by Brendan Strong
…on the bus to my train these days, because the LUAS works just mess everything up. It’s yet another block in a wall that threatens to one day fall on me. Feeling sorry for myself, I was glad to receive a call from my brother. For one thing, it’s something of a minor tradition – he calls me maybe once a week as I traverse Dublin’s quays on foot and public transport. The other thing is it’s always good craic. No matter what’s pissing us off, he or I will make the other one laugh.
It’s a good feeling.
We were having our usual conversation: How’s work, how’s home, how’s the kids… each waiting for the other to make the first joke and send us off onto some bizarre mental plain.
I was on the top level of a bus, looking around when I spotted someone sitting on the outside of the bridge at Usher’s quay. Above her, two Guards seemed to be talking to her. There was a head between the balusters. Some messer or dosser or junkie, doing something stupid without realising – or caring – about the danger they were putting themselves in. Getting a dressing down from hard put-upon Guards, just trying to get through the day.
As we talk about a friend, the bus moves along; a closer, parralax view tells a different story.
It’s a girl and she looks younger than me. She is wearing decent enough clothes. Her shoulders slumped, her hands on either side of her, on the very edge of the bridge. Just holding on, or getting ready to push off? The bus stops as I say
“Jesus Christ, someone’s about to jump off a bridge on the quays!”
“Yeah. It’s this girl, there’s two Guards there talking to her or something and there’s… Oh Jesus, – the other person is another Guard. She’s obviously talking to her.”
For a moment – a full, complete, whole, lasting, long, moment – the bus is stopped, I am silent, my brother is silent and the Guards are paused. People must be getting off the bus, getting on, going about whatever they do. A life continuing around, or beyond the moment.
The bus moves – a Guard jumps the balustrade – I turn my head to see – we’ve gone too far – there’s nothing of that scene to see.
“Jesus Christ” I say
“Jesus” my brother says
“Jesus” over and over. A lapsed prayer. I don’t believe in God, but I believe in hope. A hope for the girl, who was maybe hopeless. Who knows? Could this happen in daylight, in a city?
I am suddenly concious that I am a life passing by, as someone is trapped in a moment. Whoever she is, I wish her well. All the bricks threatening to fall on me, they’re made of cotton and clouds. The moment I’m in is a postscript to a previous – talking to my bro, getting on the bus- or a prequel to the next – talking to my bro, getting on the train.
Suddenly forced to think of a moment in and of itself. With no prequel (how can I know what happened before?) and no sequel (I don’t know what happened next, but I hope for her something happened next – that it didn’t end there). Just a moment. A Guard vaulting a balustrade, one arm on it, the other groping toward
What? I have no idea. The bus whisked me toward Heuston as I tried to describe the whole moment to my brother…