The pub looks great since the last time I saw it although it wasn’t open to the public then. The various pictures and knick-knacks make the place look authentic although the pog ma hoan sign makes me cringe. I’m delighted the hysteria from my arrival has died down but more importantly I’m just glad to be indoors. I must be sober at least eight hours now and running on empty since the sun absorbed whatever little strength I had. My mam looks great; nicely sun-kissed but not overdone, as does my sister even if she is a little burnt on the shoulders. Everyone looks a picture of health while I struggle to hold the glass of coke in my hand without shaking.
“Did you leave your apartment at all the whole time you were in Portugal? Usually you go black when you’re away? And I can tell you certainly haven’t been cooking any pasta like I told you. Look at yourself you’re wasting away.”
Jesus I really can’t get away with anything.
“It wasn’t really that sunny-more cloudy.”
My stomach’s in ribbons and I badly need a drink, but given that I’ve already aroused suspicions I need to play it safe.
“So come on San aren’t you going to show me some of these world famous bar skills I keep hearing about and pull your brother a pint?”
I study intently as she pours a sweet golden pint that looks straight out of a television commercial. I try my best to look casual as I take a soothing sip of my sweet nectar but my shaky hand gives me away. I quickly scramble for a pre-emptive strike before I’m barraged with questions and settle on the reliable.
“So have you heard from Dad at all Sandra?”
“I was speaking to him a couple of weeks ago. He had another girl.”
“What! He dumped that tart for someone even younger?”
I know exactly what she meant, but the fact my sister still remains in contact with him is genuinely dumbfounding.
Sandra simply chooses to ignore my comment “I think her name is Jenna and she’s fourteen weeks old”.
I decide not to press any further because for once my father actually served a purpose even though quite fittingly he had no input.
“So any news back home?” My mother says looking to switch the subject.
“Nah nothing’s changed back home-still always raining, and all everyone talks about is the recession.”
“I’ve seen quite a lot about that and AIE is in the news quite a lot lately.”
“Really? I wouldn’t worry about it Mam AIE can’t possibly go under. They’re the biggest insurance company in the world. On the plus side I might actually be able to afford a house in the next twenty years.”
“House prices have been ridiculously overinflated for years now.”
A point clearly lost on my mother, for if it wasn’t for that “ridiculous inflation” a remortgage on the house to finance this pub would never have been possible.
“Sure everyone in Ireland knew that, well except for the “poor” banks of course. Personally I’m delighted. I hope the whole funds industry rapes and pillages itself until it eventually swallows itself whole.”
“I hope you remember this conversation when you’re in here begging me for a job.”
“Begging? If this horrible pint Sandra pulled is anything to go by you’ll be relieved to have me,” I say creating the perfect foil to return to my drink.
The early morning sun casts an orange glow on the trees making the leaves shimmer a golden brown and although I can see everything clearly I’m still unsure if I’m awake or asleep. The overpowering taste of Jack Daniels in my mouth confirms I’m not dreaming and is backed up by the goalpost that I find myself leaning against. I have no idea where I am or how I got here but am not particularly surprised. I’m not sure if it’s the tranquil surroundings which seem so beautiful under the morning sunshine, or the fact I’m still drunk that has me so relaxed about my current predicament. I look around as if expecting to uncover some miraculous discovery, which will piece together my missing night but all I can see is a football pitch, and some trees. I’m about to search my pockets for my phone but my eyes are distracted by a red stain which appears to be blood, or maybe tomato ketchup from a hotdog on my shirt. I have a quick scan around my body to see if I’m hurt but everything seems okay. I continue to rummage for my phone-hoping it’ll provide some answers-but come up short. The only thing left in my pockets is a stick of gum which means I’ve also lost my wallet along the way. I try to retrace my footsteps but to no avail; I remember having a few drinks in the bar, then heading to another pub to get in some proper drinking time, before ending up in Chasers nightclub, did I see Sandra there?
The night is a total blur-all I have is a beginning, and the prospect of revealing the middle or end is too much for my head to take right now, especially when my energies would be much better channelled finding my way home. The trees seem like as good a place as any to start and when I arrive there I’m surprised to see a path leading straight to the park entrance. The first thing to greet me upon my exit is a billboard of a man smiling with the words “It could be you” which is an advertisement for the lotto. I remember seeing the board earlier in the taxi because I thought the guy looked so fake, which means I’m right around the corner from the English pub and only a twenty-five minute walk from home. I’m so relieved the epic adventure I braced myself for has turned out to be nothing more than a nice relaxing walk under the unusually friendly sun.
I’m surprised to find the back entrance to the pub is open but given the fact I don’t have a key I really shouldn’t be. I creep in using all my stealth heading straight to the tap for some much-needed water.
“What the fuck happened to your face?” Is asked causing me to squeal like a high pitched girl, and before I’ve fully turned around she’s already up out of her seat examining my face.
“Jesus Mam you frightened the life out of me,” I say while trying to keep her prying hands away from my head.
“Look at yourself? You’re a mess. What happened?”
I’ve no idea what injury it is I’m meant to be defending, already making my impending lie a non-runner.
“I tripped on a kerb on the way home.”
“Oh I see…was this before or after you got bottled?”
I can’t gauge by her tone if she’s being sarcastic or over dramatic but I’m guessing the stains on my shirt are not from a hot dog. I stare at my mother hoping to muster something inspirational but end up shrugging my shoulders like a bold child.
“Are you not in pain? Let me feel,” and craning my head forward she examines it with a less than subtle finger.
“Aggh be careful.”
“Your head’s in a right mess. What did you clean it with?”
“I didn’t think it was necessary I assumed the alcohol would have sterilized it.”
“You stupid bastard I’ve been up all night worrying my ass off since your sister told me what happened. I thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere and you think this is funny? I’ll fuckin’ Jimmy Carr ya.”
I apologize but it comes out as an automatic reflex sounding insincere.
My mother immediately begins tending to my wounds, patting down the top off my head with a wet towel before liberally applying a bottle of Dettol to the source. I try not to scream as the Dettol burns in my scalp, grinding my teeth, and clenching both fists in an attempt to play down the injury to my mother. Every last ounce of reserve energy I summoned is instantly relinquished causing my head to spin furiously and if I don’t reach a chair in the next five seconds I’m going to pass out. Pushing my mam aside I make a last-ditch dive for the chair but it’s all too much, and I throw up all over myself and the kitchen floor. I curl up into a ball at the kitchen table closing my eyes in the hope that it’ll somehow make the rollercoaster stop.
I can hear my mam cleaning up my mess. I want to tell her I’m sorry, tell her that I’ll sort myself out, and hug her but I can’t look at her now. It’s all too real.
“Come on we need to get you to bed,” she says placing her hand on my shoulder.
I lift my head to discover my mother is the picture of sadness, like when in a cartoon if a character is sad they turn blue. I desperately try to say something poignant or reassuring but end up blankly staring again.
“We can talk about this later,” she says placing her arm around my waist to guide me towards bed.

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From the beginning.

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