I was getting ready for a two-hour train journey when the Three Amigos, as I came to think of them, arrived. I had been planning to immerse myself in the gloomy business of finishing my accounts for my tax returns.The laptop was open at a spreadsheet.
The Three Amigos seemed at first glance (not to mention second, third and fourth) to be the sort of fellows you would cross the city, not just the street, to avoid. They sat themselves down in front of me and beside me and within seconds I heard one whisper to the other that my laptop must be worth a grand. The one beside me interested himself in the spreadsheet.
Then the one I came to think of as the leader complained to him that he had promised him a couple of joints and had let him down. The accused man went off down the train and the other two began to talk and laugh about a beating they had given a man the previous night.
The leader laughed his head off as he relived the whole thing, giving a blow-by-blow account to his companion who had become very quiet, though whether this was his personality or whether it resulted from the amount of drugs he had taken I couldn’t tell.
The leader explained to me that the man they had beaten up was a rapist who hadn’t expected to be recognised when he went out looking to buy drugs. “Had they seen him before?” I asked. “Yes,” the quiet man nodded without elaboration. I didn’t pursue the matter.
Three teas, 22 sugars
When the trolley came along they ordered tea for three. I have to hand it to the trolley lady who didn’t bat an eyelid when they asked for 22 sugars, but counted them out as if it was the most normal request in the world.
The accused man came back and handed over a ball of cannabis resin to the leader, who was dissatisfied with the amount. But the accused man and the quiet man assured him that it was very strong stuff indeed.
“When are you going to do your heroin?” the quiet man asked. He would do his on Saturday night and quiet man could do his on Friday, the leader responded.
Organising things and people seemed to be his style. In another life he could have been running a corporation, but something had taken him down this road instead. I got the impression that he had an education and could have done other things.
He had this idea of bringing a dog from their town to the city and mating it with another dog to make money out of the pups. Much of their conversation concerned the logistics of this operation. The dog would have to be brought down on the train. The dog-to-dog business would be over quickly, and then it would be back on the train.
Remorse or doubts
The leader kept returning to the beating-up of the rapist the previous night. As the leader recounted the story, neither of the other two men had very much to say. I got the impression the quiet man may have had some remorse, or doubts at any rate, about the kicking they had given the rapist when he was on the ground.
Although the quiet man was the roughest of the three, and was the one you would definitely avoid if you met him on the street, it was actually the leader, the one who could have gone places, who was glorying most in the violence.
We arrived at their town. They went off to get a taxi to bring them to the dog who was to be brought to the city the next day.
That left me with a woman across the way who was singing loudly, repeatedly – I would even say relentlessly – to her child. It also left me with my accounts, still not finished, sitting there sending anxiety signals into my head.
I wished I had the Three Amigos back.
Padraig O'Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness for Worriers. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email.