August 8, 2001

8/8!  I must call mother!

And the lotto draw is tonight!  I must play.  Figure out if I’m eligible only if it becomes an issue.  Hopefully it will.

I find oftentimes that the happiest memories are the ones we wished we had.  Like that split second joy in Bray on the promenade with my 99 ice cream cone pulling my mouth up to smile around its nostalgia.  Never have I had that day at the seaside with the ice cream cone, but I felt imaginary father’s fingers hand it to me in limegreen shorts under tousled hair as mom and sis sit under an umbrella by the transistor radio all black glasses glamorous beach chic.  I was 8 and the seagulls flew low over a deep technicolor green and the beach was hot mustard under my flip flop feet.

But I was alone.  Cold.  Tired.  On a gray and rocky beach.  With a cone that cost the very last bit of my money.  And though I am terrified of frozen fat, I could not resist myself.  And that taste of 50’s stock imagery illusion triggered by twirled frozen made me as happy as if I’d lived it.  I was genuinely happy for a moment.  It, like gas and love, passed.  To be replaced by the big empty.  But I’ve tasted happy, and I like it.  I’ve developed a taste for happiness.  Must it always be alone in the gray with manufactured memories?

Twelve shifts to go!

I want to talk to mom, but there’s always someone in the sitting room.  Right now it’s Keira, brooding in her lonely self-imposed funk.  She does really seem so unhappy and put out by having to live with people.  I think she yearns to be alone.  Kevin must drive her nuts.  I scratched out Declan because he is too charismatic – even Keira forgives him.

I haven’t written a lot because I’ve gotten very bored.  The work/sleep/eat cycle has begun to stamp its robotic imprint onto my angry little resentful life and I’m just falling down into that hole I’ve dug for myself with my aspirations and desire.  Hope is a grave.  Desire is a grave.  The harder you work at it the further you’ll fall.  And the more that will suffocate you as you life cold on the bottom.  I’m not really that fatalistic right now, but a neat image I think.

Couldn’t resist – had to play the Lotto today.  £6.6 MILLION!!! AND it’s 8/8!  If EVER there was a better time ME to play the Lotto, it was today.  I chose one set of numbers, mixing favorite numbers with random picks – your 9’s, 33’s, etc.  I also did a computer-chosen quick-pick.  Neither choice was a damn bit of good.  But it was only £1.50.  And I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t at least TRIED.  Everyone says this, but it WOULD have been nice to win.  I would have flown all my friends over to tour Europe!  For a weekend, at least.

Rafal and I had a joke – being foreign we didn’t know if we were eligible to win.  And if we did – as I was convinced I would – we would have to give the ticket to an Irish person to split with us.  It would have to be Maeve – Declan would smoke it and Keira would horde it and scowl at you as you tried to collect your half.

I need to sleep – I open again tomorrow.  So damn early.  I need to go back to school!

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August 6, 2001

Well, I’ve been fighting it as well as I could.  To no avail.  Sitting around in just a t-shirt all morning – nevermind the fact that ALL my clothes are outside on the clothesline in the rain.  Fucking barbaric island.  It just seems rather ridiculous to go through the bother of actually CLEANING your clothes, only to throw them on a rope outside where the birds can crap on them, insects can fuck and lay broods of eggs, and rain can leave water marks.  Why wash at all?

But anyway – I can’t fight it.  I’m back in the kitchen with my sweater on wrapped around a mug of tea with my hands getting stiff again.  Yes.  It’s cold.  I must assume that the last two weeks – weeks in which NOT ONCE did I wear a sweater.  Weeks in which I EVEN ventured outside the house on TWO SEPARATE occasions without a jacket.  Weeks in which I ACTUALLY took my shirt OFF in Phoenix Park to take advantage of what I recall to be the SUN.

No.  Those days are over.  Summer has hiccupped and back we are to where we started.

It’s raining right now as we speak.  Cold.  Gray.  It makes me feel cold just to have the gray light hit me through the crusty windows.  It makes me feel cold just to hear the dagger drops of rain on the corrugated iron roof of the other bathroom.

Well, there it was!  Summer come and gone.  In TWO WEEKS.  The SAME TWO WEEKS I worked extra days and had my hours fucked with.  The SAME TWO WEEKS that left the two or three solitary rainy days to the two or three solitary days off I had.  But, on my frequent boredom trips to tidy the 40p postcards I saw the sun out the window and though I never FELT it per se, as it would cloud over the moment that I stepped outside as if the sun was taking a shower and drew a towel around herself out of embarrassment when she saw me – still I sold enough bottles of not cold enough still mineral water to fat old sweating tourists to convince me that there was SOME pleasant weather out there.  Though I suppose it is all technically hearsay.

