It’s becoming a bit of a habit. Maybe that’s why I do it. Write. At least now I know. Another invitation to a celebration in town, courtesy of a little story. A tiny parcel has been sent out into the world. Met with approval. Packaged into an anthology. I’m on my way to the book launch and I’m not at all sure how I feel about it. Grateful, excited, nervous. Is this a new beginning? If so, am I up for it? Maybe this is it. A once off. A highlight to be remembered on the death-bed. If so, I’d better get my head in gear. The best is now here.
It is to kick off at 6.30 so I leave the house before 5. The plan is to hook up with him, meander around Grafton Street, nab a coffee or, let’s face it, a gin and tonic, saunter in to the hotel, meet and greet, relax, listen, imbibe, enjoy. The jeans have been shed and swapped for some writerly garb befitting of a book launch. A new black knit polo-neck and a checkered skirt. Black suede casual boots. The kids are being minded at this oddly early hour by my mother and sister. All I have to do is get there. Other writers are travelling for it. Jetting in from the States and from Europe. From different parts of this Isle to. It adds to the excitement brewing. Yes, I’m pretty sure the excitement is now brewing.
The every 8 minute 46A has forgotten its schedule. Four in a row fly past me in the wrong direction. The traffic, to my horror, builds up around me. I had factored in neither of these obstacles as I pulled on my tights and chatted to my sister about how the red checkered short skirt might’ve been a bit too young and punky for the evening which is why the blue and beige, marginally above the knee, had won out. Half an hour of waiting with darkness enveloping me and my silly new clothes and I’m feeling pretty sure now that I will not make it. Maybe he can just go on in for me instead.
The bus snails along as the Polish men behind me open up tin-foil encased food and munch and chat loudly and then swig at something that smells suspiciously strong. The bus driver is a novice, carefully stopping, painfully stopping, every few seconds at every bus stop even though we are FULL, have you not NOTICED, and risking not an orange light, barely a green as the other buses over-take and fly their happy passengers all the way to their Friday night fun filled destinations. I’m about to ask my Polish friends for a swig of whatever it is they are having when a text message beeps.
‘Where are you?’
‘Eh Stillorgan I think’ I text as I rub the condensation from the window and yes, even though it’s been about an hour I’m a few minutes, as the crow flies, from home.
‘Oh, ok, I’m in Neary’s. Don’t worry. We’ll make it’.
I vibe the stupid careful driver, telepathically through the floor, to hurry the hell up. Perhaps I should jump off and nab one of the flying buses instead. This must be his maiden voyage into town. The blood is well and truly simmering away in me. Until.
‘Just so you know’ the next text message reads ‘l came off a bike. I’m ok really. Just a bit shaken. A little scratched. I’m having a hot whiskey’.
It’s like a switch has been flicked. All of the frustration seeps out instantly. The mode has been changed to utterly thankful, just like that. He is ok. He may not have been ok. All the rest of it is nonsense. Little epiphanies.
He had been worried that he might be late for me. That the traffic along the quays could hold him up. Instead of risking that he thought it best to jump on a Dublin bike. To cycle along the traffic-free Luas line. Which worked a treat until the wheel got stuck in the track, flinging him free of the bike. He didn’t want to tell me. Not really. He didn’t want it to taint the night. But then he knew I’d spot the bandages and the slight limp, acute observer that I am. So taint the night it did, in a good way. A great way. What did it matter if we were late? We’d get there. Any residual nerves would be long gone. We’d have a ball. Which is exactly what we did.
Cheers to all the contributors, great to be snuggled in print with you, and many thanks to all involved in the competition, publication and launch. Thanks also to the Dubliners around Smithfield who came swiftly to his aid. He was swamped in kindness, the true heart of Dublin offering itself to someone in need. To the two elderly men at the bar in Neary’s who chatted and laughed with him while he waited, and then told me on my arrival to write a story about it, quick – cheers.