat at this time of the evening – and toast with our Christmas style drinks. To the invigoration of Town and to a safe descent. Cheers.