August 13, 2001

I need to write more often because I’m always playing catch up.  And even though Maeve washed the table in her cleaning spree for Fiona’s arrival, it is still really nasty and I’m still using a magazine as a forearm condom.  Though the magazine, having been on the table, is not all that much better.

Finally yesterday my gallbladder caught up with me and I essentially fasted down the angry little pain in my side.  I had got to the point where I thought that perhaps it was all psychosomatic and had created it all in my fitness/thinness mania.  BUT no.  I have both a fixation on being thin and a painful angry organ.  I went out and bought some fat free pasta sauce – which is actually the best I’ve ever had! – and some crackers so it’s back to bread and pasta!  For a while, at least.

I sat at the table in my most foul of moods – my meek, quiet, soft defeated mood.  I had planned to write all that evening and I wanted to, but I just ate plan pasta and stared at the coverless Economist, flipping pages more than reading and I listened to O Brother Where Art Thou? on repeat for hours.

Maeve and Kevin woke up and were a happy bonding couple over French toast as I flipped and moped.  She is so happy and giving and he just doesn’t seem to be paying attention.  But I’ve seen them hold each other and that’s where it matters.  Opposites attract, I am told.

Tried to call Nick – Katie broke up with him out of the blue and he is destroyed.  “I’m just angry” or something was his email subject.  Sort of a relief – never a huge fan of hers and he needs to break from her in order to live his life as opposed to her life.  I should take that advice myself, but we’re all putzes and always think this is the last chance we’ve got.  I wonder if Chris knows – Josh should be ecstatic but he’s fallen off the email planet – I wonder if he’s still unemployed and miserable in New York, waiting on his leather sofa that’s never gonna come.

Anyway, Nick wasn’t there and I left a message.  Dad wasn’t there.  The other Nick was there but he had to jet – still nice to hear his voice.  Definitely my best college male friend.

Been emailing Michael – as overblown and pretentious in his emails as ever.  I just wish he’d write like a normal person – like he talks – not like a laudanum inspired Gothic romance.  Then again – who am I to cast stones?

Funny how I’ve held onto my high school friends – never really expected that at all.  Josh, Chad, Nick, Chris, and even Michael.  Never really thought that would be the case.  They’re good men.  And all of us are confused.  Michael got into GW Law School – good for him.

Back to staring blankly at the kitchen wall over the heads of the loving couple.  I went to do something in my room for a second and I hear Maeve yelling while Kevin ineffectively attempts to soothe her ragged nerve.  It seems that she accidentally swapped her very expensive jean jacket at the busy club the previous night for a cheap piece of shit that was revealed in the light of day to bear only a tacky and passing resemblance for her own.  She ran down the hall and slammed her door where I heard her cursing the universe.

So I’m still where I was, staring over the heads of loving couples, all empty inside.  But that’s okay – that’s part of this place tearing me down and me building something new and hopefully calmer and more self-assured and worldy in its place.

Then there was a Polish gathering in the sitting room – Oliver and Machek and Kate and Rafal and a swiss roll with “bill” berries and crisps and Zubrovka cut with apple juice.  Zubrovka comes with a long green straw of buffalo grass in the bottle stuck to the side.  With apple juice it tastes just like apple pie.  “If you put [the grass] in your mouth 20, 30 minutes, you are drunk, yes?  Put it in your mouth and suck on it and you are drunk.  No, really.”

Oliver was a tousled bleary eyed slouch who told me it would be a waste of time to visit Poland.  Machek was a jet black slicked ponytail olive gangle folded shut like a fan on the chair curled over Derek’s guitar and he played good blues licks as he barked out in Polish improvised lyrics about Kate that made them all laugh.  I haltingly repeated by tongue-twister and numbers and they all laughed.  “We are not laughing at you, it is just so funny to hear someone who is not from Poland speak Polish language.  Really.”  But that’s nonsense – I know when I’m being laughed at.  And it was fine with me.  I’m sure I was butchering their language.  And hey – if I want to be an actor I have to be comfortable with being the fool.

