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Nigel was sitting across from me in the Workman’s pub on the Dublin quays. I wanted to be back in my stiff hostel bed, to tell the truth. The night had worn itself out.

Me and the lads had to get out of London, so we got the ferry one evening and put down a three nights stay for a hostel. The weekend was too long a stretch for any of us to be around each other. I was woken up on the first night by Nigel rooting around in my bag, him thinking it was his.

Nigel had got in a fight with his mum. I’m talking claws – he still had marks down his face that his hair kept hidden. Daniel had the bright idea when we met up in the pub; Nigel’s mum is going to kill him, whether she has to come to Witherspoon's or one of our houses, she’ll find him. Let’s go where she won’t look.

Pure stupid. Daniel is always trying to be the dad of the group. It sickens me. This was no lads’ trip, no stag weekend – it was a few blowouts sputtering their way across the English Channel and collapsing on arrival.

Dublin was a bleak hovel of a city. Like if you took London and starved it for a few months, then put it under a rolling pin. Daniel was chuffed by it, and him talking about how they shot his favourite film here, Braveheart. Always going on about William Wallace and how proud he would be to see the independent Ireland he fought for up on its feet. We didn’t go to any museums.

The end of the first night was rough. Nigel got instantly too drunk and ended up asleep and soaked in sickness on some balcony smoking area. The nice barman let him sleep there a few hours, but come close, we had to shift him. He wasn’t moving until he felt more of his stomach to get rid of – that had him on his feet and all over my jacket in five seconds. The barman gave me a few pint glasses of tap water to rinse off with, but I ended up leaving the jacket on a stool outside.

Now this was the second night. We were in the Workman’s pub – the colourful smoking area where they served burgers. It looked like something out of Balamory, which Daniel also thought was in Ireland and hard won by William Wallace.

Nigel had gotten too drunk again, leaned into a kiss that wasn’t happening and got a few digs from someone’s boyfriend. Now we were sitting around a big barrel with pints and burgers between me and Dan, a big pile of hankies in front of Nigel.

He dabbed the little cut on his eyebrow with one of them. It stuck on when he dropped his hand and he left it there.

Another napkin in Daniel’s burger tray caught his eye. He took his lighter out of his pocket and lit it up.

“Oi, mate!” called Daniel.

He grabbed a few hankies from beside Nigel’s seat. He patted the fire down, left the hankies in a pile on the tray.

Chuckling in his congested kind of way, Nigel lit the pile of hankies up.

“Oi!” Daniel patted this down again, the pile climbing.

Nigel lit them up once again.

Daniel grabbed the sticky hankie from Nigel’s head to put out this one. Nigel yelped.

He got up from his seat and tried to flip the barrel like you would a table. With a proper heave he got it on its side, where it rolled a little bit before coming to a stop at the back wall.

“You’re fucking everything up!” said Nigel, “I’m just trying to have a good time.”

“Keep your voice down!” said Daniel.

I went to the bar to get another beer. I got in a queue with a girl, she was staring around the corner at our scrap.

“You with them?” she asked me.

“No, just me mates.” I said.

She gave me a slow nod, like I hadn’t made sense. We went back to her place and tried to have sex.

When I left hers the next morning, I tried to track them down. They could be anywhere in the city. I thought about that girl, who wouldn’t tell me her name. How she started crying when I asked her in bed, after we stopped trying to have sex anymore.

A name would be a good thing to take from that night, but I wasn’t going to force it.

I checked the hostel. No sign of the boys. Their bags were gone from the room – well, mine and Daniel’s were gone. Nigel had once again taken my bag for his.

Why go a day early? Something must have gone very wrong when I left Workman’s. I rummaged through Nigel’s bag for his return ferry ticket. Mine had been stowed away in the first night’s trousers, now riding Nige’s back to any known place.

Nigel’s bag contained a series of small knives and a pair of handcuffs. I dug deeper and found letters written in crimson ink, calling for the end to come swiftly. Strange bloke, Nige.

I don’t know why I left the hostel with Nigel’s bag on my back. It was one of those actions that thought doesn’t really prop up, like a pure reflex. Security checked my bag at the harbour and I was detained. The police were called. Not sure what I expected to be different.

Sitting in the back room of a Garda station, I thought about the look in Nigel’s eyes when he lit the hankies up. I was sitting across from him and felt like a ghost. The absent father of the friend group, not haggard enough to cause trouble but never active enough to help. Maybe I was the one that was fucked up.


Cian Geoghegan is a writer and filmmaker from Kildare, Ireland. He has written criticism for Film Ireland, but literary prose is where all the money is.


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