About a Girl and a Boy

{warning:  contains strong language, if you're not an adult and don't have one's permission,

go read somewhere else ;}

[Scene: outside a café, two people sit at a small table together. There is an empty chair between them. Several other tables are occupied around the pair – a student-ish type with laptop, over-dressed and over-make-upped, her hair pulled back in a carefully planned mess, too busy typing to drink the steaming hot triple-extra-uber-low-fat-latte-mocha concoction overflowing with foam next to her; a poet/musician brooding over his notebook, chewed pencil in hand, crumbs stuck in his beard, his cup empty for the last half hour; an elderly gentleman engrossed in a novel, his tea and scone arranged just so, napkin folded and tucked under the saucer, waiting patiently for his tea to cool; a mom, baby-in-tow, sits with a girlfriend but is too distracted by her bored/hungry/tired infant to hear what her friend is saying. It is afternoon. The sun has just ducked behind a cloud, but it is pleasant outside with a faint breeze. The intermittent flow of traffic on the street in front creates a mild cacophony of noise that is sometimes too loud to hear your companion over.


The two people sit. The girl lights a cigarette and sips her coffee. The boy, apparently ravenous, is devouring his sandwich and salad.]


“So, how was it?” he asks between bites.


“Fucking brilliant.” She says, in a mutilated half-British, half-Irish, with just a touch of Scottish accent. “Have you ever been?”


The boy responds, only we cannot tell if it is in the affirmative or negative since he’d just taken a big bite of sandwich and what came out was a mere grunt accompanied by an indecipherable head movement.


“Well, the weather was kind of crap – cloudy, kinda cold – but we got some sun – some rain – it was a lot like Seattle actually.”


“Hmf.” He says, mouth still full.


“The people were fantastic. I love the Irish… everyone was so nice – telling us all about the town, asking us where we’re from, one lady even asked to take a picture of us – like we were a tourist attraction ourselves, literally.”


The mom, baby & forgotten friend begin to make their exit, bumping into three tables on the way with the oversized stroller, upsetting two cups of coffee and one spoon, disturbing the gentleman from his book so that he might ‘move that chair a bit please’, but at least the baby finally stopped complaining.


“Oh, and the cabby from the airport. The first Irish person we meet on our trip. He was, uh, interesting. Chatting us up, asking if we were going to go round spending all our husbands money shopping for clothes while we were in town; advising us on the best places to find the latest in fashion. I couldn’t tell if he was a chauvinist, or if he was just trying to make conversation – maybe it’s a culture thing, I dunno. He goes on to tell us how he never listens to cd’s, but some friend of his had given him one – and he’s fiddling with the cd player while trying to navigate through a busy round-a-bout, thought we’d crash for sure, and he plays us this song. It’s Irish folk music, similar to our country music – and this guy is singing about how ‘only mummy knows how much money daddy’s got, and she won’t be happy till she’s spent the bloody lot!’ hehe.... The next song he plays us, the singer’s going on about how the first curse word he heard as a child was said by the chicken ‘fock, fock, fock fock fock fock’ and how he tried to tell grandma, but she wouldn’t believe him. Just bizarre – this, my introduction to the country my ancestors are from and me on little sleep after a long ass flight.”


She half laughs and takes a drag of her cigarette, exhales just as the wind shifts a bit and the smoke goes right to the boys face. She waves at the errant smoke and switches her cigarette to the other hand.


“Sorry.” He waves his hand in a ‘no worries’ manner and continues eating. “Anyway, we stayed in a lovely hotel in a small town called Ballincollig, which is where Dee’s friend lives. Very cute, almost picturesque, with rolling hills and whatnot; but there was a lot of construction going on, road works and new housing developments. We were about 15 minutes drive from Cork, though, which is the second largest city in Ireland. Beautiful city. Wonderful mix of modern and old architecture all sandwiched in together, often times within the same building. And this big river, the River Lee, running right through it. So there were all these wonderful bridges of various vintages all along it -- most of them occupied by Romanis begging for money and offering ‘very good prayers for you’ in exchange. They were really creepy – these older women with missing teeth and patchwork clothes. Dirty, disheveled, and smiling at you oh-so-sweetly, saying please, please, in these soft sing-songy voices, holding their hands out to you…” {she shivers a bit}


“Excuse me,” interrupts the poet/musician from the next table, “could I buy a cigarette from you?”


