Kenny waited for me at the Hayes Hotel, situated in Liberty Square, it was re-established as the Hayes in the 19th century about twenty some odd years after my great great grandmother fled her hometown in the last year of the Great Famine. She crossed the bridge of tears, joining the diaspora instead of the death tolls. She fled her homeland out of necessity, in an attempt to survive and at the small chance of carving out a decent life for herself. I had often dreamt of fleeing my own town and was now in the process of doing just that. Though motivated by very different circumstances, I think I have always yearned to desert my inner self, to shed the anxious layers within me and to go some place where I could be a transient guest.
No matter where I roamed I was still stuck with all the trauma and tension talking incessantly inside my troubled brain. I was the problem. You didn’t have to say it, I already knew it.
The Gaelic Athletic Association was founded within the walls of the Hayes in 1884. That is probably the only thing I knew about the GAA. I couldn’t wait to have a drink in Thurles, but I didn’t hurry to Cusack’s Bar, instead I wandered around after getting off the train from Dublin. I was far off into my own head, sunken within an awful subterranean level of my mind. I admired the square and read the plaques. I popped into Bookworm Bookshop and perused the selection, bought nothing but figured I’d return and get something later on to read. I passed the churches, both the St. Mary’s Famine Church and the Cathedral of the Assumption. I opened the door to the latter, peeked my head in and briefly entertained the thought of going to confession. Hi father, it’s been aeons since my last confession. I wanted to talk, to vent, not about what we did to Carlton, but about my staunch sadness, my parents and Ozzy’s death. I was bottled up dangerously tight only I didn’t trust the seal of the confession or the priest’s duty to uphold it. I had a fear of people knowing too much about me. I didn’t feel entirely penitent. As for Carlton, I would never broach that topic again. I knew what loose lips did and I had too much respect for the crew. My heart and mind were heavy with hatred, partly self-hatred and the rest of my enmity was distributed to various wack people and useless things, upon giving them any further mind made me wish the earth was steadfast into annihilation.
I doubt any priest, or any human rather, would want me to bore them with my babbling about how despondent I felt on this planet and how I thought death suited me better. I thought against it and kept moving, walking in circles past the hotel. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a connection to Thurles, as I felt connected to Whitestone. Even though I didn’t want it to be so. I didn’t want to love some of the people I loved. I didn’t want to be who I was even though I knew no other way to be. There are matters in this world, in a person’s lifetime that we just can’t help, no matter how badly we would like to change or correct them, it’s beyond our control.
I stopped for a moment on Barry’s Bridge, built around 1650 and partially reconstructed in 1820, it could use a little love, but don’t we all. It had nothing on the Whitestone bridge. It was unfair on my part to compare the two. The river Suir was shallow, and I thought that this was a jump I would definitely survive, no doubt. There was a bridge or two I had seen that I could paint and a few spots for fills.
I worked up the nerve to enter the hotel. I stood in the bar, tired and in need of a shower. My hair dirty under my Mets fitted cap. My only belongings shoved into a knapsack, which I removed from my shoulder and rested on the floor. I relished the nomadic vibe I felt I exuded. Al Green pleaded softly about finding a new world on the sound system. I knew how he felt. Mr. Craven had two copies of that record, he had the Hi records promo 45, which was the B-side and the 1969 Green is Blues album. The Rza sampled Gotta Find A New World on Ghostface Killah’s Iron Maiden, the first song on his 1996 solo debut of the same name. The difference of 27 years between the two releases, a span of time longer than what Ozzy had to walk on this earth. Carlton needed to be got.
Kenny saw me and rose up from the bar stool, “Colm. I feel like I have been waiting forever for you to show up. What’s the craic?”
“Yeah, like almost a hundred and fifty years.” I hugged my cousin as if it had been that long since I last saw him. “I’m very happy to be here, trust me.”
“Post up. You’re all squared away. This is your room key. Room number 59. You’re sorted out for a week. Starting now, you’re officially on holiday. When the week is through we’ll have a yarn about work and things. Pint?”
“I’d love one. Just the one.” It’s never just one, now is it?