The Zubrovka was drunk, the Poles smoked Marlboro Lights, and I went with them to the off-license for some Stolichnaya.  My moratorium on drinking was suspended due to my girl troubles.  A worthy and time-honored exception from temperance.  Maeve and I split the bottle of vodka, I think the man at the off-license gave me too much change though I was in a haze and am still not sure, and as Maeve 7-Up’ed hers down I drank it straight hoping to avoid a horrible hangover as I had to open the next day.  I got real tired real quick, the Poles separated themselves down to Rafal’s room, and I went to my room.  My stomach felt awful and distended and I actually thought I would retch.  Hoped I would.  Knelt in front of my sink – my vomiting would be private this time – and spat a few times to try to get thing going.  Nothing came, I pulled off my clothes and fell backwards into bed.

The next morning was the conversation over the table with Kate about being expelled by Rafal.  My bowels were in raging upset all day and my gallbladder throbbed and a £450 take testified that there is no rest for the wicked.

I really didn’t know if I’d see Kate again, and that was an odd feeling.  Do you say “Goodbye” or “Later” or anything like that?  It was weird to leave yesterday morning with her eyes mascara flooded at the kitchen table.

Finally got home and found Rafal.  He seemed very calm and normal, which confused me even more.

– So what’s up?

– Nothing.

– What about Kate?

– Why do you ask?

– Well, she seemed pretty upset this morning.”

– What did she say?

– Well, that the two of you had a fight or something.

As it all reveals itself, Rafal had actually thrown her out of the house for the crime of not loving him.  Not that he would admit that, of course.  The evening after I went to bed proceeded thusly:

Oliver finds Rafal to tell him that Kate and Machek are kissing in the garden.  (Garden?  Broken concrete slug farm I’d call it.)  He goes to confront them, she laughs and goes inside to Rafal’s room.  He follows and the two of them are draped all over each other.  He gets the hint that they want to be alone and watches Pay it Forward with Michelle and Kevin.  He goes to his room afterwards and finds them – Machek and Kate – sleeping next to each other in his bed.  He stomps over to Declan’s bed to sleep, but is angry and goes back to his room and throws Machek out.  Rafal and Kate stay up all night talking and he tells her to leave.

– Don’t you think you’re over-reacting?

– No, but seriously, what am I supposed to do?  I open the door and they are there sleeping together on my bed.  You know, not naked, but next to each other on my bed.  The bed that I pay for.  And I am always sleeping on fucking air mattress and have pain in my back but that’s okay because she is guest.  And she can go out and have a date with whoever she want, but not on my bed.  What am I to do, sleep on fucking air mattress where I can see them together on my bed?  And she says it is my fault.  Why is this?  She says she was drunk and nothing happen but I am supposed to protect her.  She said I disappeared but I was in sitting room the whole time, yes?  She said I disappeared, that it was my fault.  I do not understand.

He recanted his eviction later that evening and told her she could stay until she could get a flight back to Poland because he told her family, he promised her family that he would watch out for her.  He went to work.  I fell asleep on Ulysses.  3 hours later I stumbled out of my room to Declan’s arrival.  Fiona, his long lost girlfriend, was arriving in a few hours from Munich and we went – mostly Maeve, actually – on a cleaning spree.  I had napped in front of the open window and was clamped up in my chest and wasted from the short sleep as I always am.  I stumbled around and pulled on my sweater and watched The Love Bug on Cine Disney and marveled at how stupid the films of my youth were.  I loved Herbie the Bug and even had a little toy car of him.  Matchbox-type.  Silly damn movie and the villain was the guy from Mary Poppins.

Exhausted, I waited for Fiona to come.  She did, I shuffled into the kitchen eventually to say hello, abandoning the stupid British cop show I was using to sustain my consciousness.  Fiona is beautiful, tall and tan and the two of them look very adult and handsome together.  Then I collapsed into bed after my exercises.

3:30 woke me with the loud moans of their reunion, but I managed to be still so exhausted as to fall back to sleep.

And here I am.  Eights shifts to go and tomorrow is my day off.  Maybe I’ll finally get a bank account.  I’ve almost used up this book and this pen.  Both good feelings.

