On Friday evenings, we would usually go across to the Portobello pub to drink death-defying amounts of alcohol. However, one of our most popular colleagues, Kunak, was leaving, so, it being a special occasion, we went across to the Portobello pub to drink death-defying amounts of alcohol.
It had been a hot, summer day, hot enough that local kids had been diving into the cool water at the canal lock, while skiving office workers sunned themselves on the lush green banks.
The first pint tasted divine. There were about twenty of us sitting in the snug. The talk and the laughs came easily, as usual. I remember we got into a good game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (This is a game where you must connect actors to Kevin Bacon in the smallest number of movies; what is referred to as their ‘Bacon Number.’ Kate Winslet, for instance, has a Bacon number of two, since she has been in The Life of David Gayle with Laura Linney who was in Mystic River with Kevin Bacon. Laura Linney, therefore, has a Bacon Number of one. Kevin Bacon has a Bacon Number of zero, because he’s Kevin Bacon, and you can’t get any more Kevin Bacon than that.)
The light smattering of other patrons in the bar grew into a small crowd, as other offices closed for the evening, with people gradually coming into the bar in groups.
The door opened. A woman walked in on her own and stood at the door, looking around for someone. My heart sat up in my chest when I saw her. I wanted whoever she was looking for to be me. Then Kunak spotted her and they exchanged a wave. When she walked over, they hugged, and then the woman went to the bar to get a drink. I had heard Kunak say that a friend of hers was coming in, and that she was late. This must be the friend. I started thinking about how I could get this woman to be my friend too.
When she came back from the bar, she sat a few seats down from me, on the same bench, so we couldn’t see each other, but I could still hear her.
Weeks later she said: ‘I heard you before I saw you. I liked what I heard.’
‘You heard me first? So, that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years.’
As the night went on, and people between us got up to get pints, or go to the toilet, I noticed that she would move down a bit, until eventually she was sitting beside me. Hello, Martha. Hello, Aidan. Hello, Martha and Aidan. It was like that. Natural. Simple. Wonderful. From the very start.
When we began to talk, we were like two cogs in conversation. Instantly, to me, she was sharp, funny and beautiful. I had a feeling that she liked me. Miraculously, she liked me. The first time I made her laugh; the second time I made her laugh; when we laughed together – I wish I could remember those quips. If I could have that night back, in my mind, like a movie scene, I would cherish every syllable that we spoke. I would love to replay that moment, three hours after we met, when we first kissed. Her lips, her perfume. How exciting it all was. How right it felt.
The moment she walked through the door that evening, there was something inexorable about us. I knew it. She knew it. But how could we have known? We were interested in each other. It was lust. It was a shared sense of humour. It was chemistry, applied. And yet, I did know. I did. I did not feel it in retrospect, knowing what I know now; I knew it then, at that moment, that this was something special.
We spent the next week together. Seven days later, I told her that I loved her. Stupid. Foolhardy. Ridiculous. And yet, also, the truth. I did love her. And she told me that she loved me back.
This is an extract from ‘Corn Flakes for Dinner – a heartbreaking comedy about family life,’ publish by Gill books, and available online https://goo.gl/njiswo and in all good Irish bookshops.