Benny Profane takes over this edition of our regular flash fiction column, and finds himself wandering around in the shadow of the spire with a raging comedown. Sounds familiar.
Coming-to on O’Connell Street. It’s 7a.m on a Sunday morning in mid-March. I can’t remember at what point I left the rave. I’m in that delirious and tenuous twilight stage of inebriation; after the high and becoming more lucid but still very much in a giddy and reflective type of mood. A parade of random, non-linear thoughts march past the front of my brain and foggy memories from the night before come flashing back to me.
The party took place in the upstairs of a dingy Chinese takeaway just off Parnell St. It was cramped and loud. Mostly I remember the condensed sweat that hung in the air and gave the place a sticky-wet atmosphere; like breathing cotton-wool soaked in stale beer.
I got the shift off some bird that was stumbling about in fluorescent underwear whose tongue left a lingering after-taste of Sambuca and cigarettes; leaving behind the shadow of a sense-memory that my now fuzzy brain is incapable of eradicating.
The bright dawn is bursting across the sky with fluffy sun-drenched clouds floating under its aqua-blue dome. Errant seagulls squawk and circle overhead and on the street they fight over the strewn scraps of leftover takeaways. Their shrill cries pierce the drum of my ear sending a seismic shock through my delicate nervous system that quickly ripples down my frame.
The street is almost empty save the birds and a few fellow hedonists – the last stragglers of a long Saturday night.
The open streets are flooded in natural light and the noticeable lack of bodies and vehicles gives me an uncommonly private view of the usually busy surroundings. The emptiness of the city on a weekend’s early morning inevitably reminds me of those scenes of Cillian Murphy walking through London in 28 Days Later – except this time I’m the zombie.
As I slowly fumble down O’Connell Street my only companion is my own restless mind as useless ruminations rattle through my head.
For me, the buildings and monuments of O’Connell Street represent the sad and conflicting forces of modern Irish history. The social idealism and angry energy of figures such as Parnell and Larkin is juxtaposed with tokens of modern capitalism like McDonalds and Burger King.
Buildings and businesses that are flanked on either side of the road seem like emblems of Ireland’s materialist present. Buildings such as the embarrassingly gaudy Dr. Quirky’s Good Time Emporium, where desperate souls will eke away their existence feeding little coins into hungry machines while silently praying for that one lucky hit.
Huddled in the corner of the entrance is an indeterminate bundle of dirty nylon resting on flattened cardboard that will every so often shuffle about for a more comfortable position. These figures are dotted around in carefully chosen doorways as I make my way down the street.
My chemically-induced giddiness is beginning to wear off and the encroaching clouds of a stormy hangover begin to form at the front of my head. The bright blue sky is the colour of old jeans and helps in staving off this imminent headache, but my mind is still drawn to the symbolic disparity that exists between these buildings.
Past the souvenir shops, fast-food restaurants and tram works there is the General Post Office. I remember the countless tourists I’ve seen searching for the bullet marks in the pillars that stand outside the entrance; tangible reminders of the violence and struggle of our history now turned into a novel attraction for visiting tour groups. And of course directly in front of the GPO is that monstrous and redundant phallic eye-sore; the monument that encapsulates more than any other the hubris and short-sighted pride of that much lamented period in Irish history known as The Boom Times.
This is the spike on which the Celtic Tiger was impaled before being thrown into the pungent Liffey as just another piece of urban waste.
A replacement for Nelson’s Pillar; The Spire is a brilliant physical metaphor for how this country’s leaders managed to shake off the colonial yoke only to replace it first with a snivelling reverence for the church and then, when that didn’t work out, launched it into a reckless pursuit of prosperity through a smorgasbord of shallow financial policies. And now we’re left with this – this dull and arrogant statement of our lost fortune.
By the time I reach the end of the street my head has begun to pound with a dull thump that quickly halts my ambulation. I decide to take a seat under the statue of the man who gave this street its name. The sun has ascended even higher in the morning sky and as I lie down in between the bronze angels I begin to feel the soothing solar heat buzz around my body.
When I wake up this street will be packed.
Illustration by Fionnula Doherty.