I lifted some Nivea moisturizer from the shop – payment for staying late every time someone is supposed to come and relieve me – and it has pulled the redness out of my fingertips.  My thumbs are still all hangnails,  but they’ve been tamed.  I have to pee and run.  The countdown continues!  Suffer seven hours until I’m OFF!

I had just met a happy American woman who asked me which would be the liberal paper in Ireland.  I explained that it didn’t work that way – you have tabloids and other.  But they all hold the same “news”.  Then she wanted to know how to get to the Abbey.  She had just been up at the Friel family reunion where Brien Friel had been treated “like an angel boy.”

– Do sell stamps?

– Yes.  To where?

– To Germany.  I would like to write a postcard to Germany.

– All right.  That’s 32 pence.  Just one?

– Yes.  I am not such a big writer.

August 12, 2001

– What time did y’all stay up to?

– [sniff]

– Are you all right?

– No.  I am not all right.

– Um, well, what’s up?

– Rafal has just kicked me out of house.

– Oh.  Well, maybe he’s just hung over.

– It is not funny.

– No.

– How much for the bus, 60p?

– Yeah.

– What will I do?  I have no place to go?

– Don’t worry about it.  Wait until this afternoon and see what happens.  Don’t let it upset you.

– Easy to say.

– I know.  Easy to say, not so easy to do.

– 45 minutes until I go to work.

– 5 minutes for me.  I don’t want to walk in the rain.

– Me neither.

Women’s magazines always feature a smiling woman on the cover beside a caption like “The Terror of my Date-Rape Husband.”

You smell of sandalwood warm paper and you press hot gold into my hands.

I am beset by foul smelling alcoholic farting British men!  Their stink is so palpable they leave it behind them like fingerprints on a mirror.  A smudge of stink.

 

August 10, 2001

Two weeks from today and I will be done!  Only 11 shifts including this one looming over my afternoon!

I am so tired of this job.  I am so bored!  I haven’t touched by crosswords book or really anything.  Mostly I stare out in a self-pitying stupor.  When I planned to do this I really thought that 4 months would just swim past.  How wrong I was.

I’m also in a mood this afternoon because I drank last night, and I have truly realized its depressant nature.  Loosens you up as it flows through your system and tickles all your nerves on the way down.  However when it soaks into my muscles and bones and nerves and soul it deadens them.  I feel wooden.  And I’m always in a weepy mood the next morning.  Metaphorically weepy, that is.

Not that I drank all that much last night.  I have truly lost all semblance of a tolerance.  I had two pints of Heineken and a funny little test-tube of Jaegermeister – which is like drinking a Fisherman’s Friend cough drop – and I was pretty buzzed.  I’m such a lightweight!  That’s NOTHING!  Well, I guess at least in this period when I have no money – I literally have a handful of change to my name this morning – that I am a cheap date for myself.  Also good, I suppose, that I find Irish women as inherently unattractive as I could not POSSIBLY afford to have a girlfriend right now.  But I get paid today so it should all work out.  I really AM living hand-to-mouth.  And I don’t like it one bit.

Watched O Brother Where Art Thou? last afternoon with Kevin and Maeve.  I really enjoyed the movie, but it was absolutely the music that did it for me.  All those southern hymnal bluegrass scratchy record Grand Ole Opry sorts of songs.  Made me think of Grandpa Dunford and Mom.  George Clooney in the film combed his hair religiously with a black hard rubber comb and even looked sort of like Grandpa.  Made me think of him propped back in his burgundy recliner, white socks in black opera slippers, bluegrass on the radio and four crosswords ahead of him.  I think he only ever moved to eat meals and to flush them from his weathered body.  His hair gleamed charcoal and he smelled strongly of aftershave off his glistening face.  Sometimes the blue box would open and the rusty harmonica would wheeze from his fresh licked lips.  He’d tell me of the farm of his youth and a basket full of biscuits and ham his only companions on the miles and miles to school.  Thick plastic glasses he’d worn ever since they were the thing to wear, hair combed in the manner in which it was combed, attitudes held in the way they were held.  He feared and hated blacks and at dinner he would pray for the salvation of his next door neighbor, a Polish Jew who had survived the Holocaust at the cost of his family.