“Aye, sound. What will it be?” Kenny asked.
“I’ve come all this way. I suppose my first pint in Ireland should be a Guinness, no?”
“Yeah. That’s a proper pint. Up Tipp.”
“Smash the Guinness stout,” I said.
“I’d say go and put away your things but you appear to be traveling light.”
“Yeah. Going for a clean slate kind of thing. You know, leave it all behind.”
“Sound. How’s your Da?”
“On to the next world.”
“I’m so sorry, Colm. It seems a lot of fellas are doing that lately.”
Kenny handed the pint to me and raised his own, “To your Da and brother Ozzy.”
“Slainte.” We drank the stout and the bartender lined up shots as the first pour of our next pints settled. Kenny, acting as my ambassador, loudly told the bar that I was his favorite cousin from the states. Half of the few patrons seated at Cusack’s bar seemed to be half interested in my arrival. I shook some hands and introductions were made but I was only half there, as I am only half of a person, and more likely than not, just left with the rotten half.
It occurred to me that planning for life was moot, it rarely went according to plan. No plans should be a rule. We can promote ideas for how we would prefer our lives to unfold, but the unforeseen variables are unavoidable. I planned on coming to Ireland a lot sooner. I didn’t foresee that I would possibly be on the lam. I planned on enlisting. I planned on coming to Thurles but I never thought of what we would have to endure to get here. No one plans for the heartbreak. No one dreams of the failure. Trouble has always found me, the heartache made a home, and the sadness, well the sadness never broke free.
I took a big swig of the black stuff and in the froth was a vision of the future, I saw the clouds above Memorial Park, and there was Martin underneath. It was my favorite place in the world and one of my best friends in this premonition. Martin was older, though he had aged well, pushing a stroller with a handsome little boy inside it. A boy named after his brother. He took little Ozzy out of the stroller. The boy was happy, and Martin sat him into the swing, snug into the bucket with his chubby legs dangling. The same park we ran through as children and held down as degenerate teenagers, and shamefully as young adults. The boy loved the swings. Martin pushed him gently with one hand, and sipped the weak coffee from the bagel store across the street in his other. Martin did this often, and from where he stood he could see the softball fields, and he’d peer unto the dugout and smile. It didn’t mend the fissure in his heart but he felt better knowing that Carlton was there under the concrete. Hitobashira achieved. Human fucking pillars. Martin knew the world was unscrupulous and crooked but for one specific life changing action, we gave a balanced reaction. I could hear the haunting voice of Lisa Gerrard off in the distance, singing blood for blood, without remorse. No more, no less. We added to the annals of the town lore, increasing the mystery and speculation in regards to the disappearance of Carlton Ailse.
With the future uncertain it was possible I’d never again relish in the greenery of the fields of Memorial. I had to be content with that.
What would become of us? Would we heal? Some do and others never heal, they’re unable to move forward, incapable of moving on. They can’t. Maybe I won’t either. It will remain a cold world. This life, despite my indifference at times, was about the experiences whether good or bad, and the lessons you learned from them were hard, but you learned.
If I never saw my friends again, my reverence and the bond would not diminish. Real friendship does not falter. It does not waver or decay, the fellowship endures. It lasts a lifetime. True friendship needs nothing, it wants for nothing, it just is. It exists without sustenance. It is a remarkable thing. No amount of time nor distance could erode our accord. You know we had the baddest motherfucking unit back in the days, kid. I guess everyone thought their group of friends were the best, but I knew ours was special. We had it, Raekwon the Chef and William Butler Yeats had it. And say my glory was I had such friends.
Ozzy was my best friend, and now he had become formless. He was a God, something mythical, and he might as well have been his own religion. He was the embodiment of our youth. He was a bridge between us. He was an example to live by. Ozzy was the device in which to gauge life. Losing Ozzy was one of the most difficult things that we ever encountered. We shared the trauma, and though we failed to fully recover, his death put everything else in perspective.
I raised my shot of whiskey to my friend, as I would for the rest of my days, knowing damn well, Peter Cushing was cloaked with scythe in hand and breathing on my neck, death stayed creeping.