Since Joanne’s last sucker punch I’ve pretty much shied away from the group entirely, which given that I wasn’t having breakfast with them anyway meant just skipping lunch.
The lads don’t really have the time either, or else lunch at random intervals, so I pretty much fly solo. Lunch like the rest of my day has merely become another time slot to kill.
I simply use it to run errands, pay bills, and other miscellaneous chores, although occasionally I’ll go to the cinema, or get my hair cut up on Harcourt Street. The last flick I saw ran for over two hours yet I returned to nothing more than some forwards, and a generic group email from HR I didn’t even bother open. I’m pretty tired from the cans and “Shameless” marathon, which ended sometime around three this morning. I didn’t even do it because I wanted to but simply because I could-it’s not as if I have a job anymore.
I begin my morning rounds and head for Ludovico, when I meet Christina along the way greeting her with my customary wink, and “good morning”, which she ignores, nearly walking through me in the process. What the fuck is that girl’s problem? That’s the third time this week. At first, I assumed she was either preoccupied or that I was reading too much into it, but she definitely blanked me this time. We’ve never been close but shared a certain bond by the fact we both joined the company the same week and had the same induction programme. She’s a stunning looking girl, pretty much picture perfect, but like her fellow sex sirens, she shares the same basic deficiency in that she has no personality. The girl is fit and most certainly knows it. Trying to converse with Christina is painful at best, and a responsibility I leave to the rest of her ever-present legion of goons, who flock and cater to her every whim. I still can’t look Sean straight in the eye since I caught him doing her nails at her desk last week. I creep up behind Ludo and am genuinely shocked to see he’s doing some work.
“What’s the story Ludo?”
“We’re snowed under no thanks to you dickhead.” He says.
“Don’t worry I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”
“Weeks! I’m dying here as it is. Evelyn’s been riding me like a Shetland pony, and that drilling outside has me close to a mental breakdown.”
I laugh but this clearly doesn’t go down well.
“I’m serious Anthony I went to my doctor the other day and she said it’s not healthy, and that if my headaches persist she’ll sign me off on sick leave indefinitely.”
“Would you get a grip of yourself joker. For a start the drilling’s over the far side of the building, and I sat right beside the nearest window since day one without a problem.”
“I’m sorry Dr. Thompson I didn’t realize you obtained your PhD?”
“You’re some drama queen. By the way, I just ran into Christina what’s her problem?”
“Stupid cow’s probably carrying Ronan’s baby because she confused her birth control pills with tic tacs.”
“She’s with Ronan now?”
“Hello Tony that’s old news. I don’t know what her latest problem is, but I heard she was crying uncontrollably in Lagoona the other night.”
“Nothing new there then. One of her ball-less lackey’s mustn’t have lavished her with attention for all of five minutes.”
“Speaking of which I heard your mate Sean was all over her.”
“Any other news?”
“Karen reckons it’s only a matter of time now before her beau proposes. She’s been sending him pictures of her tits all week from the ladies toilets to try speed the process.”
“Now there’s a text message I’d love to receive,” I say while cupping my balls.
“You’re a filthy animal. She better not have her wedding in some salt of the earth hotel because I’m not wasting my good Versace suit on that.”
“Let’s just hope you’re alive to see it, and that your brain aneurysm from the drilling doesn’t finish you off before then,” I playfully pat his head and leave him return to his deadlines.
I’m about to revisit my desk when I hear the securities lending team cackling so head over to investigate and notice even Doherty has tears streaming down his face. I go straight over to Damo who’s bent over his desk almost purple from the laughter.
“What’s so funny?” I say almost paranoid the laughter’s at my expense because I’m so out of the loop.
Damian tries to calm down but the more he tries to explain the situation the more his lungs fill with laughter.
“D-di—did you not see the email HR sent?” He says as he turns the monitor towards my eager face. I briefly scan through the email as fast as I can, and by the time I’m finished I’m in hysterics too.
“I can’t actually believe HR would send out an email to the entire staff lambasting the phantom menace.” I say.
“The last bit is the best-“if the individual responsible would like to discuss any problems with either ourselves or a trained professional we are here on standby, and will fully support you in a non-judgemental manner.”
“I don’t know the bit about “defiling the work environment like an animal” is priceless. When did this all kick off?”
“I’m not sure. The first I heard about it was the email, although Gar said he heard through the grapevine that the jacks was proper fucked up-shit on the door handle and everything. At this stage Doherty turns around from his desk and chimes in “Apparently it was even caked into the wall cracks.”
“Jesus that Heather really is one sick bitch,” I say setting the lads off again.