I never got to explain Eva.  I always do that – get lost in the details and forget to mention the big picture.  The reason I started writing in the first place.

So Eva finished her set – her music metallic and elegant, with notes picked out as opposed to the strumming musical masturbation of the 20-something Jack Kerouac wannabes. It sounded almost Indian, her music did, but rippling like a current propelling her words.  She sat next to me.  What’s the point?  I thought – but I had to tell her how much I enjoyed her music.  I told her Kevin was looking to record people.  I told her I wanted to hear her play again.  Did she have a recording?  Anything?

We talked between maudlin 3 song sets of young adult angst delivered in eyes-closed solemnity.  I raved about her music.  She was coolly appreciative in her Swedish accent.  The bands played on, but I just waited for the breaks to whisper in her ear.  Kevin got up to leave.  I asked her to come along.  And she did.

Off to Zanzibar – architecturally a VERY exciting space for me with its Casablanca-like interior of pierced lanterns and rows of cushions by palms and tiled floors.  I almost expected a bowl of dates on the table.  I hadn’t expected to go for but a pint, and the two £5 notes stuffed in my breast pocket as we left had been reduced to an unimpressive jingle of coins in my pocket from Molloy’s and the open-mic entrance fee.

She sat down at the table – ma’am, you can check your guitar at the coat check – she said thank you with you intention ever of doing so.  She winced at the club music and the gyrating youth.  I ran to O’Connel St. for an ATM.  An ENVELOPE full of money at home and I ran to the ATM.  I need to be better prepared.  I essentially ran there and back, terrified that she would leave.  But why?

I couldn’t get enough of her.  She was a thinker – someone who wanted to talk about life and ideas and who had a poet’s mouth that couldn’t hold in her pain.

I came back and she was still there, talking to Kevin.  Declan and Paddy, who we’d gone there to meet, were not even on my agenda.  Just Eva.  She was in her 40’s, divorced, separated from her last partner.  Always “partner” – never “boyfriend” or, for that matter, “girlfriend.”  “Partner” always.  She had two children.  She’s sang for five years.  Her children were in Cork for the weekend with their father.  She came from a long line of actors and we both agreed on Bergman’s Fanny + Alexander.  Her father had been in a Bergman film.  She ran away at 16 to Morocco – well, she ran away twice.  First she and her friends were caught in Gothenburg as they were mistaken for a gang of wanted youths.  After two days in a holding cell she was sent back to Stockholm.

The next time was to Paris for a while and then Morocco to her boyfriend’s home.  She lived in a traditional Moroccan home and so was bound by Moroccan expectations.  She could not leave the house and the only song she ever heard was Hotel California.  She escaped to the Swedish embassy and the only thing she took with her on the plan was an abject hatred for all things Moroccan.  The food, the music, the Eagles.  The family could never understand why – why should she not want to marry their son?  He was a good catch.  What more could she want?

Why, I do not know.  But it was Cork and there were hippies there and she started to play.  It all gets much less specific.

She’s been emotionally, sexually and physically abused.  Love makes you arrogant.  She was so happy with her partner she was so arrogant in her happiness.

She has a family history of suicide.  She’s easily addicted and had far too much alcohol.

They shepherd us all out like sheep, waving their arms and prodding the herd.  Perhaps I’ve missed the last bus to Dun Loaghaire.  You can come crash on our couch – people always do.  How far is it?  A bit of a walk.

Kevin stumbles out of Super Macs with a face like he’s jus stuffed the last of ninety fries into his mouth with a drunken stagger to complement I ate way too much ketchup he burps.

Some tall skinny has stolen a pack of Times Saturday magazines – a sight that reminds me unpleasantly of the newspaper stuffing weekend ahead.  In a broken, open-eyed Chinese caricature he offers to sell us the magazines, pausing every five minutes to bow under the weight of the stack and complain about how heavy they were like clockwork.  We will not buy them.  He gives us all one oh they’re heavy and we walk off.  Kevin rolls his and puts it on a window ledge of the Bank of Ireland.  Eva asks what his problem is.  Kevin is far too ketchup poisoned to notice.

Back home sitting room talk and Kevin quickly goes to bed.  She plows into her Marlboro Lights and I doze in the chair.  She has a silver bracelet on the ankle of her boot and her naked feet are stretched out on the couch.  You’re welcome to sleep on the couch, but just keep in mind that my roommates go to work at eight.  Well, it’s 4:00 now, so I either get woken up in four hours or sleep in your room.  Hey, it’s your call.  People sleep here all the time that I don’t know.  It’s no problem.  Well, I’d rather sleep in your room – with respect.

