by Brendan Strong
It took me six hours to get home Monday. Seven, if you include the hour rushing from the office to the train station, then back up to Georges Quay to get a bus home.
The clouds had skidded across the sky, colliding with the ground. No one can say for sure who came out best. The Snow, bleeding ice across the road looked back to the bruised sky, putting on an air of indifference.
The ground lay there, taking the pounding; covered in that ice, overwhelmed and undermined. It was no support to anyone. It’s whole purpose fundamentally slipping away from it.
Me, I had to get on the bus, one sliding foot at a time. I had the oshit moment of seeing the bus there, on George’s Quay, but being on the other side of the river to it. I had that cramp inducing fast-stagger, which occurs when ice, rain or booze is down. Attempting to swing your hips faster, but holding back your legs so they can provide the required traction. It’s lights came on. Oshit. The door closed. Oshit. It stood. It stood while I staggered toward it. There was the driver, reading his paper (or perhaps someone else’s, but this is not something I can bear a grudge about), until he saw me, meekly pawing at the glass. A desperate dog looking to get out for a leak or in for a meal. “Do you go to…?” &c.
I was on the bus. It was on the ice, which was on the ground. There seemed in this minor triumph a great was had been won. I had vanquished the earth (ground), the heavans (snow, ice) and man’s own unique genius and mechanical ability (a bus). I was going home. Any time now.
Fifteen minutes, later, we were off. A bunch of young lads at the back on their way for a night out to Waterfrod discussed career options and questioned each other’s wisdom and ability to deal with “reality”. An old lady across the aisle started snoring, a couple around smiled to each other. Ain’t it quaint. Q102 was on teh radio, so there were headphones in my ears. Charles Mingus, whose trumpets were too fast and screaming traffic-like for the thudder-judd momentum of the bus. We stalled our way toward home (and a party in Waterford).
I read my book. Finished it. It was very good – Why I Am Not A Christian, a collection of essays by Bertrand Russell on the subject of religion and unthinking following. And, of course, a lack of rational argument/intercourse/imagination that is causing much of the misery in the world. My misery was caused by the to-ing and fro-ing of the young lad’s carrers, while cars careered from one side of the road to another. One car managed to slide its way forward, only to be stopped by gently tapping the bumber of the 4×4 before it. No one seemed to notice except me. I heard the tree falling. But perhaps I am only telling you I heard a tree fall. If I didn’t see it, how can anyone be sure? I suppose we could go and look for it. It’s a tree; must be around somewhere. Although, they can be hard to pick out when one is in the woods.
Two hours later, at Newland’s Cross, we picked up an angry fellow and his companion. They had waited three hours (he claimed). He was frozen and kept saying he felt like having a fight. I was resolute: I shall pretend this fellow doesn’t exist. That way, he’ll overlook me if he does “burst someone” as he claimed he was going to. He also claimed it wouldn’t be his fault. It was because his brain was frazzled. This he said down the phone to his girlfriend, who was waiting for him in Carlow. He told the young lads discussing their future to shut up.
An hour or so after that, before the Citywest campus, teh angry fellow asked the lads for a cigarette. As he attempted to smoke it in secret, he asked them where they were from. They ended up quite good chums, as it goes. Those poor lads, on their way to a party in Waterford.
Thirty minutes later, the phones started ringing. Una voce: “No, the traffic is dreadful. The roads are snowed over, everyone’s going slow, I’d say there’s been breakdowns and maybe even people running out of petrol!” Una voce: “I am telling the truth! I got the bus nearly three hours ago!” The lads were missing their night. The angry fellow’s brain was really fried now, and he was no way not going to burst someone soon. This must be how the ground felt; trying to do its job, to be what it is, only to be stimied by the cloud-crash ice.
Then, things started to slow down. My MP3 player died. I’d read and re-read a number of essays in my book. The angry fellow was mumbling something about bursting anyone who said anything to him about smoking (or at least that’s what I could hear coming from under the seat behind me). A kindly fellow, a real goody-two-shoes came round to ask if anyone was going to Kilcullen. I know what this usually means – We want to bypass your town. Please let us. No way, I said. We’ll stop in Kilcullen. Drop me at the motorway sliproad if you will, but you’re not bypassing my wife and child and me. Angry fellow, on his way to Carlow, was wont to burst me at this point, but perhaps didn’t hear my protests under the seat.
In the central margin, abandoned cars, car tracks, footprints. Snow covering it all. Making a secret, somehow purer than muttering idle threats from under the seat of a coach.
Hours later, we pull up the Naas slip road. Then stop. Bus driver has to talk to another bus driver, so pulls over. Off the bus, I have a smoke, keeping an eye on my seat and (moreso) my laptop. Back on the bus, the angry guy was telling the young lads about the fights he’d been in. They offered up their own examples of unique technique in tight situations. So close to home, but so far away, I thought of that story, Cannibalism in the Cars.
Finally, we get to Naas town centre. But there is another wait. I suppose it is fair the driver allowed people off to get Abrakebabra, &c. When one is low on cash and patience, such fairness seems a dreadful slight. Angry guy concurred, making me change my mind immediately. On the phone to his missus, he went on about being in Naas, having to get up again at five, threatening the bus driver to get the bus moving again, &c. It went on. His voice being clearer, he had evidently some out from under the seat, and he was really in the mood for a fight now.
We were off again. Next stop, Kilcullen, where thirty or so minutes later, I alighted and slided my way home, across the vanquished ground, riding on the victorious packed ice, feeling cold and smoky and ready for my dinner.
Georges Quay-Kilcullen (c. 50 km), 6 hours.