“Nah my monies on the Grill-she’s the only fucked up enough to do something like that,” Doherty says.
“You know you might have a point, judging by those nasty leather skirts she wears she could be into all kinds of freaky fetishes.” I say.
“I haven’t got out earlier than eight all week because of that cunt. I wouldn’t mind but half the stuff she demands by C.O.B isn’t even necessary. She keeps me back out of spite. Still on for a few gargles?” Damian asks.
“Can’t-Sandra’s at her most fertile so my swimmers have to be in tip-top shape.” Doherty says.
“Yeah I’m in Damo,” I add and return to my desk to count down the seconds until pub time.
I’m mulling over my second pint by the time the lads finally walk through the doors of Lagoona. Damo’s accompanied by Sean, and Flynn. They order their drinks at the bar before Damo spots me and joins me with Flynn.
“Sorry about the delay Thompson but the Grill decided to call a team meeting at 17.29,” Damian says.
“What has you out tonight Flynn? I thought you’d have been on the first train out of the pale to your beloved fair Wexford.” I say.
“What was it he called us Thompson? Something about Dub jackeens…”
“Where’s Sean?” Peter asks. I can see exactly where he is but let the lads turn around to get their own confirmation.
“Not Christina.” Damian says.
“Like you wouldn’t tap that Lawson given half the chance,” Peter says.
“I wouldn’t touch her with your deformed cock Flynn. The girl’s parasitic.” I say.
Peter scoffs at this remark and looks to Damian for support.
“I’m serious Flynn. She’s your typical fuckin’ culchie.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Peter asks.
“She comes up here to the big smoke like Bambi caught in a fuckin’ car’s headlights, and proceeds to do what all you culchies do.”
“Drink in Coppers, Roddy Bolands, and McGowens, while cheering on your rogue bastard county in the GAA, hurling or whatever muldoon sport it is you muck savages are into, as long as the team in question is playing Dublin. Then if they win you celebrate with knock-off culchie drinks-from your Mickey Finn shots to your Shark and Club Energizer mixers-each county united in one fat sweaty mess, while stumbling around to “Galway girl”.
“Fuck off Thompson.”
“Don’t get so defensive Flynn. After all you’re almost an honorary Dub. So many Dubs have Caravan’s down in Wexford it’s practically part of the pail.” Damian adds.
“C’mon Peter admit it, you’re amongst friends here. It’s as if you boys receive a culchie handbook upon entering the pale equipped with Coppers concessions. You come up here and bitch and moan about everything; the price of a pint, the traffic, the weather, the women, and yet fail to realize that without Dublin you’re nothing. If it wasn’t for Dublin you wouldn’t have a job, and you’d be back at home picking strawberries with your cousins.” Peter begrudgingly lets out a laugh because he knows he has no come back, certainly not while he’s outnumbered at least.
We continue to down pint after pint and I’ve broken my seal meaning I need to take a piss every fifteen minutes. I’m about to push through the gents door when I’m accosted by Christina. “I know you hate me Tony,” she says.
“What?” I muster out, caught off guard by the randomness of her statement.
“I know that you hate me, you don’t have to pretend anymore,” and with that her face begins to shrivel up like a prune and the first wave of tears begin to flow.
“For Gods sake I’ve no idea what you’re on about Christina.”
Through the tears the only word I can make out is “crazyhorse” which is definitely something I would say.
“Christina who told you that crap?” I scan around the bar for possible candidates when I see Sean and it all adds up.
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Christina I know it was Sean (which her facial expressions straightway confirm) and the only reason he told you that is because he’s trying to get into your pants.”
“Sean and I are just good friends.”
Like any man would ever want to just be your friend.
“So I suppose he told you all about his long term girlfriend then?”
Even through the tears her eyes give away her surprise.
“But why would Sean lie?”
“Can’t you see what he’s doing here? He tells you that I’ve been saying x or y and then swoops in like a knight in shining armour, and reassures you that you’re not any of those horrible things like Anthony says you are. No Christina I don’t think you’re a crazyhorse, I think you’re beautiful etc…”
Christina suddenly stops crying. I can see her pupils have become huge and I know what I’ve said has really hit home. I must have been right on the money with Sean’s pickup line. I go in for the hug and whisper in her ear that I think she’s a great girl, and that I’ve thought so ever since we met on that induction class. She apologises in the comfort of my chest while I stare over at Sean-checkmate you fuckin’ prick, checkmate.
I finally release my grip and run my thumb over what tears remain on Christina’s cheek.