I gather the pink sleeping bag from under the phone.  She strips off her black jeans but leaves on her ¾ sleeve brown shirt and slides into my bed.  I kick off my shoes and lay on the floor.  She drops the grey pillows down to me.  We talk and I hear Kevin grunt into Maeve as I drift off in the cold.  I forgot to close my window.

The most awkward part of the morning is that I like to be alone in the morning and there she was.  Still asleep.  I wanted to write about it all, shower, prepare for work.  She was asleep.  I tried unobtrusively to make as much natural noise as possible.  What do you do the morning after?  Open drawers, arrange loose change on the dresser, sit and breathe loudly.  Maybe she thinks I’m asleep and doesn’t want to disturb me?  Make deep, awake sighs and quick awake breaths.  Stretch and groan.  Knock up against dresser.

Here she rolls over.  Runs to bathroom without pants.  I prepare to shower as she slips back under the duvet.

Would you like some tea?  Soup bowl or cup?  The sink is full of thick black water and it scares me.  Milk?

She laughs at my skim milk and doesn’t trust the health craze.  She eats butter.  Americans, no offense, are obsessed with weight and being beautiful.  Yes, we are.  So am I.  She likes Irish girls because they walk around with bellies hanging out of crop tops spilling over straining jean bands and say fuck you, I’m beautiful.

Rafal comes up and clears the sink and wonders who she is.  She leaves along with her number on my wishful thinking list.  I gave this to your friend but maybe you would be more apt to use it.

She’s playing at the International Bar on Sunday.  Around 6.  I tell her I’ll try to go and wave her off down the street to the bus stop with a sincere thank you – I had a great time last night.  She smiles and is off around the corner.

I close the door and greedily get back to my routine.  Not too far disrupted as I woke up early with foreign breath in my room.  I’m back on schedule.

I did not go to see her yesterday.  I regret it.  I’d like to call her.  I’d like to have a friend.  That TALKS about IDEAS.

And nothing happened between us, snickering Maeve.  I did not try, nor did she.  Did she maybe want to?  I was attracted to her, but I didn’t want to lose the word-exchanging time.  I needed someone to think with, not swap fluids with.  I need her mouth to make words, not orgasms.

Part of me doesn’t know whether to try to see her again.  I don’t want to spoil my memory.  She is the first person I’ve ever MET in a bar.  Complete stranger.  Right into my bed.  I can’t be too repellant or uninteresting.  It’s very odd to wake up, though, to what really is still a stranger in your bed – no matter how well you may have clicked the night before.  I don’t think I’d like to fuck someone in that situation.  I felt weird enough in a guiltless free chaste morning.  And you never know what people may be carrying.  Very scary.

I wrote everyone about my assault, much to Aoife’s chagrin, so I’m interested to see what people say.

Today is the bank holiday, so supposedly we are to get paid DOUBLE wages for working today.  Everyone else is, of course.  However, I’m not holding my breath.  There’s probably an exception for all foreigners in wholly unskilled and boring-ass jobs.  I was about to write “profession” but calling the newsagents a “profession” is like clipping off your toe just to pare down your nails.  A bit of an overkill.  Not a great analogy, but I wanted to avoid “dressing up a pig.”  Oh, well.  I failed.  Again.

I have to admit I’m proud that I’ve stuck to this job and didn’t just buckle like I wanted/want to do.  All the time.  Not proud of the job, but proud that I can eat crow and do anything, even work a shit dehumanizing job, just by putting my mind to it.  Or out of it.  Perhaps I should write “through sheer perseverance.”

There’s meeting Eva.  There making my rent entirely through my money from the job for this month.  There’s working almost every day and never calling in sick – as sick and bored as I am.  Out of my skull.  There’s my friendship with Maeve and Rafal.  Good times and shitty times.  My assault.  My fruitless aggravating mouth of work hunting.  Being lonely.  BUT I’M STILL HERE.  I am winning and ticking off the shifts on my wall and writing and STILL IN ONE PIECE.  I am winning, and will continue to win.  Life is, in the words of Queen, “a challenge before the whole human race, and I never lose.”  And we need to go on and on and on and ON!  Ha ha ha!  Sometimes I make myself smile.  Someone has to, I suppose.

