We were on our way home from the theatre, where I'd spent the evening distancing myself from the rest of the audience. We collected our tickets and then, too good (too insecure) to wait in the foyer, left the theatre and crossed O'Connell St. to the cornershop to buy a bottle of water and a four-pack of Snickers. We stood outside the Gate and ate a little bar each. "The thinking-man's cigarette!" I joked and I was glad that I didn't want a cigarette and worried that I did want a second Snickers. My status anxiety peaks around theatregoers and elderly in-laws.
The couple sitting beside us had to stand to allow us in to our seats. I was apologetic, in as much as one can be when you're sucking in every inch of yourself to squeeze past someone, though the theatre was still filling and we were far from the last to file in. The woman sitting beside me gave me a filthy look. Her companion was dressed in a sleeveless fleece gilet and a short-sleeved check shirt and he gave me a smile and made me feel sorry for her. He frowned at Andrew.
The play was fine. Good, even. Full of nuance, if that's your thing. It's mine, but I was busy luxuriating in the smell of the audience. They don't smell like the people you sit amongst in the cinema. Or on the bus. They smell warm and expensively perfumed, comfortable and well-dressed. They applauded the usher who clasped his hands in front of his breast and made a priggish speech about the use of mobile phones and pagers. They did not switch off their phones, but they applauded him again when he gave a second performance following the interval. He wore a dress suit and a beard and I wanted to hurt him. I do not normally feel so moved by announcers. The two calls missed and the text message audibly received during the play were not nearly as distracting as the audience's (to me) inappropriate bellylaughs and commentary throughout. "Driving Ned! That's what I know him from!" exclaimed one. David Kelly, star of Waking Ned, is some time dead.
After the curtain had fallen we left via the back stairs, the better to avoid the crowds. Skipping along Parnell Street, delighting in our relative youth and firmity, Andrew chatted about the play and I chattered about the audience. In good spirits, it was easy to ignore the woman who called "excuse me, miss" as we rounded the corner onto North King Street. I just looked the other way and carried on talking in that way you do when you realise that you have nothing more to say but you need to keep up the pretence that you're saying something and that this person is interrupting you. "Excuse me, sir" she said, trying for Andrew's attention. He ignored her. "Excuse me, miss" she said "excuse me, sir" and she hurried up the street after us. I walked a little quicker, and felt it in my knee. "Excuse me, miss, excuse me, sir, can you hear me?"
She caught up with us and Andrew asked if she was alright. She spoke to me, though. She knew I could hear her. She apologised. She said she was short €3 for the hostel. Andrew rooted in his pocket and found a €2 coin and she looked so grateful. She was dressed in a pristine white Adidas zip-up with bright pink piping and she had sparkly pale pink eyeshadow on her eyelids. She looked hollow. She was clutching a Cuisine de France cellophane bag of breadrolls and croissants with both hands but she released one to accept the coin and to shake Andrew's hand in gratitude. She shook mine too, and the grip of her hand was so tight and warm, clean and dry. She held my hand for a minute, and asked if we'd like some of the croissants that the man in the shop had given to her in exchange for the €2. "No thanks" said Andrew "you keep those" and she asked me again if I was sure and I said I was and she held my hand for a minute longer and thanked us both again and then we walked on, past the man who was waiting for her, ten paces ahead, a big black handbag slung over his shoulder and a vacant expression on his face.
People would break your heart, I said to Andrew, and we talked for a minute about how we see more people with addictions, living where we do, and stop less than we used to to talk with them or to share something. "And people who call them 'junkies', Jesus, I hate them" I said, and I then I said little else on the rest of the walk home and I went to bed hearing her, and him too, though he said nothing, and hating myself for I don't even know what yet.