It’s Thursday night in Galway City and the kids are delighted with life. They’re clambering through Eyre Square, pushing each other towards throbbing clubs and swaying outside bars blasting the same pop music that accompanies every promo for every show on Comedy Central. The girls are wrapped in shiny dresses, tottering on stilettos, and the boys abuse each other while taking money out of ATMs.
“It’s only eleven and you’re already on fruit drinks,” they jeer. “Ya daft eejit. You disgrace.”
The night is cool, fresh, and clear. I pass shuttered storefronts and peek into side streets lined with crumbling stone walls. Waves of lovely trad music beckon me and then I’m inside a pub called Taaffes.
Taaffes is crammed to the gills, overflowing with laughter and good craic. I find a secluded nook in a corner facing the trad music trio; two guitars, one accordion. The rhythm is infectious, inescapable. Falling under its spell, I focus on a painting of a claddagh ring on the wall, and then on a large plaque hung with Coats of Arms for the Fourteen Tribes of Galway. When the trio plays “Galway Girl,” the girls in the pub go wild. Next to me, there is a young woman with a pink buzzcut wearing a short black lace frock, cinched at the waist with a black corset belt. Her friends are two girls – one, small and brunette and the other with curly hair. They make me think of myself and Gia at their age, when Friday nights meant haunting Irish bars and pumping The Rolling Stones and David Bowie into the jukeboxes all night long.
A cold wave of briny beer splashes over me, soaking into my coat and raining over my purse. I look up and a man in a red plaid shirt is gaping at me.
“I’m sorry,” he says – clearly drunk. I’m dripping and can smell the stench of beer rising from my clothes, but remain calm with despair. The drunk’s friends bring me a moist washcloth and a handful of napkins from the bar while the girls at the next table pass me packets of tissues. I return their gentle smiles with whispered thanks, mopping up the pools of dark stout as best as I can. I go through five tissues and three napkins before my coat stops squishing. The drunk in the red plaid shirt is nowhere in sight. I try to take comfort in the fact that now I no longer have to wonder whether it’s time to have my coat dry cleaned; mystery solved.
I leave and walk back towards Eyre Square. A pony cart whizzes by me on the empty street as the girl inside throws her head back and laughs with silvery glee.
“There’s a joy ride if I ever saw one,” a boy on the corner says affectionately. Just then, a Garda van begins its ominous lumber through the narrow road, pushing insistently through the groups of drunken kids.
“That’s not on!” the drunken kids cry and when the van stops, they scamper to the drivers’ window for a natter with the Gardaí. As curious as I am to hear what drunken people could possibly have to say to police officers, I push on. Early start tomorrow, after all.
At the Street Wok on the corner of the square, a drunk teenager in a track suit calls, “Mary, Mary,” at me while I make my order. I’ve paid before I realize he’s saying, “A-Mary-can.”
In my hotel room, I settle down with my paper carton of noodles in black bean sauce. I enjoy it with my 15th Cadbury Creme Egg of the season.