I quickly make my excuses and head to the toilet safe in the knowledge that everything is now fine between us.
When I return to the table the lads are dying to know what happened, because while I was in the toilet Christina stormed straight over to Sean, shouted something about a girlfriend, and slapped him in the face. I look to where they were seated and can see them both engaging in a heated debate before Christina storms off into the night with Sean following behind like the spineless rat he is.
“I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend,” Peter remarks.
“He doesn’t,” I say.
I then proceed to tell them in great detail how that scumbag Sean tried to sell me out to that crazyhorse to get in her knickers.
“He’s always at the type of crap. Last time I was chatting to Lisa on a team night out and he totally cock blocked me. Mid-conversation with her he asked me how things were going with my ex, and had we decided to give things another go? Slimy bastard.”
The night continues in the usual vain and alternates between slagging each other or our work colleagues off until we’re all bitched out. Then it hits me after a particularly long bout of silence how little we have in common other than our shared hatred of work. Peter’s the first to go citing a chance of getting a late dart as his reason for leaving. We grab another drink, one which isn’t wanted by either of us. I can see Damo has something on his mind as he peels away at his beer bottle.
“So where do we go from here Thompson?”
I shrug and say that “I don’t really care as long as it’s not Howl at the Growl, maybe D2?”
“I meant in life. There has to be something better than drowning your sorrows in a pub you don’t even like surrounded by people you hate,” he says.
“But what is that something better Damo? Every fuckin’ year we keep having this conversation, and every fuckin’ year we stay. I mean Christ it’s your second time back here.”
“That’s because as much as it pains me to admit it-AIE is the best of a bad bunch, but I can’t stay here indefinitely. I’m getting close to thirty now and I give it two, three years tops before I burn out.”
“I’m in the same boat except younger Damo. I came from school into this shit-at least you had those golden years at college. We’re here because of math pure and simple.”
“Math?” Damo asks.
“Math, yeah math. There are officially thirty-eight funds companies in the whole of Ireland, and out of those thirty-eight companies I’ve already worked for five. Now when you consider the fact that most of these companies are either owned, subsidiaries, or sleeping fucking sister shells of one another I’ve probably ruled myself out of…let’s say thirteen companies. So that means I’m left with a probable pool of twenty-five. Now you know how much staff jump from company to company-you could hand in your notice over the phone tonight and have another job by Monday. So the old manager who was the reason you left your job in the first place could very well be your potential new boss. This narrows the list even further-let’s say twenty. Then when you factor into account all the fund industry hellholes that have notorious reputations i.e. your Citibank’s, and Bicey’s etc…you’re left with…probably fifteen companies. Last but not least not every company has the same set of departments to match your skill set, or jobs available when you’re looking, withering the list down to a potential 8-10 companies.”
“So that’s it? We’re all fucked so act accordingly,” he says and downs half his beer.
“Well basically yeah. There’s no longevity in funds no matter what way you look at it.”
“So why would anyone get into it?”
“The same reason we’re in it-math. How many times have you been literally seconds away from firing off that glorious resignation email only to open up your pay cheque and think-hmm maybe I’ll hang on just a little while longer.”
Damian begins to laugh at the realisation and we both clink beers together.
“Suppose you’re right. If it wasn’t for the Celtic Tiger you’d be sweeping roads, or selling big issues.”
“And don’t I know it. Fuck there’s no way I can feasibly justify my paycheque never mind the bonuses.”
“But therein lies the problem. What good is money to you if you can’t even spend it because you’re pulling all-nighters…”
“Or shooting blanks like Doherty.”
“I was chatting to him the other day and he said the only chance he has of having a baby now is by having a child of science.”
“To be expected considering the pressure he’s been under. So c’mon Damo what are the alternatives?”
“Well I was half thinking about moving to Oz.”
“Yeah just what Australia needs another two clueless wandering paddies, and besides the place is full of culchies. You take the sun away and it’s like a bad day in Monaghan. Last thing I want to do is end up singing the “Fields of Athenry” with a tri-colour draped around my shoulders.”
I can tell Damian’s starting to lose patience with my negativity and his eyes start to roll.
“So what then?” He says.
“I don’t know. That’s my point. I don’t know anything else but funds, and what qualifications I have I could write on my foreskin.”
“No qualifications, check. Negative, and whiney, check. No apparent future, check. Congratulations you’ve ticked off all the boxes for becoming a taxi man.”
“I can’t really drive though.”
“Either can they.” He says and with that the subject matter is closed and the night peters out in a drunken haze with neither of us anymore the happy for initiating the conversation. For me it only reaffirmed what I already knew.