Here's the first chapter from the unfinished novel about the yank in Ireland. You can read chapter II here, published earlier. I'll try to keep them in order from here on out.
Rose left her friends in Chicago in a beer and whiskey shot-fueled haze. She had the plane tickets, about thirteen hundred dollars in traveler’s checks, and enough alcohol still in her bloodstream to intoxicate a teenager. She was leaving Chicago, but going home. Or at least she thought she was.
Meghan and Liz took her out for a last girl's night out the previous evening. They had hit all the usual spots – the family run bars they had bartended in until last call, the neighborhood gems they had bartered drinks with for a few years. They had to stop in the Hollywood Grill for a bit of fried food before the night was done, and then back at the apartment a small glass of Bailey’s and ice and a little Aretha Franklin on the turntable before bed. Hence, Rose only had about three hours of sleep by the next morning but she was excited for her adventure.
“We’re just going to make a quick pit-stop here,” Liz said as they pulled into the 7-11 parking lot.
Rose looked at her watch as she sat waiting in the back of the dilapidated Honda. Airports always made her nervous, and today was not a good day to be late. She had spent half her savings on this ticket. She fidgeted and allowed herself to worry, now that her friends had temporarily abandoned her.
Liz returned to the driver’s seat and Meghan swung a plastic bag over the seat to Rose’s lap.
“This ought to get you through the next seven hours,” Meghan said.
Rose peered into the bag and her eyes misted over. Glossy magazines, American candy, beef jerky, cheese and cracker sandwiches, and other last minute delights laid in store for her. She sighed and reminded herself that she had the best friends ever. Nothing could possibly go wrong with all the support she had. Or the amounts of Jameson shots still in her veins.
Waking up in her window seat to a beautiful view of the west coast of Ireland, Rose took stock. She knew a few things: she had great energy, a drive to succeed, and an adventurous nature. Oh and she had a little bit of money. Enough for someone with multiple skills, in her estimation. She could type, answer phones, make coffees, wait tables, cocktail and even pour drinks if needed. She thought of herself as a great hustler in all these details. And if it didn’t go well, the secret was that her ticket was cheaper as a full return trip, so she had scheduled it for two weeks after arrival.
She booked herself into a hostel on the near north side mainly because it was close to the bus station, in Irish called the Busáras. Rose was feeling very practical about this trip and not trying to overdo anything. First step: bed for the night. She phoned the hostel from the airport to give herself the consolation of knowing there was a space for her there. After dialing and putting the money into the phone box she heard a girl pick up.
“Hallo, Issac’s how can I help you?”
“Hello! I was wondering if you…”
“Hallo? Hallo Issac’s.”
“Hello can you hear me? I’m calling from the airport and I…”
Rose hung up but all her money fell into the change tray. Strange. She put more than enough change now into the phone before she dialed the number again. The same exchanged occurred, except now with much more annoyance on the part of the hostel clerk. Rose figured she might as well try her luck and get on the bus, as it was only nine in the morning. Not too many beds would be taken in the thirty minutes it took her to get to town. Not in February in Dublin at any rate.
She took the more expensive bus, the express “tourist” bus to go to the main bus station on the north side. Even though she knew the other routes from studying her transport map she was allowing herself this luxury due to the jetlag and the hangover from multiple goodbyes in Chicago. Her hostel was a mere block away when she disembarked from a pretty dreary, non-adventurous ride into town.
She entered into a long, wide, common area of the hostel, brightly painted and cheerful considering it was located in a dingy alley in a questionable neighborhood. It was close to the city center, however, and had good reviews by Rose’s study of guidebooks and online bulletin boards. She approached the desk with some hesitation, and booked herself into a single room as a small luxury for her travels.
“I called earlier, from the airport? I think you might be having trouble with your phones.”
“Oh that was you,” said the young girl with mousy brown hair and a thick attitude, “yes you know how the phones work here don’t you?”
“Ummmm….” Rose suddenly stammered, and realized perhaps she might be to blame.
The clerk spoke as if by rote, “you put the change in after the other party has answered, otherwise we have no connection and I can’t hear ya.”
“Oh. Well. Sorry about that.” Rose blushed fiercely but simply noted what time the baggage room opened and sat down to organize herself on one of the long benches. She found the café, bought some tea in a paper cup, and got out her brand new notebook, the one in which she would write all her newfound epiphanies about being in Dublin. Her new adventures.
She opened and wrote:
“It’s fucking freezing here, why am I so cold? It’s warmer than Chicago I think but is so damn damp that it’s gotten into my bones and I’ve only been here for three hours. Why the fuck are the phones so retarded? Is it so you can call your mom and hang up on her twice in a row and then she would know it was you and call back? FUCK my dad would like that one. Never likes me to spend long distance ‘cos he’s got some card with a terrible connection. I’m waiting ninety minutes for this luggage room to open and then I’m going to get a delicious, well earned pint of Guinness.”