“Huh? Oh sure, here,” she responds, handing him one. He tries to hand her some change, but she waves it away and smiles.


“Thanks, thanks very much.” The poet sits back down and lights up.


“So, um, where was I? Oh, right. Cork.” She uncrosses her legs and crosses them again the other way, takes a sip of coffee and continues, “great place. I could totally see myself living there. Just the right size – not too big, not too small – with a great appreciation for the arts. Wonderful. I especially loved seeing how they re-purposed old buildings – like the mental institute …”


Just then a delivery truck came rumbling and roaring up to the building next door, as the boy and girl cringed and looked on reproachfully, it reversed with a resounding ‘beep, beep, beep’ before finally parking and shutting off the conversation-stopping racket leaving a faint whiff of diesel exhaust in the air.


“…yes, where was I, oh -  the mental institute. It was this beautiful, castle-like, loooooooong building with tall spikey spires every ten bloody feet or so, perched on the side of a hill overlooking the Lee. They’d converted it into apartments. Another cabby was telling us that part of it, a separate red building at the end, where they kept the criminally insane, was where Corkian parents used to threaten to send their children if they misbehaved. Ha! Fantastic, right? Oh, and then there was this pub that used to be a bank, I think we were sitting in the vault itself, with this magnificent decrepit chandelier overhead.... just cool shit like that, you know?”


The boy would’ve said something clever here, as he did often have very clever things to say that both charmed and amused alike – only he was still noshing on his food. And he will be forgiven, as no one would like to see a grown boy go hungry.


“And then we went to Dublin for a couple of days. Rode the train up. That’s when my head cold started settling in, ihck. Anyway. We went on this ‘literary pub crawl’ – very cool. Led by a couple of actors who performed pieces by local authors – uh, Joyce, Oscar Wilde…” At this point, the girl shifted position a bit, her leg accidentally touching the boy’s, she half smiled at him before shifting position again. “Anyway, they, uh, led us around to all these wonderful pubs through the streets of downtown Dublin. It was a lot of fun, even if I was sick as a dog.” She pauses to drink. “Next day I managed to talk Dee into going to see the Book of Kells. It was in the old library at Trinity College – a gorgeous old campus, the size of a small village – no cars though, just walking on these fabulous cobblestone ‘streets’. The library itself was just – oh – just – ahhhhh -  I was    practically    drooling – and not because of my cold. It was Utterly Magnificent. It is a library’s library… if you know what I mean. All libraries should want to be like this library. It was called the Longroom – must’ve been 200 feet long and had two-story vaulted ceilings, all carved mahogany, or some such wood; row upon row of carefully shelved books – all of them looking as old as the Book of Kells itself - many of them wrapped in some sort of cording, maybe their bindings were coming apart, I don’t know. They kept the visitors on a main isle with two rows of red cord strung along brass stands separating us from the bookshelves. And they had these magnificent marble busts of the greats… Aristotle, Homer… on these pedestals, at the end of every bookcase. One of the guards told me that the Harry Potter folks tried to get permission to shoot there and were flatly refused.”


The girl half laughs again, “I’m sorry, I’m not boring you, am I? I could go on about this for a while…”


We’re not sure, but we think he shakes his head ‘no’ this time.


“Anyway, that’s really just about it. We went back to Ballincollig for a day and had to leave at 4 in the morning the next day, so… that’s it, really. Well, there is the story about the Hi-B, you’re nobody till you’ve been kicked out the Hi-B {she smiles} which we were, so I guess now we’re somebodies; and the art exhibit we saw, oh, and the funny bit at the Blarney Stone. But really, I feel like I’m talking too much and I definitely need more coffee.”


She got up, asking, “Do you want...” more too, she was going to say, but was interrupted by the poet/musician who’d also just stood up and was handing her a piece of paper, which she took. He then proceeded to hand each person sitting outside the shop a slip of paper, before turning and leaving without a word. In an almost perfectly synchronized manner, all the patrons, boy and girl included, looked around at each other quizzically, then at the receding figure of the poet/musician, then down at their respective papers.

The girl reads hers, then reads it aloud, “There are only two tragedies in life.”


The boy reads his, “One is not getting what one wants.”


The elderly gentleman chuckles and says, “And the other is getting it.” he looks up, smiles, “Oscar Wilde.”


The student reads hers, “Just Want Naught,” and with furrowed brow, she shrugs, crumples up the paper and tosses it in the ashtray.


by, tracy yarkoni odell