Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Pub

Published: The Evening Herald, March 2009

THE INTERNATIONAL BAR

image029It’s funny the thoughts that run through your head sometimes. We’re holed up in the men’s jacks of the International Bar. Austin’s is about to cough up his sordid little secret. The one that’s eating him up inside. But all I can think about is the smell of Chinese food… Why does one of Dublin’s grungiest jacks smell so strongly of special fried rice?

On the television in the bar, Liverpool are trouncing Villa, throwing the Premiership title race wide open again. Alas, I’ve been seated all afternoon next to a four-eyed, replica shirt nerd. Think Statto from Fantasy Football League, but minus the charisma.

“Don’t get me wrong” he’s saying as I arrive. “I’ve got a lot of time for Rafa, a lot of time…”

A lot of time for Rafa Benitez? Yeah, next time the Liverpool manager drops by Xtra Vision in Phibsboro looking for tactical pointers, I’m sure he’ll really appreciate that. Idiot.

Austin is at the next table. I tap him on the knee.

“How’d you end up on Paddy’s night?” I whisper. “Did I see you sneaking off with that American bird?”

Austin’s face turns white.

“I’ll tell ya later”, he says gravely.

The big man looks fairly shook. A few nightmare scenarios run through my brain.

She’s pregnant… They’re engaged… He’s facing charges of assault.

Actually, that last one isn’t so implausible. The girl was really hammered. If I recall correctly, she sort of collapsed on Austin at closing time and dragged him away into the night.

Meanwhile my friend Austin, great guy and all that he is, would not be the most experienced or (I’m speculating here) tender of lovers. That is, if his efforts on the hurling field are anything to go by.

Perhaps the girl woke up the next day, remembered nothing and accused him of raping her? Oh God, the poor guy.

When he nips out to the jacks, I follow him.

“What the hell’s going on, man?” I ask him. “What happened?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it, alright?” he looks embarrassed, maybe even a little ashamed.

“Spit it out man, I might be able to help.”

He looks at his shoes.

“We went back to her hotel. Got into bed. Started kissing, you know yourself…”

“And?”

He stares at the floor for an eternity. (That smell… There’s got to be an air vent outside the window. There’s no other explanation…)

Finally, looks me directly in the eye.

(Christ, I could really go for a chicken satay right about now…)

“She diddled herself…”

She what? My brain whizzes into overdrive. Sports injury? Drug reference? Eventually, it clicks… Oh, dear Lord!

“You mean she…?” I intimate.

Austin nods solemnly, miming the…

“Diddled herself, yes.”

I collapse against the hand dryer. “That’s it?” Tears are streaming down my face. “For fuck’s sake Austin, you had me worried for a second. So she diddled herself, so what? It’s safe, isn’t it? Shows a bit of initiative too… What did you do?”

He shrugs.

“You didn’t?”

“Well, if you can’t beat ‘em…” he says.

I roar with laughter, but Austin shushes me.

He hisses in a low voice.

“Now listen Eoin, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t …”

I cut him off.

“How long have we known each other, Austin? You’re a dirty, dirty man. But your secret is safe with me. I won’t breathe a word.”

We shake hands.

“Thanks Eoin”, he says. “I really appreciate it.”

By the time he emerges from the bathroom, it’s all over the bar.

“She diddled herself” says an auld guy on a stool, slapping the man beside him. “I never heard the like of it before. She DIDDLED HERSELF!? Lord have mercy…”

Photo: Delaney’s Bar, Ballyhaunis