Smiling at the other hostel clerk, she put her bags -- one of which held nothing but shoes -- in storage and set off for an afternoon walk with her purse and well, her laptop. The hostel had received good reviews but she didn’t trust it that much.
Rose set out down the alley, towards the Liffey and down to O’Connell Street. She knew the main layout of downtown Dublin from one visit with her mother at age seventeen, and then mostly from pouring over guidebooks while in Chicago. She happily crossed the river, eager to get to the familiar walls of Trinity College. Rose trailed her hand along the wall as she walked, and then got distracted by Grafton Street and its shops, buskers and foot traffic. She happily walked slowly along one side of it, reached St. Steven’s Green, cut down a side street, and walked up St. George’s Street. Suddenly she found herself out of the downtown element. There were still a few shops and pubs, but she was definitely getting into a different neighborhood now. Having no sleep the night before she thought it smart to right herself before going any farther. Instead of stopping in the middle of the path and getting out her map, she decided to ask a stranger. It was time to talk to some Dubliners.
“Excuse me, which way is the river?” she inquired, stopping a mildly handsome man in his early forties. She knew that if she got back to the river she could right herself.
“Ha ha the river, you are far from it right now. But if you go back the opposite way, and take a right you’ll see it soon enough.” He sized her up, smiling in a curious way.
Rose wasn’t really that pleased that he seemed to think she was too far from the river to actually ask for it, but she thanked him and he walked off with a nod and a friendly smile.
She found herself standing in front of a pub. Not having had anything to eat since the plane she decided to go inside and see what they had to offer, now that she knew how to get back.
It was a gorgeous modern pub with high ceilings, welcoming in the way restaurants can be in the afternoon, with the comfortable sound of the bartender stacking glasses or hauling cases.
“What can I get you miss?” the barman asked, huffing and sweating on his way up from the basement.
“I’ll have a pint of lager and a toasted ham and cheese,” Rose said.
The “ham” in ham and cheese caught her out. The hard American ‘a’ made him smile and repeat it back to her in her own inflection. She sat down in a tall booth feeling a bit cheated, although he didn’t mean any harm. She began to wonder if it wasn’t so exotic to be an American in Dublin.
The beer tasted great, and she opened her notebook to jot down some thoughts when the sandwich came. She didn’t want anything to do with it, but tried putting a corner into her mouth to see if nature would take over. She chewed deliberately, her mouth not creating the juices to break down the sandwich. She swallowed a toasted point and washed it down with her lager. A few more bites went down, and then a small panic rose in her. As her bloodstream rushed to her stomach to welcome the sustenance, she got light headed and began to overthink her situation.
Rose quickly inquired after the loos and ran down the flight of stairs barely making it to the ladies. The three bites of sandwich came up in a neat little package. She wondered why she felt so much better, and more relaxed now. She thought she was being ridiculous. But she also knew she was going to leave the rest of that sandwich alone. I guess now is not the right time, she thought. Perhaps a nap first to take it all in.
After settling into her little one bedroom closet of a room, Rose decided to take a nice hot shower to warm herself up. The communal shower room was damper than it was outside, for obvious reasons, but it was still clammy and the tiles were like ice. She turned on the shower head but the water was only tepid. She tried adjusting it, waiting for the heat to perhaps rise up from the ground floor, but nothing seemed to work. Giving up, she rinsed herself off quickly in the lukewarm water, trying not to let her thoughts about her new adventure get too bleak. Things were certainly not going swimmingly, but what is to be expected of Dublin in February?
She put on her warmest sweater, a bit of makeup and set out to treat herself to a nice dinner. After the stress of the plane, and arrival, and securing her room, she was ready to sit down and nourish herself in style. There was an Italian restaurant right on Westmoreland Street, rather new looking and modern. She walked in and was seated at a two top that faced the street. She happily ordered some wine, and a rich pasta dinner. The pasta was going down well and she was finally relaxing. She read a little from a novel and finished her wine. Finally, with glowing cheeks she asked for her tab, paid with her credit card and lazily walked back to the hostel. Only then did she think to look at the receipt, and she realized she had left an amazingly large tip. In her happy and sedated buzz she had calculated the tip, written the total in the tip line, and then added the two. Oh well. The waiters were having a slow night, she thought. Perhaps they imagined she was some rich American kid with a trust fund. As if. What a different trip she could be having then.
As Rose lay in bed that night listening to an Irish radio station, she tried to tell herself to get used to the new voices and accents. Soon, hopefully they would become background noise. She planned her attack to go to the university and see whether she had been accepted into the graduate program, and fell asleep fitfully, happy to have a purpose for the day but still not quite sure if this whole trip felt quite right.
(c) 2011, Discombobulation Station