I got Michael’s cell-phone number last night and tried to call him.  Left a big message.  Being here has taught me that I miss him and my father terribly.  I would love to talk to him and I can’t wait to see Dad and give him whiskey and “20 Majors” please – just like the black-fingered cab drivers with their golden badges and spilling bellies.

I have to pee now before work.  I don’t want to leave this book – it’s the only place I feel I belong.

We go through Kit Kats like they were the cure for cancer.

Trumpet Concerto in E flat major – Haydn.  That peppy “hooked on classics” sound.  Great!

Steve Foster – Hard Times Come Again No More.

July 23, 2001

Yesterday was Bray – a little stip of a beach with a Victorian seaside heritage.  Didn’t write this morning as I took a chance and called home and BOTH my mother and sister were there!  When I first got to talk to mom I actually teared up from loneliness and homesickness.  Funny, as for the past two years I haven’t had much contact with home but then I had my very full life in F-town.  Now I guess home is all I have.

I had decided that I wouldn’t withdraw any money until I get paid on Thursday, but my haircut cost five pounds more than it should of out of my mass of hair needing to be shampooed before my mumbling barber would even deign to touch it with his tools.  Something about my hair being impossible to cut dry due to its volume!  I suppose my volume is water soluble.  And as I got my hair cut I decided I should probably shave to complete the hygiene illusion, so I went and took out £60.  I figured if I was buying razors then I needed to buy sandwich elements for work lunches so that I didn’t simply eat candy for two days.  Although that would quite quickly procure for me the 20 Kit Kat wrappers necessary for the free radio I so desire.

I have become a great fan of token promotions off of food packets.  I’ve sort of fallen out of a Weetabix mood, but I bought another box yesterday because that meant that now I can send away for the tin, with a £2.99 postal order.  If I get another pack of Ryvita I can also send those two wrappers along for another air-tight logo-embossed tin.  What a stunning marketing ploy, and how totally have I fallen for it!

There’s that strong, fat-calfed, wide-hipped model of the Irish working woman, whipping her cord around like a tamer in a cage rebuking the vacuum as she absent-mindedly passes her noisy wand over the spotless floor.  Thoroughly uninterested, thoroughly unthorough.

Oh, the caprices of the paying public!  Sunday I couldn’t throw water in the fridge fast enough, and today it’s frozen solid.  But I digress.  Back to money.

To make a long story short, and to ensure that I complete the thought, I withdrew my last bit from my American account – £60.00 – all because of a need/desire for razors that were not so nicked as to induce the feeling of shaving with a  sharpened fork.  Then I thought I should get food as well.  I go to Centra and buy food for the next few days, sit and think if I’ve forgotten anything, remember to get my tin-achieving package of Weetabix, congratulate myself on taking a minute to think before I rushed out, and left.  Sans razors.  So, of course the mission for which the funds were withdrawn in the first place was the ONE objective not achieved.  I luckily found an old razor head that didn’t protest too painfully its call out of retirement, and I shaved anyway.

She was painted black from right under her chin right down to the salmon floor.  Hoped that dressing like a black hole might suck in some of her bulk.  Trying to void it out.  She was a floating alabaster death mask floating over a bell of black sheeting.  But matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and you can’t hide so fleshed out a frame as that.  Though it certainly was more effective than the bright pink so favored by the horribly obese woman.  Still, at the back, her well-intentioned layers of concealment were parted by her sizeable rear end and a strip of bright red underwear bleeding through the cut dashed all that work on the soft wide rocks.

Looking at the schedule for the next four weeks – Angela’s going on vacation so I’m doing six days a week – a daunting task!  However after that I’ll get 3 full days off in a row, which really excites me.  I just don’t want to open weekdays – I must do it five times – because that will mean waking up at 5:30!  And after an evening shift the night before!  THAT’S what I hate – work, sleep, work, with nothing in between.  Expect some bitterness in two weeks!

But I never work more than six days without a break, and if I work ONE week after those three days off then I’ll be at my set number of shifts – NEVER to work in Ireland again!

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – WHY am I doing this?  I just keep remembering what Fabio would say – “I do not work for work.”  I should go out tonight and get a pint or something.  Otherwise I really will be doing nothing but being the victim of this job.

The scary emaciated monkey of a former Spice Girl on the cover of BELLA has been replaced by a woman who looks eerily like Maeve – those broad lips and hair.  And I bet she can’t hold a 5 pence coin in her dimple though!

I am the blind leading the blind – poor tourists with shaky English ask for advice and I give shaky directions.  And you can just see in their eyes that my jumble isn’t making it in at all.