A slow moving, deliberate man.  A southern elephant.  A wonderful grandfather and a racist southern relic.  Exactly the sort of person the south needed to lose or change.

Since I’ve learned and had the chance to think about racism and the south and all that I get a bit confused in my emotions.  How could I love a racist?  Someone who perpetuated all the things that sadden me about the south and its ability to foster and perpetuate ignorance and intolerance?

I’d like to think it’s because I didn’t know.  That I had no choice, being related by blood.  And that, after all, is not the way that I feel or think.

I don’t know.  There’s a lot of shame, real and manufactured, in the South.  And the face of racism can be loving and related, but it is ignorance and fear that allows good people to feel that way.  There’s a fear that the past is never far behind, and then normal middleclass white folks march for the Klan and you think that maybe it never left or past.  Should I care when Grandma talks about the coloreds?  Should we try to change those so late in life?  Just wait for the generation to die off and with it their attitudes?  No, they stick like gum to a shoe and anyone who walked through it carries it with them, and there’s always a residue left when you try to scrape it off.

But anyway, the music was great and in what I’d like to think was an uncharacteristic act but which I know to be quite the norm, I ran down to Virgin Megastore and bought the soundtrack.  Mom would love it – I’ll see if maybe Kevin can burn me a copy.  Probably not.  He’s big talk and I’ve yet to see even medium action.

Yes, I’ve got the day after drinking blues, and I seem to be steering myself in a substance free direction.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I just realize I don’t care for the effects.  The cigarette tar tongue, the alcohol morning melancholy, the pot simple stupor.  Even chocolate I don’t much care for.  In fact, I don’t care for much, but bread and digestive biscuits.  And jam.  And a fear of being fat.  I think I’ve developed a complex about eating.  But the formula is so simple – eat less, weigh less.  A win/win situation!

I try to be sensible and do things with exercise and fresh fruit and never starving, and though I do eat quite a bit I always leave that edge of hunger.  And that can’t be good.  But I hate to feel full.  But I’m not really eating sensibly – bread and biscuits and chips at work!  My gall bladder is starting to throb a bit right now, actually.  But the stove is useless so I don’t cook my rice, they don’t have my beans and they don’t have my meatless meats that I adore.  Damnation!  So I eat CRAP.  The stove is awful and there is no fridge space so I only eat cold and boring component foods.  And I hate it.

And this house is a goddamned disaster.  The floors are a disgrace, people leave open magazines and CDs and dirty dishes and clothes and shoes and bottles and plastic bags and receipts and opened mail and CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE!  Plus everything is so generic and the walls are do dingy that even when I tidy up the living room it still is drab, terribly uninviting, a MESS.

My batteries have died so I can’t listen to my music to work.  Aah!  BUT I get paid so I’ll buy some batteries and have them for the walk home.  Ah, Friday night – drunk nackers on the move!  Something to which I can look forward!

My muscles hurt – another symptom of the morning melancholia.  My legs will be stiff today, no doubt.  And not just on account of walking downtown and back on 3 separate occasions yesterday.

But I want my body to be hard, to be perfect.  Because then maybe I could be hard and perfect.  I just want to be good and to feel good and to not assume that happiness is a chemical precursor to madness, or indeed the first part of it, as I do.  And I know I’ll never be PERFECT.  There’s always something.  But aren’t I supposed to try to get there?  Shoot for the moon and at least you’ll fall amongst the stars?  How much is enough?  I want to happy and be loved.  And I’m trying to get there.  And what’s so frustrating is not knowing which way to go.  I’m in the middle of a featureless acre and somewhere there’s a tiny sewing needle made of gold.  But they’ve spun me round in this blindfold and I could be looking forever.  I could just use a little encouragement.  A voice to bark “hot” or “cold” as I fumble in the dark.

Off to work.  Denied my brand new CD by weary power cells.  Full of ham sandwich and digestive biscuits and tea.  Off to chew a bunch of gum and eat something, or several something, that I’ll regret all topped off by another ham sandwich.

August 9, 2001

– Asylum seekers?  How would you like all the El Salvadoreans and Hispanics that we have?

– I think as long as someone’s willing to work, that’s fine with me.

– They DON’T.  I work in a school.  They don’t want to work.

– Ah.

– Now, my husband’s a foreigner.  But he’s a Palestinian CHRISTIAN.  And he took the SAT and got a perfect score.  That’s scholastic aptitude.

– Oh, really?

– I heard on your news last night that you only want skilled workers.

– That’s what I hear.

– Just like Germany.  We used to have a very good welfare system.  Well, I mean, we’re not gonna let anybody starve.  But we used to have a very good welfare system.

Well, the 8th came and went without so much as a hiccup.  Didn’t talk to mom and sister, ate too much, didn’t win the lottery (does one ever lose the lottery) and was asleep before 10:00 last night.  A boring, disgraceful sham of a life.  BUT there’s only ONE 5:00 morning after this.  Hooray!

It was cruelly cold this morning.  I know that first thing in the morning and when I free for wake-up weather I’m always roasting.  However, I found myself going fetal in front of Euronews, my legs clamped together and arms hugged around myself in a desperate attempt to conserve heat.  I went to put on my light sweater, but I don’t care for it now that it is stretched and shapeless, so I put on what I thought was overkill with my wool sweater.  The fact that I walked down the hallway without shivering was a sign of my good choice.

– My mother sent all her money to the IRA.  But she never came back.

The racist had returned and I see her as the perfect lost daughter of Erin, brought up on the myth of the Emerald Isle and the IRA.  Clad in a peasant style green print pleated blouse and long celtic knotwork handwoven fringed shawl over her shoulders.  Pale skin, green eyes and red hair – the complete illusion of Ireland.  If Ireland was so great, why did mummy leave?  Why did she NEVER come back?

It’s the myth of Ireland.  Hold on to the tourist route, madam, or you’ll be sorely disappointed.  This is not the enchanted isle of gleam in their eyes leprechauns and Irish stew and happy peasants relaxing with a whiskey and a spirited reel after a day of turf-cutting and Catholicism and the brave young lads of the IRA.  It’s all a lie created by the American children of emigrants who had, through age and rose-colored glasses, forgotten that they had left the enchanted isle for a reason.  The English are a great excuse – nevermind poverty, alcoholism and famine.  A lie created in America by those who have never been here, and amazingly sold back to the Irish themselves where tourist dollars have led them to believe.

The REAL Ireland smokes Marlboro, drinks Carlsberg, Smirnov, Budweiser, wears Levi’s and Doc Martens, listens to Brit Pop and American rap, drives a German or a Japanese car, drinks Coke, goes to McDonald’s, talks nonstop on its cell phone and heartily embraces a Kentucky Fried version of the future.  Surly big-city dwellers in a dinky colonial town.

– Good morning.

– Good morning.  How are  you doin’?

– Dizzy.

– Dizzy?

– Yeah.  Jet-lag’s a bitch.

– Where is that accent from?

– The States.

– The states?  What are you doing here working in a candy shop?

– It was the only job I could get.

– What part of the states?

– Virginia.

– So what are you doing here?

– Just graduated from school, wanted to see the world a bit.

– So you’re working in a candy shop.

– It’s what I could get.

– So this is summer work then?

– Well, I just finished college, so I don’t know what I’m doing.

– All the way from America to work in a sweet shop in a hotel.

– Yep.

– Careful some Irish girl doesn’t get her claws into you.  Watch out some Irish girl doesn’t get her claws into you.

– No problem.

– I’m actually looking for the car park.

– There through the back doors.  By the phone.

Good GOD woman – pull that spandex out from the canyon between your legs and get some pants that FIT.  Wear those much longer and you’ll have to marry them.

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.

August 5, 2001

“Do you have Tampax?” asks the woman in the wheelchair.

