Stephen Reid is from Westmeath, and since completing his BA in English and Geography at NUIG is currently studying an M.Phil in Irish Writing at Trinity college Dublin. He has had poetry published previously in The Ogham Stone and Boyne Berries.
Black Rose internal monologue
By Stephen Reid
Brass plate of the jamb to palm and in I go. Three coats being borne again before sweet September and Red Pat at the door inclines a nod of approval to my presence. Little ear-piece and the black jacket. Broody man with hairy hands and a wholehearted laugh.
Dark slick shoulders from fattened ripe rain drops. Off with my over-jacket, rendered too warm indoors.
Low purr of voices from above, good crowd, smokers all. Villagers. I pass in to the left to bypass the outward flow and pause to peruse the poster plastered support pillar. Lisa, Mick, James, dates, ticket prices. Layers of posters taped over the last. Strata of the changing sounds, trends and fashions, folk and synth.
Burly women pass between the armchair and my damp back, conscripting my right arm as a prop against the pillar to avoid being wedged. Once the herd has passed I side shuffle between some denims scrutinising The XX, making headway towards the bar. Folkincense.
Good pints tonight, good flow in the pipes. By the looks. Arthur owes an empire to the fashion of alcoholism. We see ourselves as the glorious beermats, Joyce’s drunks. Enough of that. A collective of humanity who use a substance as a national symbol because we’ve been told it’s what we do, and thus do.
Gluey counter top. Laura must be busy collecting glasses. I catch sight of her ponytail making towards the bar, glasses stacked and curved in Pisan towers. Her face has a reserved symmetrical beauty more favoured by magazines than men but there is a general consensus that votes in favour of her general form. A ride.
Slip a hand over the counter for a beer mat. Elbow mat now. Ingenious young man indeed. Pat on the back, Red Pat on the door.
Propped up, I cross my left leg behind my right for a casual air and wait to execute the ‘eyebrow nudge of power’ nationally symbolic of “the usual, yeah’’, which is always followed by a necessitated verbal order. “Two Guinness and a… Bulmers! Cheers thanks yeah cheers sound yeah.”
Delve the hands in search of paper. Left pocket, receipts. Right pocket, skins, crumbs, coppers. Shit hole of shit holes that place. Late bar though. Civil servants and wing backs. The cent drops, and with a grin I reach back to my left buttock pocket. Smooth and crisp, hologram and the bridge. Bridges on them all, but they won’t bridge much. Blue.
Two deep Guinness’ side by side on the slick black rubber in front of the taps. I throw a gaze around the room in a quick sweep. Full enough for a Thursday. Early still. Great analysis I think to myself, ground-breaking study of the population of the room, the mind’s old reliable when fresh thought is just a stretch too far. Routine malaise of cyclical thought, regurgitation. Quick flatulation. A loudy, but the bad music has it’s uses. Subterfuge.
I let my eyes drop to the floor, vacant, while my mind laughs at itself. Tanned floorboards worn at the lips, the grooves of the grain dark with decades of underfoot grit.
Returning my attention to the bar, Laura is topping off the pints, sands flowing down to blackness. Red, of course when held to light. Good thick head on one but she made a balls of the other. White iron all over her hand, and the glass. Good for the unborn. Everything in moderation except moderation itself, which is to be had with everything.
I always thought it tasted like blood, which was alarming considering how often I consumed it. Stoker never thought of that turn of events. The alcoholic Dracula ensnared behind James’s Gate! Arthur the hero and a round table on the house!
The two priestly glasses stand before me as she reaches for the third, their solemn collars starched and stout. Had they faces, they would be red cheeked and salubrious. Their companion joins them on the dais as Laura mouths “and a Budweiser, that’ll be thirteen sixty.” while motioning her head up and down over vigorously. “Eh yeah cheers, there’s fiche…eh twenty yeah.”
Fuck. One job. BUDWEISER. BULMERS. I mentally examine the oral formations of both words and resigned the conclusion that there was indeed room for error. Wise Bull.
The brick buzzes to life in my pocket. Scratched screen reads “b dare in 2, get pints”. Should’ve bought the drink after I left my jacket in the cloak room, I think to myself, but I could throw it over the back of a chair. Think to myself! Such a void statement. Who else would I be thinking too?
Warm change drops into my outstretched palm, her eyes already on the next. A man drinks the archipelago of his pint, all stubbled jowls and cocked baby finger.I unearth a piece of food wedged in a molar as my tongue probes and the eyes scour the room for seats.
“Ah there” I mumble. Girls gathering up coats and hugging in the dim snug. Formal friendly goodbyes. “Text me next week and we’ll get coffee yeah?” We always meet over some beverage. Thirsty for something. Conversation, or an excuse to drink? Ever thirsty. Drinks, drinks everywhere and not a drop to quench.
I make my move, making a trinity of alcohol between my interlocked knuckles I shimmy slide edge and glide towards my quarry, gentle sway in the creamy caps of my cargo.
Once seated I lean back, rubbing an upper lip in clichéd unnecessary movement. The day’s dormant earthy fragrances are rediscovered in the hand. The morning’s coffee and the afternoon’s Drum waft into my nostrils briefly, accompanied by the fresh whiff of warm coppers. Tongue twister.
Time! The first drink is a ritual. Anointment of the upper lip. Deep gulps hint at an actual thirst before my bottom lip envelops the rim of the top to remove my temporary moustache of cream.