Walking through Dublin in my mind
When I feel lost in Tanzania, I close my eyes and remember the place where I felt I belonged, writes Ceire Sadlier
I’ve been horrendously homesick this past while and sometimes when I feel really lost, I close my eyes and walk myself through my daily route to work in Dublin, to remember a place where I felt more connected to the ground, where I knew every corner and light and building and shop and pub and sign, and felt as though it all belonged to me and I belonged to it.
The heavy glass fire door closes with a soft whoosh and a click behind me. It’s raining and I open the sunflower umbrella that Harry gave me. Across the street, Ned’s early house is open already. I take a left and walk down Hyde Street past the gap in the fence from which dodgy characters occasionally emerge.
I take a right onto Pearse Street and cross over the road, the thousands of glossy black bars a-top the Trinity walls on my left, the blue and yellow and brown of Dublin buses on my right. Splash, splash, splash. I stopped there one winter morning, when my sister rang me to tell me that Mrs. Vaughan had died. That tacky fire-station nightclub is there on the right, then the old Yeast Co. shop sign further down, worlds apart.
I negotiate the few metres of cobbles at the entrance of Trinity before joining the crowd staring at the pedestrian lights. Twenty-nine seconds left. The sickly waft from Lush is not so strong at 8 am. The lighting and display in the pipe shop is always inviting. The fur shop is drab and never changing. The pedestrians are not as patient near Molly Malone, diving between buses, ignoring the red seconds counting down.
On Grafton Street I think of Jess and I holding onto each other for support, sliding around like ice-skaters one rainy day in our soft-soled shoes on the slippy, white bricks. There is a hole in the pocket of my military coat, and I can feel the coins bounce off my knee where they have slipped into the lining. I promise myself every morning that I will take them out when I get to the office.
Grafton Street is industrial at that time of the morning, white vans and brown boxes and grey skies and orange reverse lights. Every now and then it offers up some character, remnants of the Trinity Ball happily strolling in dirty tuxedos or the sparkly canopy of uplifting Christmas lights.
I follow the Luas line then, onto Harcourt Street, past the Odeon, where my umbrella once flipped inside out and I had to put it in the bin and the wind pushed me the rest of the way to work. The Starbucks on the corner always looks warm and I wonder what is in the briefcases that people carry. There is the ever-present smell of old beer outside the Bernard Shaw, where the novelty of cheap, plastic pitchers of beer is still new. And over the canal, the first break in the city as the white swans glare and the black water runs under the green canopy of trees. Past the Spar where I queued every lunchtime behind men who ordered egg salad and onion sandwiches. Then up the steps, through the white door, onto the worn green carpet and towards the kettle, rubbing the end of my cold nose with the palm of my hand.
The walk home is less routine. An overcrowded aerobics class at the YMCA on Aungier Street, shopping for dinner in Dunnes Food Hall on Georges Street, having a drink under the watchful eye of the dreadlocked barman in Hogans, looking across at the Long Hall and remembering the time I got into a fight with that woman because she wouldn’t stop leaning on me. Telling myself I should go to the cinema more often when I pass the Screen. Trying to be over-compensatingly nice to the Indian guy in the Centra who has just has to chase a verbally abusive, ten-year old thief out of the shop. Going into Ned’s of Townsend Street when the fire alarm rang for hours, the pub respectfully silent while Fair City was on, the group discussion on whether Leo’s bird was brown bread. Listening to the pulse of the passing Dart as I dig my feet deep into the heat of the electric blanket.
I miss you, Dublin.
Ceire has written previous articles for Generation Emigration about being tired of wanting to be in Ireland, Christmas in Lusaka, leaving good friends behind, being ignorant of the property tax as an emigrant, making a life in a place that isn’t ‘home‘, the very Irish way of being kind, and flying home for her father-in-law’s funeral. Her articles also appear on her own blog, theirishexzaminer.com.