We shared a ground-floor flat in the middle of a Georgian house in Rathmines that had been converted into about a hundred flats with a fella from Wexford, a courier by the name of Dermot Geoghegan whom I mentioned earlier. He was a serious man, always looking for trouble. It was a dingy enough place but cheap. Unfortunately there were only two bedrooms, one for Geoghegan and one for the pair of us. Mind you, O'Reilly was out with his college crowd half the time so it wasn't too bad. I had the room to myself. His real name is Xavier and I think he was studying Media Studies or some shite. He is called Balls on account of his nerve. There was nothing he wouldn't do, especially if he had a few pints on him. For example, he was always taking his lad out in the pub, anything for a laugh. Always acting the maggot. By the way, it's not as if his parents were in a hurry for the ladder. They own a fuckin' hardware shop.
Seeing as there were no seats left, O'Reilly had to stand in the aisle the whole way home. It served him right although it was a pity in a way because we could have had a bit of crack. The bus was very damp and thick with cigarette smoke. I would say that everybody on the bus was smoking except me. I hate smokers. Francesca takes the odd one knowing my attitude full well. My father promised me a hundred pounds if I didn't drink or smoke before I was eighteen. I was only about five or six when he made the promise and a hundred pounds sounded like a lot of money back then. It is fuck all now that I'm nineteen. Daddy if you can hear me you owe me fifty quid, I don't smoke.
The bus was cramped. It was irresponsible in my opinion and probably illegal to transport that amount of people at the same time. We were squashed in like pigs. And I couldn't believe the amount of luggage some people take with them. I mean I've seen pictures in books of Third World transportation and I know the way they carry on over there. People hanging off the sides and goats and hens on board as well as the contents of entire homes. But this is Ireland in the latter half of the twentieth century and economic circumstances are different. To the best of my knowledge there was no livestock on the bus apart from a goldfish in a plastic bag some fella was bringing home as a present. But there were rucksacks and step-ladders as I have already mentioned, suitcases and hold-alls, cardboard boxes and plastic bags, ironing boards, pots and pans, a television set, a metal dustbin, wickerwork, sleeping bags full of dirty clothes, tons and tons of personal possessions, presents, household goods. There was no room to move or even breathe, wedged in as we were by the damp bric-a-brac of these temporary migrants. Every space was occupied, overhead and underfoot. They were like a bunch of ants humping scraps back to the hill for inspection and I know all about ants. The flat is infested with them.
Anyway, I fell asleep on the bus despite the fact that I was very agitated as it bumped and lurched out of the city. I nearly always did. It was the driver's Charlie Pride tape that put me to sleep, not that I mind Charlie Pride. In fact I think he's very good. Balls called it dreary old country shite and put on his Walkman to listen to some fuckin' noise he picked up in college, Simple Minds or some shower of cunts' like that. That was Balls, always trying to be up-to-date.
The driver was a great character, a wee oul' fella who shouldn't have been allowed to drive a Ford Anglia never mind a bus, forever laughing and joking. He has one of the filthiest, dirtiest tongues I ever heard in my whole life.
Sometimes if the bus wasn't too full I'd sit up beside him for the crack, seeing as how he was a neighbour of mine. In every single town we went through on the way home, he'd point out a road or a street or a tree where he said he'd rode some woman in the past. Or he'd indicate a spot on the side of the road where he'd picked up a hitch-hiker who later sucked him off when he used to be a lorry-driver. He was full of shite. I used to collect the money from the passengers for him now and again in exchange for free transport, but not today. No, I was going to enjoy a good snooze if the woman beside me would ever shut up.
Copyright © 2000 Ardal O'Hanlon
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