I sat drawing until it started to get dark. A murky greyness started to spread over the docks as I packed my things away, and the cold was merciless. The ends of my fingers were numb, from the cold and from holding my pencils for so long, and I blew on them and rubbed my hands.
For the first time that day, I realised I was hungry. My appetite had not been good lately – not surprising, considering certain events of late – and this sudden hunger took me by surprise. In my mind I could see a nice, juicy hamburger, with chips. Mmm… God, I had not fancied that for ages. I looked at my watch. It was coming up to 4pm. If I walked into town I could get a burger at the Bad Ass Cafe in Temple Bar. I adored their “Easy Peasy Cheesy Burger”, with lovely crispy bacon. I would gladly swap my granny for one of those.
I walked up the quays, huddled in my coat. Past The Ferryman and Dockers (RIP – this area was now just a shell of its former self. Literally. Some buildings here were now just fronts and nothing else), past Tara Street DART station that always spewed a constant stream of people into the street.
The sight of the Custom House, on the other side of the river, always made me stop, always made me look. I must have had at least twenty photos of that, taken over the years at different times and in different lights. I had done several drawings of it too. I loved it, especially at night, when the lights enrobed it like a regal cape and made it even more majestic. Its palatial dome, with the statue of commerce at the top, could be seen for miles.
As I crossed the street up near O’Connell Bridge and turned into Westmoreland Street, I spotted an old friend, Mark. He was on his bicycle, and as he waved he wobbled and nearly fell off!
“Hey, Marie!” he hollered, and I laughed as he pulled a face at me, eyes and mouth wide. He was such an eccentric. “Coming to Beshoffs for fish and chips?”
“No!” I yelled back. You learned not to be embarrassed in Dublin. “I have a craving for an Easy Peasy.”
Mark rolled his eyes.
“You and your Bad Ass burgers,” he said. “See you later in The Coronet?”
“Sure,” I shrugged. I didn’t really like The Coronet Bar, but Mark seemed to love it. Personally, I found it stuffy and overpriced. But I hadn’t seen Mark in a while so I relented.
“Okay,” he called over his shoulder as he wobbled off towards Beshoff’s.
Just as I was turning into Fleet Street, a car sounded its horn at me. I flinched instinctively. I was always getting blasted by cars as I crossed the streets around here. Dublin drivers were mad, but I have to admit that I never looked where I was walking. My head was always a dozen steps ahead of my feet, lost in dreams and planning my next project. Or looking into shop windows, or checking out people’s clothes…
But the car was not trying to turn where I was walking, so what the… ? It was on the street behind me and… I recognised the car, a silver Mercedes Coupe. And stone me if Conor was not behind the wheel! That peacock green flash of colour was unmistakable.
Why had he beeped at me? I frowned. From the driver’s seat, Conor waved, a huge grin on his face, like he was privvy to some very funny joke. I frowned harder.
And then he was gone, turning into Aston Quay and towards Temple Bar. gone, like he had been an apparition, a vision. But he hadn’t been. He had been real. And now that was twice today that he had acknowledged me. For five whole years – nothing. While I had been sitting and observing down by the canal, drawing my drawings of the docks and the people hanging around, I had never attracted any attention.
But today… maybe I had my dress tucked into my knickers or something. Maybe my hair was sticking up comically (I ran my hand through it and it seemed okay) or I had dirt all over my face. Whatever it was, Conor seemed very interested in me today.
As I shook my head and carried on along Fleet Street, I suddenly realised that I had not waved back, and that my face must have looked like a smacked arse!