‘It’s a choice between my marriage and my old school. And tonight my marriage has won’
Cheating on your wife, I’ve always thought, is like getting a dent in your bodywork. When you do it once, for some reason it becomes easier to do it again and again.
Not that you could classify what I’m doing here as actual cheating. All I’m doing is treating the Widow Trenier to a meal in the famous l’Ecrivain in the hope of persuading her to vote against Castlerock College going State-funded in September.
All we need is her vote and the proposal will be defeated. And I have no intention of leaving this restaurant tonight without it, even if it means giving her the impression that I’m (a) single and (b) in the morket for an older woman.
“Can we just get one thing out of the way?” she goes, looking at me over the top over her menu. “We’re here to discuss Tom McGahy’s proposal to abolish fees, aren’t we? I mean, it’s not a date. God, I feel ridiculous even saying those words.”
I’m there, “Why do you feel ridiculous, Terri?”
Always use a bird’s name. That’s a trade secret I’m letting you in on. It makes them think you give a fock?
“Well, firstly your age,” she goes. “And secondly, well, I haven’t been out for dinner with anyone since Beircheart passed away.”
Beircheart! Jesus! He actually taught me in first year, although I can never remember what. When he died, Terri took his seat on the school board of governors.
“Tonight,” I go, giving her a smile and dirty big wink, “can be anything you want it to be!”
I’m good. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with that.
Sorcha, by the way, thinks I’m 50 kilometres down the N11. I told her Wicklow Rugby Club had asked me to be their kicking coach next season and I was driving down there to check out their facilities.
Marriage does not bear full disclosure well. That was probably the best piece of advice I ever got from my old man.
I’m there, “Pordon me for saying it, but I can’t believe you’re not back in the dating game.”
She’s like, “Excuse me?” shocked, roysh, but at the same time delighted?
I’m there, “Don’t be surprised. You’re still an attractive woman.”
That’s a lie, by the way. If I had a mickey tree in the gorden, I wouldn’t let her look over the wall.
“Can we get back to the subject at hand?” she goes.
I’m like, “Yeah, no, of course. Did I mention that your ex actually taught me in school?”
“Did he? What subject?”
“I don’t know. Physics, French, one of those. He was a great teacher. I still remember a lot of his – I don’t know – lessons? ”
“He loved Castlerock College,” she goes. She’s throwing the wine into her, by the way. “That’s why this decision is so difficult for me. He’d want to safeguard the future of the school. But at the same time he wouldn’t want to see something done that might change the essential character of it.”
“I’m going to ask you to hold that thought,” I go, “because I seriously need a wizz.”
Which I do, by the way. My tonsils are floating here.
I’m there, “Get another bottle of that whatever-it-is while I’m gone,” because my old man is expensing this entire night, then I turn around and hit the old Josh Ritter.
I do my bit of business in there and I’m washing my hands – hey, it’s still technically a date – when my phone all of a sudden rings in my pocket. It ends up being Sorcha.
I answer by going, “Hey, Babes – how the hell are you?”
She’s like, “On my God, how are you? How’s the – what was it you called it? – set up?”
I’m there, “The set-up’s pretty impressive, Babes, don’t you worry about that. And it’s in Leinster, by the way, because I asked.”
“I’m so happy for you, Ross. I know you’ve been, like, so keen to get back into the game, even in, like, a coaching capacity?”
“Thanks for the back-up. Even though I haven’t said yes yet. What are you up to, by the way?”
“Oh my God,” she goes, “that’s what I was ringing to tell you! My dad has decided to retire!”
I’m like, “No way! Wow!” at the same time thinking, okay, and this affects me how exactly?
“He’s brought us all out to dinner to celebrate!” she goes.
I’m there, “I’d have to say fair focks.”
And that’s when she hits me with it. “He’s brought me, my mom and my sister to l’Ecrivain!”
I’m like, “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry, Ross, I know it’s, like, our special place? But my parents have always wanted to come here. It’s such a pity you’re not here, Ross. Do you know something, I think my mom and dad are really storting to come around to the idea of us being back together.”
Oh, no! Oh! No!
I’m there, “So are you, like, on the way to the restaurant?” wondering if I have time to slip out.
“We’re just sitting down now,” she goes. “Oh my God, I’m definitely having the rabbit.”
I tell her I have to go, then I push the door to Trap One. I pull down the lid of the toilet. For the next few hours, this is going to be my seat. In 20 minutes, or maybe half an hour, a waiter will knock on the door and I’ll pay him 50 snots to tell Terri that the jacks is empty, that I must have focked off when she wasn’t looking.
It’s a choice between my marriage and my old school. And tonight my marriage has won. Which possibly shows emotional growth on my port.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE