The treat of solitude is the slow smoke punch in the back of the throat,
the medicinal growth of the bottle in the gut.
My stomach turns
and quickly my back is giving-
it can’t matter one more time
if it never did at all.
The hum of the bus stalled at lights
is not waiting to take your direction,
so at home I discard skin
as though you never touched it,
and make myself so terrible
you will wish you never had.
The treat of solitude is wondering
who never told me
I would search out cancers with girlhood fat
still clinging to my cheeks,
I wait to unburden myself of the day’s dressings
(shuddering them away to lie ghostly with limb-shaped convexities
at the side of our bed),
to fuss and huddle in the cover til we face inward in conspiracy,
foreheads burning and welded
oh, my heart, I want to tell you that the blood travels faster in my body when you’re near,
even the tips of our noses stooping to meet bloom like rosy wounds in cool water
You gathered me to yourself through the sweating hotel air and, still in sleep,
disturbed the crisp white sheet to say I love you in the hoarse whisper of a boy ,
so I forgave your painful beauty, the cold perfection of your face,
All the little coastal shelves of you
await me on the shore
It is Saturday night and Brendan and I have just finished watching Django Unchained.
“I’ve thought of a joke,” I immediately turn to him and say as the credits roll, “…more like Django UnEDITED, eh!?”
Marvelling at my genius for topical wit, I hurry to switch my phone on and tweet it, leaving Brendan in silence to reflect on what a lucky man he is. Continuing our white-hot date night, we venture to Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street. Outside we are greeted with a strident “What We Listen To” board which reads tragically like the Junior Cert schoolbag of a try-hard, including Pearl Jam and Queens of the Stone Age.
My prejudice against Cassidy’s on those grounds is not much eased when upon entry I am visually assaulted with a genuinely bizarre amount of bunting. The bunting is strung across every available ceiling space as far as the eye can see, some of it still celebrating Christmas, some of it celebrating an assortment of cartoon characters. The decor in general seems to have been attacked with an overzealous attempt at idiosyncrasy with the results at times looking like someone has arbitrarily dispersed literal garbage throughout. This failing can be summed up by the curious fact that three seemingly random pages of that day’s Guardian were sellotaped on the wall.
There is an endearingly hamfisted Star Wars mural which renders Luke Skywalker’s face a third of its natural size and compressed into the middle of an otherwise proportional head. Massive flatscreen televisions play Cartoon Network. At the bar, you can buy an assortment of retro-ish sweets and cheapo crisps. We get a Hoegarden and a Carlsberg and lean against a rare available ledge. I only notice after we’ve ordered that their agreeable beer selection includes O’Hara’s, maker of a delicious pale ale. Monday to Thursday all draft beer will set you back only four quid, with international beers like Leffe and Erdinger a fiver. Most pleasingly for those of us inclined to cram our weary faces with both carbs and booze of a Friday night, they do a pizza and pint for a tenner. The bartenders are beaming and helpful, mainly composed of pretty young women who make me want to flirt with them. Downstairs is a pleasant, less crowded bar, exposed brick and big wooden tables and all that, where a dozen Lads in graphic tees and haircuts play foozball.
I’m not really feeling this strange self-aware devolution into some sort of misremembered communal childhood. But then, I’m beginning to suspect I don’t have the ideal disposition to be reviewing such a place, seeing as I can only hiss “There are too many people!” when Brendan asks what I think of it. Evidently, they are doing something right, as the place is packed with content pizza-consumers, imbibers of craft beer, and lovers of an oppressively cacophonous aesthetic.
Cassidy’s seems to be succeeding very well in keeping its clientele amused and happy, but we leave after one drink to go home, where at least I can be sure our discarded Guardians appropriately languish, unglorified, in the recycling bin.
January 12, 2013 Time and fevers burn away Individual beauty from Thoughtful children, and the grave Proves the child ephemeral
Yesterday I went to the funeral of my stepfather’s grandmother, Moira Prone. I didn’t know her very well, having met her only on the Easters and Stephens’ Days we would spend in my stepdad’s family home in Rathfarnham, but she had always seemed to me a wonderfully loved woman. She struck me as someone who was spending her final years in the only satisfactory way possible; still surrounded by people who adored her and listened to her.
The funeral was very sad in some ways, and entirely not in others. It seems to me you are very fortunate in our society to die as a very elderly person with a multitude of relatives and friends still devoted to you. Equally, it is terrifying to think of living so long that one’s husband, many siblings and almost all contemporaries and friends have passed before you.
A beautiful photograph of the young, gorgeous Moira and her husband Brendan, her arm slung casually and jubilantly around his neck, was at the altar. I kept feeling a curious mixture of grief and dulled happiness looking at it; my usual bafflement that anyone young could ever die, and my usual ecstatic surprise that anyone could ever be so united and happy.
Throughout the funeral I thought of my friend Cian, and wept. As I know Cian’s many friends also do, I often think of things Cian would have liked or enjoyed and feel a sudden ache to know he will never experience them. This was my first funeral since Cian’s. I felt the unbearable weight of the whole life and rightful death Cian never had or will have, a full and rich life with more pleasure and tragedy and expansion than Cian had the time to have.
Sometimes I long for the raw, septic time in the few weeks after his death, when we were all just open wounds to each other. Sometimes I want to not talk about it measuredly. Sometimes I want nothing but to cry and wail in someone’s face again, at the injustice and horror and poison of it all.
I think of Joe visiting me in my house a few months ago, after the very worst of it, bringing sweet things and me brewing coffee and us both smoking endlessly. We talked about Cian, and eventually it got so that we were just re-telling the events surrounding his death, and his funeral, to each other.
We say to each other,
“…and then after that email I didn’t hear from him,”
“…and we had talked about it just that week,”
“…and then I got this text,”
and we both end up re-telling the entire story of Cian’s death to each other, from our different but similarly blinded and staunched and dullly furious points of view.
As if to say,
“I was there; you were there too. It happened, didn’t it?
Did it happen?”
today’s dust is heavy,
engine soot near the nose
and the whistle of lungs
where my head meets your chest.
Something brutal and sad in the cold of your face
which I clean with my own
going side-to-side soft
Some nights when you leave I walk down the quays,
and quicken with fear as I’m crossing the park
to stand very still where we laughed at your dog
being spooked by those deer both invented and real
there is no sound more fine than your sigh in my ear
both our necks slicked with the work day’s thin grime,
your head slowly trying the nooks proved most pliant
There is an amusing promotional video for Wilde Bar, in which Derek Byrne of Irish Tatler laments the Dublin club scene’s heretofore lack of spectacle. He welcomes the addition of Wilde in the hopes of addressing this deficiency, all the while bravely sporting a yellow corduroy fedora atop an otherwise entirely workaday grey suit. Wilde is itself somewhat like the anachronistic, though winningly optimistic, terrible hat, its aspirations toward eccentricity a little too plainly expressed.
It seems to aim towards kitschy decadence, an aim which can unfortunately be synopsized by their oft-discussed gold glitter toilets. Reactions to my intention to go to Wilde varied only between “I’ve heard they have gold toilets!” and “I’ve used their gold toilets!”. Having conversation about your club centre exclusively around their toilet quality is probably not a good thing if debauched Kit Kat Club-inspired opulence is your bag.
In any case, Fiona and I never manage to source the mythical golden toilets of lore. We stumble together instead into a more convenient, bar-adjacent disabled jacks to reapply lipstick and repeatedly instagram ourselves in the mirror until we are both satisfied with our chins. We have come on a Saturday, which is “Cirque De Wilde”, their big night according to raspy-voiced lamé-clad bon viveur and owner Julian Benson.
I, newly single and easily taken in by suggestions of novelty, am all up for a gal’s night out. I pay the tenner in with only a slight tightening in my chest and veer straight towards the cocktail menu. They are all 7.95, and we opt for a bellini and a margarita. The distractingly handsome barman tells me to try the margarita and that he will remake it if it’s not adequate. Aware that my natural and healthy Irish shame would prevent me from returning it even had I seen him spit into it, I sip it and grin inanely back, reassuring him that it was delicious. In fact it is a little over-sweet, and the glass hasn’t been salted, but nevertheless it is a marked improvement on the half bottle of lukewarm Blossom Hill already fermenting in my gut.
And so to the dancefloor, where an unattended pole exists sadly on a podium. We use it to politely balance our handbags against and become sassy to the timeless majesty of Cheryl Cole classic Call My Name. Neither Fiona nor I can fully concentrate on being fierce when Fade Street’s shark-eyed powerhouse Dillon St. Paul dances so near us.
“I think he looked at me,” Fiona hisses. Above us a genuinely impressive and smoking hot aerial acrobat begins her performance, and we stand slack-jawed as I rest a disappointed hand on my cocktail-filled paunch. It’s half one and neither of us have any particular interest in staying any longer. We’ve had a fine time, but the vibe has been one of generic dark club playing chart music. The leather couches and fur cushions do little to mask this. The night ends with a mutual shrug. Somewhere a corduroy fedora is being reluctantly discarded.
I was nineteen when I met Mark, Sean, Luke and Brian, the quasi-biblical quartet who would take up residence in my room for much of the next six months. I had just moved into a glorified tenement in Smithfield, and they came to our housewarming bearing some sort of toxic booze mix in Lilt bottles. They were as much of a “gang” as four white malnourished boys from Swords could be, and I immediately loved their company. They spoke to each other in a short-hand born of their incessant shared intimacy which I didn’t quite get, but found hilarious.
Funniness seemed to be their form of currency with one another, and the world. They could happily sit in the same room all day, enjoying each other’s amusing nonsense. I loved this weird, intense time, when all five of us would lounge, hungover, in my single bed, smoking skinny roll ups and eating dry bread rolls and Cracker Barrel cheddar and chatting until dusk. I took such pleasure in their rapid elaborate jokes, liked to be a part of it so much, that I think it was the first time I really wanted to be funny, or thought that I could be.
Being funny was not something I had ever considered, or coveted. As soon as I became self-aware (seemingly overnight, on the eve of my fourteenth birthday) I was acutely concerned with my portly artlessness. It was tremendously important to me that I never be a figure of fun, something which is cruelly invited by the rounded tummy and pink jolly cheeks of the fat person. I was an earnest girl, and desperately wished to be serious and intellectual. To be humorous back then was to splutter out some generic eye-rolling denunciation of the falsity of the Christmas spirit to whatever pale sniffy boy from creative writing class I had convinced to come to the cinema with me.
Mark, Sean, Luke and Brian were not only themselves funny, but had a sort of reverence towards comedy and stand up comedians I had before only felt toward books and films (or literature and cinema as I surely would have insisted upon calling them). I started to pay attention a bit, and had a look at people like Louis C.K. and Stewart Lee I had never heard of before.
Upon Mark’s advice, I started to use Twitter, a medium which perfectly suited his style of absurd, darkly complex one liners. I didn’t understand Twitter at first, posting quotes almost exclusively, unsure what the format demanded. Like many people who find it hard to grasp, I viewed it with churlish disdain.
“Nobody wants to know what you’re having for breakfast!” cry these people, huddling for warmth beneath the reassuring cultural capital of the tangible, visible broadsheet newspaper. Certainly, having grown up consuming media which is produced by a very particular and small part of society, submerging yourself in the incontinent flow of Twitter can be off-putting. There is no sense of meritocracy, given that the most banal celebrity morning greeting will be retweeted thousands of times.
I didn’t know what Twitter was FOR- at first it seemed like just an extension of Facebook or the other social networks I had used before it. Quickly though, seeing the meaningless nonsense my friends were tweeting made me treat it like that too, just as a place to write silly things which were making me laugh in that moment. That’s still what I use Twitter for, but so much of what I think about myself and humour has changed as a result of it.
As a woman, your appearance is made to feel like the central part of your identity from a very young age. The insatiable need I felt for validation as a result of that was fed into by my use of MySpace and Facebook when I was a teenager. I was disgustingly vain and analysed pictures of myself for hours, trying to imagine how I and my life would appear to an outsider.
Twitter is a much less visual medium, and I have thankfully stopped being a teenager. In my experience, it’s a lot less status-seeking, less geared towards lifestyle porn, and I tended to be much more self-deprecating. I started to make jokes about my own life, and the simple act of being able to do that has genuinely changed everything for me. Being able to laugh at the humiliating and pathetic parts of the human experience, those sticky, untheatrical little corners we tend to bear alone, is wonderful. To be able to laugh about them with others is even better. I no longer felt I had to deny my petty rejections and weaknesses, I could willingly show them to the world and jeer at how absurd they are.
About a year later, my friend Cian, who was a comedian amongst many other things, asked me to start performing at his show Voicebox. I felt like I could try it- I felt funny. No matter how badly a show went, I always came off stage thinking “I can’t believe I did that!” Going onstage and trying to be funny was so opposed to what my idea of myself had been for my whole life. They were things to do with femininity and being unassuming; to always coquettishly avoid the eye, never to demand too much attention of people, to laugh at jokes and not make them. I had a horror of people seeing just how much I wanted their approval. To express that need so basically as to go onstage and clown for them seemed and still seems breathtakingly mad to me. But I did it, on and off for a year or so. I haven’t in months now, and I’m not sure I ever will again, but it will always be precious to know that I could, once.