“Yes, they’re £2.99.”

“Super plus?”

My goodness, what are you admitting to?  Too much information!

“No, just regulars.”

“Well, those will have to do then.”

Hey, it’s your choice.  Dribble down your leg or not.  You’re the one wearing cream pants and can’t get up out of that chair.

“That’s an awfully small box, isn’t it?”

That’s an awfully small hole, as I seem to recall.

“£2.99?  It’s only a small box,” clucks the wheeler woman through her deep wrinkled face.

“£2.99.  That’s awfully much for such a small box.”

She continues.  Hey, madam, if you want your friend sitting in a pool of her own pregnancy proof juice, then be my guest. The question is – what’s it worth to you?

 

Looking at the Cork/Derry score – a 17 point tie in the quarter final.

“Add that up for me.  It’s 3 points to a goal.”

“Oh, really?  Good game, then.”

“Yes, they tried.  They’ll have to try over again.”

“Really?  Well, more fun for the lads, then.  Before they disappear.”

 

She was the type of girl who would come in and take her coat off, put on her apron, and leave her hat on.  She never took it off until she went to bed.  She was beautiful.  Very beautiful, in fact.  She had 21 houses.  Her sons were quite brainy and obsessed with numbers when they were young.  Seamus knew all the numbers of all the busses in Dublin.  And all the routes.  But they had to, not ever knowing where they were going, with their mother always moving.

I found a list of hers.  Wallpaper, butter, and milk.  Wallpaper was always at the top of the list, moving as much as she did.  Wallpaper, butter, milk.

Come, come, beautiful Eileen.

July 31, 2001

I have finally caved and added in those days I worked before that Friday I decided I would start the clock.  I am just tired of working all the time for no money.  So this will be day 14.  I’ll figure out when 16 days of shift is from now and tell Angela tomorrow that that is when I’ll leave.  I won’t have as much money as I planned, but I’ll have a life.  Just getting fed up with work.  Again, not because it’s hard, just because I am so dehumanized.  I am a cash register with a soul.  I am that place that things go to when they’re lost forever.

Yesterday I spent all morning expecting to work, to tick off that 10th day, only to walk all the way down there to find the Madge wanted me to switch days with her so that I would be off on Monday.  I said “sure” as I hadn’t had a break in six days, but then I realized that it pissed me off.  It wasn’t a proper day off at all, as my mind was set on working.  Then I had to wait 45 minutes behind the counter for Madge to show, so I wasn’t actually out until 3PM!!!  THAT is NOT a day off!

And when Madge arrived she was very appreciative – as appreciative as one can be without a voice box – but I still had pissed away a day.  Madge is rather disconcerting as she wheezes out of her throat like Darth Vader with every movement, like a flapping steam valve, and she has to hold onto her throat to croak her words out.

So I ran out of that place and decided to make the most of my joke of a day off from my joke of a job in this joke of a life of mine.

The two Dublin landmarks I had yet to visit were the Collins Barracks and Phoenix Park.  I walked all the way down the quays to them, only to discover that the museum was closed.  Duh.  Monday is culture’s day off – which meant that I couldn’t see the play I was planning on seeing the next day either.  Which I suppose was just as well as I had only brought £7.00 with me – which seemed a bit of overkill in the morning.  But you never can know what to expect when you leave the house.  It’s a game of Russian roulette, and that door is the trigger.

I walked down into Phoenix Park, your general uninspiring big city park with sunbathers glowing white like snowmen all over the grass.  I am so desperate for some skin color that I stripped off my shirt and joined the collective reflection/eyesore.  I heard the lawnmower coming and as I’m not keen on ending my days here I decided to dress and have a bit of a look around the place.  I walked up past the huge and imposing Garda headquarters – funny there’s such a reputation of crime in the same bit of land where the police have their headquarters – and stumbled upon the zoo.  I followed the line of children with plastic tarantulas and parents lugging water-bottles an infants and as I got to the gate I became terrifically enthused about going.  Must be some zoo-inspired sense memory of youth that made me very keen to go.  It’s the sound that zoos have that is indescribable – a mix of human and animal hoots and hollers that creates a buzz in the air.  Can’t describe it at all, but even now I’m getting a bit excited.  In fact, as I approached the zoo all I could think about was working in one.  Some form of hypnotism beam emanates from those places.

