This is part of a series about living in Dublin and accidentally eating a club sandwich in a brothel in Dubai.
I had moved to Dublin from Oxford, and after a rough landing I was settling in. My flat felt safe. I reckoned that, since the addict had broken in shortly before I moved in, odds were that the flat wouldn’t burgled again until long after I had moved on. Magical thinking, I know.
Dublin did feel like a magical place, but not in a good way. The flat was close to some old castle that was a stop on the Haunted Dublin! tour. I don’t believe in ghosts or paranormal anything but there was something dark about Dublin.
And Dublin was ugly. I had moved from Oxford, city of dreaming spires:
As usual I am exaggerating. Oxford is beautiful but it is swarming wall-to-wall with crowds, like some science fiction movie about overpopulation. Dublin has some lovely buildings, but unfortunately too many like the one above. It too was heaving with crowds, tourists but also EU newcomers from Slovenia and asylum seekers from Nigeria.
I thought about how the English had subjugated the Irish, taxing them, viewing them as sub human, and doing nothing while a million Irish died during a succession of famines. The architecture says everything about who was the conqueror and who was the conquered.
I didn’t have much in common with my new friend, Toni, except that we were in our 40s while everyone else in Dublin seemed younger, and we were both determined to take advantage of being “over the pond” to travel as much as possible.
The Sunday papers advertised great deals on travel packages. “See Sunny Spain! Only 400 € for 5 nights inclusive!” Inclusive meant airfare, hotel, some meals, and drinks in a resort populated by English speakers who would never be made uncomfortable by having to speak Spanish.
Sunday morning. I texted Toni. “Wanna go to Dubai?”
“Tell me more,” she responded immediately.
“Only 500 € for five nites inc airfare & hotel,” I read from the ad in the Irish Times.
“Wow thats cheap lets go!” She was in.
But first I went to St. James Hospital to have my collar bone x-rayed. I was no longer on the National Health System; in fact I was uninsured, so I would pay cash.
I walked down Vicar Street to Meath Street to Bellvue to Marrowbone Lane to Robert Street, on to Newport Street, to Pim Street, past the Guinness Storehouse, followed the curve of Grand Canal Place to Echlins Street and finally to James Street.
Total distance: 1.6 kilometers, or just under one mile. That’s Dublin. There may have been a direct route but now I knew I could stop at Guinness on the way back— and use my right arm to lift a pint.
The hospital reminded me of a Mexican bus station. The waiting room was furnished with a motley assortment of worn plastic chairs, the windows and linoleum floor were grimy.
I paid up front; I think it was 80 €. I was called in after the x-ray was developed, and the doctor said, “There’s been no progress. It’s still broken and you’ll have to keep it immobilized for another eight weeks, at least.”
I was shocked. “But it’s been six weeks!” I didn’t mention that I hadn’t exactly been resting and taking it easy, that I’d been climbing a ladder up to a top bunk at a hostel, then washing windows and scrubbing floors in my two-story flat.
“How old are you?” he asked.
“46?” I expected him to say, “Wow! You look so much younger—I never would have guessed you’re even 40!”
Instead he said, “Well at your age, things take longer to heal.”
“If it doesn’t heal after eight more weeks, you’ll need surgery to screw in a plate to hold the two ends together.”
Surgery? A plate? F— that!
There’s nothing like someone telling me I’m in a bad situation to make me come out swinging, to declare that things are great.
I was going to Dubai, and it was going to be a blast!