The price for entry was £7.50!!!  That was certainly more than I had and certainly more than a zoo small enough to fit in a park should be worth.  I was genuinely disappointed, however, and if I’d had the extra 50p I would have spent it.  Disappointed, I wandered around a bit more and went to investigate the Wellington Monument.  It is really pretty awe-inspiring.  It is a great granite obelisk with friezes of Wellington’s life in bronze on the sides of the base and the names of his great campaigns up the shaft.  It has that immensity where if you look up at it from the base you feel you’ll fall right over backwards.

I stripped off my teeshirt again and laid in the sun for the better part of a Madonna album.  But I am Teflon, and color just slides off me.

And that’s why I added on days to the work countdown.  Because I need to get out because I’m getting very lonely and upset and I need a change of scenery and a life in which I don’t just sit and brood for seven hours a day.

They say that smoking takes hours, days, weeks, months, years off of your life.  And that is why you shouldn’t smoke them.  However no one ever cautions you to abstain from jobs that rob you of those same hours, weeks, months and years of your life.

I want to be thin and beautiful.  I want to be one of the beautiful people.  But I’m glad I’m a bit too flabby outside and a bit too smudged inside to be there.  A lobotomy and a liposuction would fix me right up – ascend me to the heights of empty-headed fitness bliss.  I need to figure out my eating.  Since I don’t cook here due to the world’s worst oven, I eat crap.  It used to just be sandwiches and cereal and jam on toast, but due to the shop I now supplement that with sweets.  And I hate feeling fed.  I hate feeling full.  Because then I feel fat.  I figure if I can just keep that edge of hunger throw my stomach then I can be thin.  If I feel satisfied that means I’ve stuffed myself and my belly feels heavy and full like it’s pulling itself down and out to grow.  I hate it because food makes me unhappy.  I’m hungry but hate to eat and when I do eat I eat crap because I don’t buy a lot of food because if it’s here I will eat it.

And I will eat a Kit Kat today because I want the radio and it’s part of my routine in how I pass the shitty day.

And my pants are big so they hang awkwardly and I look like crap but at least big clothes make me feel thin.  But then if I get new clothes that fit and I gain the weight back I could NOT face going back up in size.

I want to be beautiful.  Because maybe then I’d be happy and feel in place in the world.  Ah, but when are you thin ENOUGH?  And WHEN and WHAT is beautiful?  It’s a never-ending cycle and I’m sort of pissed I’ve started it.  I was going all right at home, but the fact that no one will give me a second glance here makes me think I’m not good enough and need to look better.

Last day – August 24th?  18 shifts from here!  That would make 32 shifts!  (On the new system.)  [28 on the old system.  I like the new system much better.]

There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks they’re funny.

The sunburned thick fingered taxi drivers are my salvation in this job.

“Would you like a bag?”

“No.  I’d like a bath.  And a drink.”

July 28, 2001

Water – they get sold faster than they get cold!

The woman from Gallway used “now” instead of a period to end every sentence.

She put down the papers – “Now.”

She handed me her bill – “Now.”

I handed her the change – “Thanks, now.”

Would you like a bag? – “Ehm, I would, now.”

Thank you. – “Bye, now.”

Galway just came back.  Put the Locozade on the counter and interrupted her mumbled singing only long enough to grunt, “Now.”  At first it was a bit of a put-off – what a brusque and unpleasant woman!  But as she said it without fail after each sentence it just made me laugh.

Why do people need 3 newspapers?  One hardly ever gets through one, much less 2.  3 seems inconceivable and fool-hardy.

The toilet paper walrus whose face was covered with spit wads of razor adhered white foliage.  He waddled off, throwing his feet in front of him with powerful twists of hips.

Please someone touch me.  I tried to catch her fingers with mine as she handed me the 50p.  Anything.